Excelling beyond school-related stress is possible with time management, self-care, and social support.
It’s natural to experience academic stress when you’re being constantly evaluated and facing a heavy workload.
Whether you’re facing a nitpicky teacher, a tight deadline, or a competitive classmate, academic stress can be hard. But be encouraged… there are practical approaches to manage your classes and your level of overwhelm so you can pass your tests and effectively deal with stress.
The bright side of school-related stress is there’s a graduation date somewhere down the line. School doesn’t last forever!
As you look at the road ahead in terms of accomplishments like grades, certificates, semesters, or degrees, it may help to also unpack the types of stress involved.
Academic stress can be parsed into three categories:
- performance assessment
- intensity of workload
Students also face the stressors of everyday life related to finances, health, and social life, including:
- food and housing insecurity, which a 2017 study showed many students face
- being a first-generation college student
- being a student from a marginalized identity
- having a learning disability
- experiencing a mental health condition such as depression or schizophrenia
- being a parent in school
- being a student-athlete
Difference between stress and pressure
It’s common to hear “stress” and “pressure” used interchangeably. But there’s a difference: pressure refers to external expectations to perform or deliver and stress refers to internal perceptions of unpreparedness or lack of resources.
For example, stress would be what you feel when you have three assignments due in 3 days and not enough hours in the day to complete them.
And pressure would be having a low grade in a class and knowing you need a specific high score on the upcoming final to pass the course.
Feeling the effects of stress or pressure?
If the pressure of producing a specific result or the stress of feeling as if you don’t have the resources to deliver is causing you anxiety or panic, help is available right now.
For a sudden onset of distress, here are 3 deep breathing exercises to ease anxiety.
But if you feel as though compounding stress isn’t being helped by self-soothing techniques and perhaps you’re afraid of what you might do, here’s where to get help if you’re contemplating suicide.
When the body goes into a stress response, it can enter flight, fright, or freeze mode, which can do damage if it becomes constant.
A 2014 analysis found that experiences of academic stress can predict chronic stress in the future.
The long-term effects of stress include:
Academic performance can also be influenced. In a large 2019 survey of nearly 68,000 college students, 34% reported that academic stress resulted in an incomplete or dropped course, or a lower grade.
Rest assured, you can get help to complete your objectives and manage stress with the mobile resources above and the stress management tips below.
Your season as a student can be an opportune time to fortify your relationship with time, productivity, and stress management.
The healthy habits you build now can help carry you through other seasons in your life as well.
Manage your time in a way that works for you
Everyone’s relationship to time is different based on your immediate support needs and goals. Time management options can include:
- Installing apps like the Pomodoro technique, to help you break up tasks into 25-minute increments. You can try it here.
- Hiring a time management coach if you have the resources to do so.
- Getting targeted mental health support from a school counselor, therapist, or life coach to help unpack the emotions around studying and completing tasks.
If you manage a condition such as ADHD, you might consider these productivity study tips that could apply to all students or professionals:
- Time boxing devotes a set amount of time to each endeavor. Time boxing may help you chip away at a task over time, with small steps that provide value along the way, before moving on to the next time-boxed task.
- Time blocking is exactly what it sounds like — blocking out time on your calendar to work on elements of a larger project.
- Task batching and day theming are so named as they help support productivity by creating an assembly line so-to-speak of predictable segments for your similar efforts.
Maintain a social life
It’s understandable to feel like there’s no time for a social life. You may have even considered canceling plans with friends to study or work on assignments. Before you postpone your plans, consider the importance of social support.
A 2016 survey of 67 college students during and after college found that maintaining tight networks of friendships can positively impact academic success and well-being.
Catching a movie with friends or taking a break to have a virtual coffee date can give your brain a break from your work. You might find that taking time away from schoolwork to be with friends gives you fresh energy to complete your tasks.
Push through procrastination
If you have a history of procrastination, try to offer yourself compassion. Not everyone grows up in an environment that teaches time management or self-regulation. Overcoming the urge to delay tasks takes time.
Try to create a plan to push through procrastination. You might consider:
- finding an accountability partner
- leaning on positive self-talk
- downloading this “Goal Breakdown” worksheet from Therapist Aid
Even if it takes a little while to change your relationship with stress, keep in mind that your efforts can make a difference in the long run.
An older 2012 survey found that developing strategies can be a powerful way to prevent the effects of long-term stress. Incremental steps are still forward progress.
Experts also say that reframing your narrative matters. A
Practice self-care for your body and mind
What helps you feel relaxed and cared for? Try making a list of your stress relievers.
Here are some ideas to consider in getting you started:
Changing your relationship with stress is possible. Working on how you manage and perceive stress can be efforts well spent for both your physical and mental health.
Celebrating your successes along the way can be helpful and encouraging. Consider trying to honor the deadlines you hit, the techniques you master, and the ways you take care of yourself.
You’re not alone in coping with stress. Talking about what you’re going through with a support group, life coach, or therapist can help reduce feelings of isolation and maybe even help you feel a little calmer about your studies.