Five Ways to Ensure a Less Stressful Semester

By Health Promotions Analyst Jamie Porter

With “syllabus week” and mid-terms several weeks away, it might seem tempting to take advantage of the down time in first few weeks of the semester to binge watch Netflix and not do much work. The stress and business of finals seems so far off—why worry now?

However, if you take time and a little effort now, you can set yourself up for success for many weeks to come. Here are five tangible actions you can take now to reduce your stress for the rest of the semester.

Learn to say “no”.

Take a realistic look at your class load, extracurricular activities and work schedule early. Think about dropping a class or involvement in an extracurricular activity if you your schedule won’t allow you to get more than six hours of sleep per night. Remember to pay attention to your total credit hours so you can maintain any minimum requirements for any scholarships or programs. Figuring out what you can realistically handle early on will save lots of stress (and money) later.

Make time for self-care.

Learning to say no will help with this tip, too. Schedule blocks of time to do activities that you enjoy and energize you. Whether it’s going for a walk, working out, making a cup of tea or playing games—write it in your planner and keep that appointment!

Don’t forget to schedule those less-fun, but just as important self-care activities, too! Doing laundry, showering and cleaning your apartment can often get pushed to the side, but you’ll feel so much better when you do.

 Sleep!

Enough and regularly! That means eight to 10 hours per night. Sleep helps us regulate our emotions, which will help you weather bouts of stress that can come with college. Staying up all night to study won’t allow you to do better on a test either. Sleep enhances your memory, so you’re better off studying for a shorter amount of time for a few days before a test. Just one night of too little sleep (less than six hours) affects your performance.

One way to ensure you’ll get enough sleep is to create a realistic sleep schedule – one where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Young adults’ circadian rhythm makes it difficult to go to bed before midnight and get up before 7:30. Arrange your other activities to fall in line with this sleep schedule.

If you find yourself having difficulty getting to or staying asleep, stop by University Health Center’s Health Promotion and Outreach office (Room 12). We’ve got sleep kits, complete with sleeping masks, non-caffeinated tea and ear plugs!

Arrange your schedule so you can work when you’re most productive

An advantage of being a college student is the control you have over your schedule. If you are a morning person and most productive at that time, schedule your classes for later morning and early afternoons, so you can work on homework in the morning. If you’re a night owl, don’t schedule classes for 8 a.m., if you can avoid it.

Practice Self-Compassion.

It isn’t possible to be a perfect student, friend, family member, employee and/or partner all the time. We mess up: miss a deadline, forget a birthday or do poorly on a test. When that happens, one of the best things that we can do is treat ourselves with compassion, like we would a friend. Self-compassion isn’t making excuses or letting ourselves off the hook. When we treat ourselves with compassion and realize we make mistakes like everyone else, not because we’re inherently flawed, but because we are human, we actually hold ourselves accountable for our actions. This helps us figure out what happened and do better in the future.

Learn more about self-compassion from the leading self-compassion researcher, Kristin Neff, here. Explore self-compassion techniques she created here.

Remember: if you’re feeling overwhelmed, chronically stressed, are having trouble sleeping or are unable to sleep, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is here to help. There are a variety of resources to choose from, including drop-in support groups, individual counseling and workshops. Check out all of their services or call 402-472-7450 to schedule an appointment.

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