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Tips for College and University Students: Your Guide to Health and Happiness
Welcome to The Next Few Years of Your Life!
Going to college or university may sound like a scary decision to those who are used to living at home and taking high school life easy. It may be a welcoming change or escape from the high school days and allowing yourself to have a fresh start. You may have decided that you simply wanted to have a college experience and choose your major(s) later, or you have a plan in mind to get that degree!
Whatever your reason is for tertiary study, it's gotten you into the sometimes overwhelming world of books, lectures, and practicals. Suddenly you realise that you cannot go out on Friday night because you have a major project due on Monday. Or that you're three days away from finals and your notes have mysteriously disappeared...
So Much To Do, So Little Time...
Now you're panicking. Not good! Your heart rate will increase, you may feel jumpy or anxious, or you may forget everything you've learned. Sound familiar?
Yup, we've all been there. Any student who says that they have never felt this way before is either a person that's extremely lucky or one who simply went to college for a joyride. Most students have at least one stress-related incident in a semester. Whether it's forgetting to turn in that essay or simply forgetting an essay was even due, it creates much unneeded stress and anxiety.
You have a choice: you can either run from it or learn from it (Lion King anyone?). Dealing with it temporarily increases pressure and stress, but the stress and tension will be relieved when the work is done and handed in. Running from it won't solve the issue. You may have certain requirements to meet to pass a paper and by not handing that piece of work in, you may fail your paper and ultimately, this may stop you from obtaining your degree or diploma.
From experience as a third year student, I have wanted to not hand in work on many occasions, wanted to not pitch up for exams, and not wanted to complete my work and even drop out. At some point in a student's life, we all suffer from this. The workload becomes too much, the assignments pile up too quickly, and there's so little time to do the work that you feel like giving up. This has happened in every semester for me. Why? I'm not a quitter, but I do not always have the awesome time management skills needed to stay on track. I'm also completing two degrees concurrently; something I never thought I'd even want to do. I have two more trimesters left of study and I'll be a graduate! That's the only thing that can keep me on the straight and narrow: holding my degree certificates in one hand with my cap in the other.
One of the best ways to decrease stress and pressure caused by study would be to create a study timetable. Sometimes universities include one in the course pack, and other times you have to create them yourself. Creating one is simple. Firstly, draw up a table for the week, adding only times to the sheet. Then add your class lecture and other compulsary times to the timetable. Now look at what's left. There may be two hours free on a Monday and Wednesday with no classes on a Thursday. Use these periods of time to catch up on any work you've missed and perhaps you can grab a coffee with a friend while you chat about the paper you're taking together.
Now this is important so pay attention: do NOT use all of your spare time for fun, nor use it all for study, You alone know your happy balance. What works for one person doesn't work for another. Take your meal breaks for simply meals and catching up on the happenings on campus - don't use it for study. Not only will you be more likely to mess that breakfast all over your assignment, but you will not absorb much from apparent multitasking.
To Study Alone or Study in a Group: That is the Question!
Some students prefer to hole themselves up in a library, armed with snacks and study material. Others prefer to grab a friend and study together. Again, you will know what suits you best. For me, it's studying alone. I write out notes while listening to music, but study those notes in silence [ the last time I tried to listen to "study" music while studying, I ended up barely passing that paper. So never again!]
Some tertiary institutions have compulsory group sessions. For those of us who don't like being in groups, it's a good way to get your social fix and try to pull yourself out of your comfort zone to complete a task.
Some students may not attend a campus at all and study via distance like myself. The strategy for us is a bit different when our course mates are scattered around the globe [ and I mean this literally - people from all over the world study with my institution]. In our case, time management skills are crucial. We may not have classes to attend like other students, but we have to create our own classes and study timetables. What fun I hear you say.. not so, I say! You can have as much free time as you please, but before you know it, the assignments creep up on you and you're in a flurry trying to get them done.
Do You Prefer Studying Alone or in a Group?
So How Can I Keep My Stress Levels at Bay?
Different strokes for different folks. You may have heard this saying. It simply means that, again, people are different and you know what works best for you. But the strategies below are universal means of reducing stress.
1. Catch up for coffee [or your poison of choice - but do go easy on the alcohol]. This is a stress reliever by engrossing yourself into a social world if even for 15 minutes. I remember reading an article that mentioned that people who interact with other people at least twice a week are less likely to suffer from stress related issues. Better schedule that drink then!
2. Exercise. Now this is where you groan and moan and tell me you can't exercise because [insert excuse here]. Now I'll tell you bulldust! You CAN and you SHOULD. Why? Because the body releases endorphins and hormones when you exercise and these can help you retain study material, release pressure, and gain some fitness points. If you want to sign up for the gym, awesome! If you don't, that's okay. Get your earphones and take a walk around the block or around campus. They say that 10,000 steps every day is optimal for health, so maybe a pedometer will help you reach those steps. Besides, you've got nothing to lose [unless you want to lose weight] and so much to gain
3. Drink water. Yup - water. H2O. Eight glasses a day. The easiest way to get the recommended amount of water is to use a water bottle and mark it with a line for every hour. That way you can drink one litre an hour [ you will be peeing a lot but hey, the body needs it!] and you'll keep your mind and body healthy and stress-less.
4. Take a break. Again, your personal choice, but take a break every hour of study. I take 10 minutes per hour or 5 minutes per half-hour. I'd take my mp3 player and just sit outside in the sun [or on the couch far away from studies] and just relax. I generally also take my Kobo Glo with me and read a little snippet to distract my brain from information overload!
Do You Feel You Suffer From Stress on a Regular Basis?
This brings us to the end of this little tid-bit of information, I do hope it's helped you in some way. I know that tertiary study isn't easy, but it's worth it in the end. Sometimes it feels like there's no light at the end of the tunnel, but I assure you, there's always a crack in the tunnel where sunlight streams in until you find the end.
I will be writing other hubs related to college and university students so stay tuned for more! Please feel free to follow me so you know when the next installment is out.