Congratulations to students on starting a new school year! School is a place of growth, socializing, and knowledge. It can also be a place full of stress, confusion, and discouragement. While there isn’t a single suggestion on the planet that could take away all the stress that school can bring, I’d like to offer a few suggestions that help you deal with it all a bit better. Over the course of your student career, and more broadly, your life, there will ideally be many opportunities for you to expand your toolkit for success. I hope that these nuggets of advice I have can find themselves a place in that toolkit.
Get a planner. Of everything on this list, this is probably the easiest, most immediate, and most helpful change I can recommend. There are many variations of what a “planner” is, but typically it combines the basic functions of both a calendar and a to-do list. I cannot stress enough how major an improvement to your life this minor addition can make. There are so many things you’ll have to keep track of throughout the day, pertaining not only to schoolwork but also scheduling and events outside of school. A planner can help you record all the tasks you have to accomplish and when you should complete them in an organized fashion. There are plenty of free planner apps available for computers and mobile phones that you can find with a quick search. I personally love getting physical planners, partially for reasons I’ll explain in a bit, but feel free to get the version that works best for you!
Expand your comfort zone. There’s no shortage of ways you could work on expanding your comfort zone, but I’ll address two main ways here. The first is that putting yourself out there and getting acquainted with your peers. This is a great way to make school more enjoyable and can even be a life-changing experience in and of itself. Meeting new people can absolutely be scary (my social anxiety people have entered the chat… or, I guess they left in this case?), but taking that first step and simply saying ‘Good morning” might lead to the start of a friendship and significant personal growth. The second thing is to not be afraid to ask questions. When the teacher says, “Does anyone have any questions?” take them up on that. Even if you think the question is dumb, or concerns something you feel you should already know, there is never anything wrong with wanting to make sure you know what you need to. Becoming more comfortable asking questions can help you get more out of school and reduce the stress of uncertainty.
Set boundaries between work and leisure. Remember when I said I like getting physical planners? This is partly because they help me separate being in school-mode from being in relaxation-mode by helping me associate schoolwork less with leisure devices such as my computer. It is important to set aside time for completing required coursework, and it is equally important to set aside time to not complete coursework. For example, a rule I always gave myself was that I wouldn’t do homework after 12:00 AM (yes, I know what you’re thinking, but here’s my response: hoot hoot). It was always important that, even if I still had work left to do, I would give myself the time to not have to think about schoolwork and other related stressors. Assuming you’re not a night owl like I am, there are plenty of other little things you can do to help you set this boundary, such as changing clothes when you’re finished with school, setting designated homework times, or doing your homework in specific locations (i.e., a library or a home office).
Don’t procrastinate. It’s obviously easier said than done, but to complete your work sooner rather than later can be such a freeing and relieving experience and reduce your stress. While it can be convenient to put work off until later, knowing that there’s something you’ll eventually have to do hanging in the back of your mind can reduce your enjoyment of other activities. Speaking from personal experience, completing required work well before the due date tends to be more rewarding for me than waiting until the last minute. However, I also want to be sure to say that this isn’t to say that you should force yourself to do schoolwork if you aren’t in a productive headspace. Trying to complete schoolwork if you’re too tired or distressed can negatively affect your work, so be sure to be well taken care of before you start.
Don’t give up.. When I say this, I am not referring to giving up on school or some part of school – I am referring to giving up on yourself. To be honest, there are plenty of reasons why someone might consider giving up, from getting a bad grade to being assigned a 25-paged goliath of an essay. And, there are times when switching majors, taking a break from school, or quitting entirely are valid choices that different individuals will consider or make based on their needs. I would even go so far as to say that having doubts about school is completely normal. It’s important to be honest with yourself by identifying what success looks like to you and believing with all your heart that you’re able to fulfill that idea. Feel free to make the decisions you’d find the most meaningful, however difficult they may be, and to take on the challenges that would contribute most significantly to your growth. Don’t give up because you deserve to thrive and overcome all those obstacles. Don’t give up, because you might surprise yourself with the incredible things that you’re capable of.
Taking the steps you need to improve your student experience is a powerful form of self-care and academic development. If you find yourself wondering what your next steps are, or want to further expand on your self-care strategies, feel free to reach out today to schedule a free consultation!