As university students, we all experience stress in some way. Sometimes it is ignorable, sometimes it is totally manageable, and at times it can feel utterly debilitating. Time management and relaxation strategies can work wonders with the first two scenarios, but for the last one, sometimes they just don’t cut it.
When I get this “intense stress” as I will call it, it feels like no matter how I organize myself, there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I have to do. Because I have so. Much. Stuff. To. Do. There is just so much I need to accomplish it’s overwhelming and I seriously doubt my ability to do it. And taking time for myself, meditating, exercising, and “relaxing” activities can’t take my brain off of everything I should be doing at that moment and worrying I won’t be able to do it all and that I won’t be able to do it well enough.
When I get intense stress, I tend to:
- Tell myself I can handle it and micromanage my time; this often involves not giving myself enough time to relax and have fun, and also staying up later and getting up earlier to try to cram more stuff in a day. Less sleep and less brain-off time is the perfect breeding ground for intense stress.
- Focus poorly. When my brain is in ten million places at once, I can’t focus properly on the task at hand.
- Get frustrated. I can’t focus, and I’m running on a fried brain. Do you think I’m getting good results from my labor? No.
- Push harder. I’m frustrated with my lack of progress, so I push myself harder to try to get them. Hello even more tired brain. I tell myself I should stop (this usually goes for practicing for me), but I haven’t accomplished what I wanted to yet so I keep saying “Just a little longer” for what turns into a lot longer, resulting in even less progress and possibly injury (in the case of my hands).
- Cry. I break. I lie on the floor for a while. I question my abilities and also the fairness of the universe.
- Check in with reality. Okay, clearly what I’m doing is not working, made obvious by my breakdown. I need to take a break. I need to breathe. I need to remember that even in the worst case scenario, I will still be alive, and there will still be people who love me. And those, above all, are the most important things. What I have to do isn’t going to be easy; it might not be fun. But there is a pretty good chance things are going to be okay. However, letting your stress possess you isn’t the way to get there.
What am I going to do now? Well, honestly, I’m not sure. I’m going to take it a day at a time. I’m going to take more me time, sleep more, not pack my days so full. Not get mad at myself if things don’t go the way I want. I’m going to do my best, and if it isn’t good enough, well. I’m just going to try to get through this degree, and then live my life at a pace I like.
Also I’m maybe going to look into stress management classes.