It’s hard to work when we’re stressed and overwhelmed. Stress can make it difficult to focus on our work, and, if left unchecked, it can seriously impact both our mental and physical health.
That said, sometimes a little stress before a deadline is exactly what we need to produce our best work. It may sound strange, but small amounts of stress can actually improve our performance!
How we think about stress has a big impact on our ability to manage it. If we believe that stress is always bad, then as soon as we feel a little bit stressed, we’ll become overwhelmed with anxiety. If, however, we know that stress can be beneficial, we’ll make use of it when it comes, and seek help when it gets to be too much.
So, how can we make sure our stress stays at manageable levels? Keep reading for our Three Top Tips! You can also check out our full LIVE SMART resource for more wellbeing strategies.
1. Start Early
The simplest way to manage stress is to start working long before the deadline. You don’t necessarily have to finish before the deadline— you don’t get extra points for submitting early!— but starting early will help you avoid the last-minute rush, which is a major source of stress for many students.
Starting early is harder than it sounds, however. With a deadline still weeks away, it can be hard to motivate yourself. In this case, it’s best to try and do a little every day, rather than working all-out. Try spending just twenty minutes every day on the early stages of the assignment, perhaps doing a bit of research, or reading a single article. It doesn’t take much effort, and future you will be so thankful!
2. Break it Down
When we’ve got too much to do, we can often feel overwhelmed. Our mind is full of unfinished tasks, and we have no idea how to even get started.
When we’re overwhelmed, it’s essential to break down our tasks. Big Tasks like ‘write essay’ or ‘revise for exam’ can sit on our to-do list for weeks without getting checked off. Big Tasks are hard to accomplish because there’s no clear starting point, and the end goal seems impossibly far away.
In this case, it’s best to take a few minutes and break your Big Tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Instead of ‘write essay,’ try, ‘research for thirty minutes,’ or ‘write an introduction.’ For exams, you might choose to split your revision time into slots, each covering one specific topic or section of your module. Having a focus for each revision slot will help you work effectively and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
3. Take Breaks!
When we’re stressed, we feel like we should be working constantly. It’s hard to relax when our to-do list is still a mile long! The thing is, getting good rest is essential to working well. If we just work all the time, we’ll exhaust ourselves and burn out.
Instead of working constantly, try breaking your work down into smaller chunks and taking intentional breaks. Don’t spend hours in the library staring at your laptop. Instead, work for a set amount of time— anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour— and then take a proper break. Go for a walk, read a book, or chat to a friend. Ideally, get away from a screen; scrolling through social media won’t give your mind the break it needs.
It sounds counterintuitive, but you’ll get more done if you take intentional breaks. The reality is that if you don’t take breaks, your brain will take them for you. If you try to work for hours on end, your brain will get tired and will drift off into other things, like Wikipedia rabbit trails, funny cat videos, or Buzzfeed quizzes. To avoid this wasted time, take control of your breaks and do something you properly enjoy: your mind and body will thank you!