Welcome to Excel Test Prep’s Summer College Series!!!
Written by Sonia Mahajan & Kiyasha Mehta; Edited by Mariah Embry
The college application process can be stressful, but so can college itself. That’s why it’s important to learn and get used to practicing stress management techniques early on. These techniques can not only reduce your procrastinating but also lead to a life with more quality and room for enjoyment during the college application process, in college, and beyond.
It’s really easy to become stressed when there’s a million deadlines you have to meet but you don’t know when half of them are or what you need to submit. Getting organized can help solve this problem. (For some people, organizing itself can even be a stress reliever, which is great too. Just don’t get so caught up in organizing that you forget to do the actual work!). Get a calendar or use an online calendar and write down all your deadlines and what you need to get in by then. Even just utilizing your calendar app on your phone can make a world of difference. I’d also recommend creating lists of what you need to do for each college application (or college class) and when those are due so you can ensure you’re fully completing the work you need to do in a timely manner. For some people, color-coding these lists can also help. During the school year, setting aside specific study times for certain classes can also help to break up the studying you have to do and make it seem more manageable.
While this goes hand in hand with the previous point, it is important enough to mention it on its own. Start out by completing the tasks that are most urgent and work from there. A homework assignment due the next day is more pressing than a paper due in two weeks! Keep in mind that the way you prioritize may differ from time to time. I once had two finals on the same day at college, and while one test was earlier than the other, I prioritized the course with the later test as I knew I would struggle more with the material while studying due to the level of the course. Make sure the work you are doing isn’t for naught.
Find calming foods
Oddly enough, some foods are calming. While there are some foods that are proven to release stress for most people (chocolate, blueberries, yogurt, nuts, and avocado, to name a few), it can also be calming to eat your parent’s cooking or things you normally eat at home. When you’re at college, this familiar food can be a lot harder to come by, so try to find some restaurants that specialize in home cooking or learn how to make your parents’ recipes yourself! Drinking tea (just Google “calming tea” for caffeine free herbal teas) can also help.
Take a break
It can be hard of even thinking of doing something fun, especially in the midst of college applications or finals, but doing something you enjoy can be really relaxing. Play a musical instrument. Watch an episode of that TV show you’ve been dying to watch. Go on a run. Take your dog for a walk. Maybe even read a book for fun. If you find yourself stuck while writing an application, studying for a test, or something else stressful, take a break and come back to it with a clear head.
Talk to someone
When you’re feeling really stressed, it can be a lot to hold in. Don’t be nervous to talk to someone, be it a friend, a sibling, or a parent, about how stressed you are. Just letting someone know how you feel can help.
For some people, practicing mindfulness can relieve stress. Doing yoga (many colleges offer free yoga, especially during finals week!), keeping a gratitude journal, or just taking twenty minutes for yourself every morning can reduce stress. Many also find meditating for a few minutes every day before sleeping to be greatly beneficial in increasing overall happiness. If mentally you are feeling low, then the quality of the work you will produce will be low as well; make sure you are well equipped and mentally ready to handle the tasks you have to complete.
If you feel that your stress has become unmanageable, or frequently feel anxious, consider seeking help.
There’s nothing wrong with talking to a therapist if you feel anxious a majority of the time or if your stress is becoming overwhelming. Stress and anxiety are not the same thing. In an article from The Huffington Post, David Spiegel of Stanford University explains, “The key difference [between anxiety and stress] is the sense of helplessness. […] When it comes to stress, you can deal with things and master them. By rolling up your sleeves and tackling that stress, you can feel less helpless” (Holmes 2014). According to the American Psychological Association, 41.6% of college students struggle with anxiety. However, do not be afraid to seek help for either, if you feel you need it. If you’re at college, many schools offer free stress management workshops, psychological consultations, or therapy as part of their medical services. If you’re at home, consider talking to your healthcare provider if you feel that stress and/or anxiety may be a problem in your life. Remember: your health is always the most important thing. Everything else can wait.