How to: Rationalize Away Your Stress

Hey, party people who aren’t party people right now because of increased academic stresses!

I’ve been there, although I graduated last year so I’m not with you right now. As an English major, these weeks just before finals required endless pages of literary analysis and hours toying with scholarly search engines that curiously displayed zero hits for “18th-century feminism” or other such broad topics. What is your secret code, JSTOR, and how can I break you???

Despite these moments, I fell pretty low on the scale of stressed-out maniacs. I could somehow achieve the same (or better) grades than my equally intelligent peers putting in only a fraction of the time. Not to brag, of course. If I wanted to be elite, I wouldn’t share my secrets with you. Although my degree is not in psychology, I feel it is a series of mind (and body) tricks that allowed me to escape the stress while graduating Magna Cum Laude like a champ. Please, welcome to my zen.

**Tips and Tricks**

Be one with your procrastination. As Ke$ha sings in her hit single that I’ll assume is about studying and succeeding in school, “We R Who We R.” If you’re a procrastinator, accept it. ACCEPT IT. I see you on Facebook expressing anger and confusion that you can’t seem to get anything done. If you tend to leave things to the last minute but always end up finishing them, you’re not a bad student or a bad person. Being realistic about your ability to concentrate saves you a lot of self-scolding and many hours of shoddy work that you’ll probably have to re-do anyway because your mind was drifting. Procrastination is fine. It’s the resulting panic and guilt that’s the real stress culprit.

Big picture this biotch. I like to ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” For example, “Will I die alone and penniless if my paper on Phyllis Wheatley wrongly implies that only one of her poems reflects her tendencies as whole?” (True story, but by no means an interesting one.) No, that would be silly. Make sure that deep down you maintain perspective at all times. Remembering that it’s okay to fail, figuratively or literally, alleviates some of the stress that clouds your mind and makes it harder to succeed in the first place. What’s your big picture goal in life? Meaningful work, loving relationships and (obviously) great food are what make you happy? There are infinite paths to that goal, and many of them can very well include getting a D in bio-chem.

Set a sleep curfew (in your bed, not in the library). All-nighters make good stories and sometimes good grades, but sleep is the more reliable choice for success. Set a deadline for rest and drop whatever you’re doing even if you’re not as far along as you’d like. Beating yourself up about it is time wasted. Even if you sleep from 3am to 7am, your somewhat refreshed mind will work more efficiently and make up for lost time.

Remember your food smarts and stay hydrated. This is not the time to put your body through additional extremes: Do not start a new super-strict diet and do not subsist only on the vending machine. The resulting hunger headaches or sugar surges will only give you more reasons to feel restless and hopeless about making it to the finish line. Drink lots of water and eat the food you would normally eat when you’re hungry. Come to the library prepared with your Nalgene and reasonable snacks. I got by without coffee or energy drinks, so it can be done, but if you’re already hooked, know your options and act accordingly.

Jen Cantin graduated from Clark University in Worcester, Mass. with a degree in English and Journalism. She shares other (a)musings at Deep Fried Epiphany and dedicates this post to her contest-winning paper on Mary Wollstonecraft, which was pretty awesome, she has to admit…

Originally posted on Thursday, December 1st, 2011

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