An article on mental health while studying… Where to begin?
As I was planning on writing this article I considered a few ideas.
Eat brain foods (broccoli, mushrooms, pizza… (the last one may not be true. The first two may not be true either, I’m guessing).
Take time to relax and take breaks.
And so on…
Then I thought to myself - anyone who is motivated to study and is already achieving their goals already knows this stuff. And, to be honest, I’m not really good at writing anything that the highly motivated, driven, and overly ambitious people would be interested in, so we’re not going down that path.
So if you’re a highly organized over-achiever, save yourself some time and stop reading.
Seriously, there’s nothing here for you and there are tons of resources available to help you that you probably already have bookmarked. There is however a gap when it comes to helping the majority of us who are left.
Those of us who want to do the best we can and struggle daily just to be average.
If you’ve ever watched the video for I’m Not OK by My Chemical Romance, and you could relate to it, then this one’s for you. It’s for the procrastinators. The ones who just can’t quite get into gear. The people who don’t strive for straight As, they just want to make it over the line. The quiet ones who struggle with confidence. Those of us who start sweating and suffer with anxiety at the thought of taking a test.
Basically, the rest of us who don’t have our lives together but we’re doing the best we can. If you struggle to hold things together, this one is for you!
Here are three things we will look at.
Your learning style
The first thing to know is that you’re only as weird as you want to be. There is nothing you are going through that thousands (millions maybe) haven’t been through before. You are not alone. Honestly. At the same time, no matter what others have experienced, and what advice people give you for how they found success, you are different.
Your experiences are different. Your brain is different. Your goals are different. You know better than anyone else what it takes for you to succeed.
If you struggle with anxiety before tests you have an opportunity to manage it. You will know that you will feel anxiety, but you will also know you will come through it. Try to be mindful of when the anxiety begins to rise, and manage it from the beginning. Self-awareness is key here, and by knowing yourself, you can know what is “normal”, or at least “normal” for you.
At the beginning, the first flutters in the stomach, work on breathing or visualization techniques. The anxiety may or may not go away, but by managing it and feeling in control you can at least reduce it.
Knowing your habits is critical, and unless you are 100% dead set on changing habits, go with what you know, but manage it. If you know you are a procrastinator, and you know that no matter how solid and well thought-out your plan is that you will end up throwing the plan out of the window, procrastinating, and pulling all-nighters then plan for it.
Don’t plan for something you know won’t happen and then get stressed because you didn’t follow the plan you created. It may not be the healthiest or most efficient method of studying, but if it’s what you do, and you know you will continue to do it, then make it the plan.
As much as I would recommend a healthier and more measured approach, if you were going to be organized and efficient you would have your plan in place, and you wouldn’t be reading this.
Plan for real-life success, not what you wish would happen but know will not.
This is a nice segue into…
2. Your Learning Style
This is a quick and easy one. You know how you learn so plan to study the same way. If you learn through listening, record your notes on audio and listen to them back. If you do best by reading, then read.
For those who learn through a hands-on approach, this can be difficult with some academic courses, but writing about what you are studying is a solid alternative.
Don’t try to learn the way everyone else does. Your brain is the way it is and changing your brain processes is much harder to do than simply doing the thing that makes most sense for the brain you have. Don’t spend hours reading and creating anxiety because you can’t retain the information if all you need is to write an essay and it will stick. Do the thing that makes sense.
Once again, the goal here is to reduce anxiety and help confidence. What works for your best friend may not work for you.
3. Your Goals
What are the things you want to achieve? Do you need a high GPA in order to earn acceptance into a graduate program? Do you struggle with one subject but find another one easier? Spend time on the more important areas.
While you may want to maintain a higher GPA than your peers, in the workplace an HR or hiring manager doesn’t care about your 4.0 average. They will look at your education as a comparison against others (relevant degree versus no degree for example), and ten years from now they will look at your work experience and results. Don’t work yourself into a state of anxiety to achieve results that won’t matter to anyone but you in the future.
No one expects perfection.
Now here’s the disclaimer – I am NOT saying you should be lazy or under-achieve what you are capable of. If you are able to study for everything and get great results without damaging your mental state then do so. I don’t want to discourage high standards, but again, if this is how you roll I’m surprised you didn’t stop reading after the first paragraph.
Not everyone can get straight A’s. For some people it is an achievement just to put on a pair of matching socks or make it to work on time.
Here are the three takeaways for today:
1 – Make plans based what you know of yourself, not what you think you should be.
2 – Reduce your anxiety by knowing what is going to happen. It isn’t easy, but by knowing you will become anxious prior to an exam or performance, you can work it into the plan and be ready for it.
About The Author
Vince is not only the author of the relatable PsychSpot Blog, but also a a husband, father, Christian, soccer and hockey fan. He teaches and studies psychology, and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Psychology and BCBA certification, while working on one of four book-writing projects that he fears may never end. Vince also holds qualifications in psychology and coaching. To read more by Vince go to www.psychspot.org
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