Four Strategies to Help You Feel Less Overwhelmed

February 12, 2013

It’s no surprise that many college students feel stressed out, especially those who work or take care of family members on top of working on their degrees. A recent study by Edison Research for the Associated Press/MTVu found that 85 percent of students reported stress on a daily basis. We’ve pulled together some time management tips specifically designed to help you tame stress and feel less overwhelmed.

 

Master the Mind Sweep

Simply getting what you have to do out of your head and onto paper is one of the most effective ways to ease feelings of being overwhelmed. It also is the important first step to breaking projects down into smaller tasks, which also helps make your workload seem more manageable. Productivity master David Allen calls this the “mind sweep.” Take all of the loose to-dos rolling around your head and write them all down. Categorize them into school, work, family and prioritize. The next step is the key: stop thinking about the items that don’t need to be immediately addressed. This reduces stress and allows you to better focus on the tasks at hand.

 

Combine Individual Syllabi into a Master Plan

There’s one small step you can take at the beginning of the semester that can help you feel less stressed all the way through finals: creating a Master Calendar. Many people use a traditional day planner for this, but many smartphone apps have also been developed to help you stay organized. Gather all of the syllabi for your courses and record the weekly assignments and important dates, but don’t stop there. Include your personal obligations, work schedule and extracurricular activities. Being able to see everything in one place allows you to plan ahead, avoid double-booking yourself and anticipate when you’re going to have some extra time (so you can get ahead for the next busy week!).

 

Identify and Utilize Your Open Time Slots

While it may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day, if you stop to examine your schedule, you may find there are small time slots that you could be utilizing more efficiently. The ubiquity of smartphones, tablets and laptops mean that you can have access to your study materials in almost any location. Do you have a half-hour break between classes or a 40-minute commute on public transit? Set a goal for getting tasks done during that time and you’ll have less to do (and feel less stressed) when you finally settle in for the night.

 

Sharpen the Saw

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey introduces the concept of “sharpening the saw.” This means balancing your physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual health, which is an important part of reducing stress and improving overall performance. It may seem counter-productive to take time away from studying to go for a run or meet a friend for coffee, but the reality is we can’t perform at peak performance constantly. Humans need balance in their lives. Taking the time to reconnect with family, make a healthy meal or meditate actually helps to improve your performance at school and work in the long run.

 

Try incorporating one or all of these techniques in order to reduce stress and feel more in control when things get busy. You may find that investing a little extra effort into time management can have a great effect on your overall mental state and outlook on life.

How do you manage stress as a student? What helps you decompress and stay productive?

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