Becoming a student will be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. You will face stressful assignment deadlines, juggle multiple readings and tasks to do, find time for a social life, work part-time, try not to die from a diet of 2-minute noodles and pasta and wait long hours on the phone to Centrelink.
As a mature age student at university for my second time, I cannot stress how important it is to find balance in these challenging times you will face. University should be of utmost importance but when you’re not in the right mental state to deal with the stresses and feel overwhelmed with what is happening in life it can have detrimental effects to your health and your studies.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed take some time to write out the reasons why and plan out time to do those tasks that are hovering over your head and weighing you down.
I personally find great satisfaction in planning out my week, writing down my scheduled working hours, when I’m going to study and when I am going to make time to see family and friends. I’ve recognised the importance of making time for myself and getting off of the digital space. I have spent hours upon hours, days upon days in front of a computer or phone screen without even leaving the house and then questioning why I feel anxious and depressed. I now try to have a digital-free day once a fortnight and go out and do something in nature, whether that be a hike, a beach day and swim or reading a book and writing in the park I make the time.
I find the Pomodoro Technique incredibly useful, if you don’t know, you batch your time for 25 minutes and then allow a five-minute break. I have installed a chrome extension on my desktop which you can find here. Not only does it have a timer for 25minutes and then allow a five-minute break, it blocks all social media including YouTube and if you try to go to these sites it will not allow you and tell you to get back to work.
This technique has been so effective in helping me batch tasks, take effective breaks and eliminate distractions. Another extension I love is called ‘feedless’ this is also an app you can download on your iPhone. It blocks the feed of Facebook, allowing you to see your notifications and messages but block out any information on your news feed.
Another distraction eradication task you can do is go into your notification settings on your phone and turn off everything. Yes, all Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and anything else that causes you to constantly have your phone in your hand or continuously look down at that tiny little screen. Take back control of your time. You control technology, not the other way around.
One of the biggest challenges with dealing with overwhelm is feeling like you have no downtime or that you are not using your time effectively. Time management is an important skill that requires lifelong learning. Accepting that this journey is a life lesson and cannot be evolved overnight is a great way to reduce anxiety and negative feelings of ‘i’m not good enough’ or ‘i’m not achieving enough.’ Celebrate your small wins for the day, I always like to write in my journal before bed and I make sure to write down 3 small wins for that particular day, it could be as simple as smiling to a stranger or booking that dentist appointment I’ve been putting off but it’s these small wins that boost us and make us feel empowered. We don’t keep track of them often enough and focus on the negative far too often.
The most important lesson of all is learning when to cut back and say no. Don’t overcommit if you know that you can’t really do it, this will put unnecessary stress on your already stressed mind. This was something I had to learn this year going into my second year of university. I wanted to be a part of everything so I said yes to extracurricular activities, yes to mentoring new students, yes to a second job and yes to work experience. I soon found that I was working 7 days a week with no break and had no time to put into my creativity or focus my attention on getting a great score at university. Sure, I had more money and was able to feel much more financially secure which was the cause of a lot of my stress, but I needed to find a healthy balance and start saying no to shifts and no to events I knew I shouldn’t commit to because I had university work to catch up on or I just needed a day to myself.
Learning to say no is a hard skill to master, but once we do we are all the more powerful for it. Checking in with ourselves and asking if everything is okay, what can we do better and what have we achieved this week is so important. Take the time to be with yourself, be in nature and plan out your time effectively and with intention so you soften the feeling of overwhelm and kick ass instead.