Sunday, October 23, 2016

How I Deal with Study Stress

I used to find myself struggling with huge amount of stress and work all the time, even to the point where it wasn't healthy anymore and made me feel miserable.
It all started in high school and followed me to my working experiences I had before starting studying and when I started University, it just got crazy and affected me in so many bad ways. It wasn't even all about the huge amount of work we get to do in Medical school, it was more about the fear of failure.

After having a ridiculous tough semester in second year, I decided to change some little but important aspects in my life and being in third year now, I can finally say that I got a decent stress coping routine which I would like to share with you guys.

about Sleep

I think this one is the most important and effective one for me and it's nothing new at all and something you hear all the time. In second year I had a week of pharmacology speaking exams, five days four hours every day, and I slept about two hours every night. I can honestly say that this week has been one of the most terrible times in my entire life and I'm sure one reason for me breaking down after this week has been the lack of sleep.
No matter how many exams I have in one week, how much studying material is laying on my table, I make sure that I sleep seven to eight hours. Not only I feel less anxious and nervous during the day but also I can study so much more effective and fun fact, faster then before when I had more study time because I slept less. I also try to turn of all my social media and my phone and I stop studying about 45 minutes before I go to bed to give my mind some time to rest and come down.

about Time

So some of you probably can relate to a question I get asked almost every day by my classmates and friends, which is "how long are you studying" or "how much do you think we have to study to get a good grade". Well when I started University, I had this idea that I had to study at least ten hours a day and everything below is just not good enough. I was basically obsessive with my study time and compared myself to everyone, feeling bad when someone did study longer then me. And I know there is some sort of competition, specially between medical students about this topic, but let me tell you by experience, there is no reason to think that a student who studied eight hours is going to have more success then the other one who "only" studied four hours. In fact, maybe this particular person studies more effective then you and needs less time as a result. Concentration, perseverance, focus and study skills are SO much more important, along mind and body state.

about Consistency

I know a lot of people, including some of my closest Uni friends, who kind of need to get under pressure, specially time pressure, in order to study and I used to be the same.
In Highschool I came away with studying only one day to a few hours before an exam pretty much all the time and I did well, so I went with this idea of studying to Uni.
In first year, we had a pretty hard exam at the end of the year and I remember staying in my little student room for a whole month without seeing anybody then the casher lady in my local supermarket every now and then and feeling guilty about taking a few minutes of to go to the shower or even eat and sleep. And all of that was because I hadn't study constantly during the year and I had a hell amount of material to study in a short period of time.
I needed a lot of practice, different study skills, willpower and a huge change in attitude to get to the place I'm right now, where I study basically every day but saving a few little important hours for friends, family and just myself.

about Procrastination

I seriously made myself crazy with techniques, thoughts, tips and opinions of others to find a way to not procrastinate. My procrastination usually includes Youtube videos, social media and my phone. I did managed my phone pretty well by just taking it to another room, putting it on silence and not having Whats app Messenger on my laptop.
But I think the most effective way for me to deal with procrastination is not to fight it, to accept it and plan for it! Which goes hand in hand with the previous topic, I plan for procrastination attacks, cases of feeling unwell (or ill) and general breaks, so I can study the material I have in a decent period of time without getting under crazy pressure. If you fight something all the time, it gets a higher meaning for you then something which is just there and you just have accepted and for me personally it works pretty well to know that I can watch the ten minute youtube video my favorite Youtuber just uploaded if I really would like. And somehow if I know I could do that, it suddenly just doesn't look appealing anymore.

about Food

Living by myself the first time in my life and moving out from my family, I obviously had to cook myself for the first time. I cooked every now and then when I lived at home, but anyways it was got another story when I lived by myself. I pretty much try to eat healthy most of the time by homemade meals, but during exam times I just used to destroy everything by eating frozen fast food, sweets and sugary drinks just because they worked so fast for me. But as I wasn't really used to eat that way, you can imagine how I felt after a week of eating like this - tired, always still hungry and dissatisfied.
Today I still don't spend hours in the kitchen to cook a meal during exam period, but I have a selection of meals which I found worked very well for me and don't need too much time and ingredients to have a healthy eating behavior in this particular times. I also usually cook for at least two days, so I just warm up the meal the next day and I make sure that I have a hearty wholesome breakfast to start the day. There will be a blogpost here just about this topic soon I think, I seriously could ramble about this for ages.

about Breaks

I didn't get the idea of decent breaks before lets say about ten months. I though they are a total waste of time. When I do something like drawing a picture, reading or even studying, I can really put myself into it and not realize time passing by, but therefore I constantly forgot to take breaks and didn't even realize I needed them and after looking up from the material, I find myself exhausted.
Somewhere back last year I heard of the Pomodoro technique, which I found really interesting, and I adapted a version of it for myself. So in case you haven't heard of this technique, you basically use a timer which you set on 25 minutes, start to study and after it rings, you take a five minute break and then the whole process starts again.
So how I do it is that I study a new material about 25 minutes and then instead a break I do a revision of what I studied and then continue studying until another 25 minutes passed by, and usually then I take a break. My top three activities during my main breaks on a typical study day are go for a walk, cook my meal and drawing something randomly. Sometimes actually I do nothing, just sitting there and letting my mind rest.

about Scenarios

Seriously one of the main stress triggers for me: What if I can not finish all this work? What if I fail? Is the second attempt more difficult? Let me search that online for a minute.
What are my friends going to think about me? I will never understand that, it's too difficult! How is this going to stay in my brain till tomorrow/next week/when I'm a doctor?
I'm such a ahead of time thinker, it literally kills me sometimes. I used to be pretty bad at that one and I still need a lot of practice to just live in the moment and have not the worst scenarios ever about how an exam is going to work out and I constantly have to remind myself where I am. By awareness of this kind of thoughts, I got them under control a little bit better by the simple reminder that this though is just that really, and the situation isn't happening right now.

about The Little Things

Everybody has their own individual little peace and happiness maker, so just be aware of them and live them. A nice day or evening walk, a bath, a cup of good tea, meditation, a one or two pages of my favorite book, people watching from my window, a 15 minutes power nap, catching up with one friend for even five minutes and my favorite film score do sweeten up my exam periods and help me a lot.

So that was a slightly longer post as most of my Uni related posts are going to be, but I hope you liked it anyway and more then that I hope it was a help or a motivation for you to find your own amazing way to deal with study stress!

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