By Tamara J. Reeves, Ph.D.
You are Not Alone
I have been teaching college students for a long time. Two years ago, I made the transition to teaching an entry level course at the University of Phoenix that is designed for new students who have been out of school for a while. Across the board, most students report a high level of stress during this time.
While learning “how to learn” can be stressful, the feeling of stress really comes from trying to fit school into an already busy life…..
Some students figure out how to find additional time on their own with no problems. Other struggle, which increases the amount of stress they are under. Hopefully this article can help with the latter group (smile, you are not alone). There are numerous ways you can tackle this process to decrease (and possibly eliminate) this stress. Here are some general recommendations:
Schedule Specific Time Frames for School Each Week
This may vary depending on whether you attend school at a traditional university or online. For those that attend school at a traditional university, this would require you to schedule specific homework times outside of the time you meet for class. To help sustain attention, find small chunks of time throughout the week to get readings and assignments completed. For those who attend classes online, this would mean scheduling time to read, participate in discussions throughout the week, and complete and submit assignments.
One way to do this would be to take your syllabus and align it with your own personal calendar to see where things may fit. You can also make technology work for you by syncing these events with your phone to send alerts for study times, deadlines, etc. Some Universities also have a mobile app. If they have one, download it! Usually they will have a course calendar included that can help with these things, and they will send notifications if your instructor sends a message.
To get a head start on this area, consider completing a time management questionnaire online. They generally provide feedback on areas you are not considering, where you may have unused chunks of time, and how to begin organizing your top priorities.
Find Areas of Weakness
One crucial area you might have to consider is whether there are things that are stealing time from you that can be limited. Some common areas tend to be: social media, reality television shows, texting, and app notifications. Let’s face it, we live in a busy world and there is always a notification going off somewhere! There are numerous ways to deal with this. You could always set specific times for studying and do so away from devices and televisions. You can also use productivity apps that help you monitor how much time you spend on these other areas. Common ones sync with your phone and provide feedback on your usage. If you are interested in tackling this area, LifeHack.org has some great recommendations on how to do so!
Find Off Times During the Week
Most students are incredibly excited to start school. This excitement serves as a greater motivator for progress! But, it sometimes comes with added pressure to complete school work everyday. This may be great initially to find a rhythm, but can also easily lead to burn out in a schedule that involves work, children and spousal roles!
Instead, take time to look at your schedule and identify ways you can block out at least one day a week for non-work related activities. In my own life, this day is generally Sundays, and I spend it with family and at church. It is a great way to recharge.
It is also great if you can find small chunks of time each day to refocus. This may mean setting your alarm to go off 15 minutes earlier than you “have to get out of bed” so that you can take time to reflect on what you have to accomplish. You can also use it to meditate, pray and prepare.
Taking such a step can really do wonders for attention and focus! There have been tons of articles that include the benefits to our brain for taking such small breaks, here is one example:
If Stress Increases….
There are times when the stress in our lives continues to increase. We are very fortunate that most universities understand that this happens at some point for all students and provide resources for support. In most cases, these resources are free or low cost. These offices are also generally connected within the community, and so can also provide ways to help you connect to other resources if needed.