Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to College Classes Stress: Tips

     This will be my fifth year as a college student (first in graduate school), and I've still been a little stressed the past two days. The change from the relaxed days of summer to the scheduled hours of the school year is a shock to my system every time. 
     Stress is not only an altogether unpleasant experience, but it's also a big factor in college weight gain. Chronic stress is associated with changes in your metabolism, cravings, blood sugar levels and fat storage. Stress can also contribute to making unhealthy choices, such as choosing fast food, skipping exercise or eating in response to emotion rather than true hunger.
     While my life is far from stress-free, I do see things a little differently now than I did a few years ago. I have a more realistic perception of the importance of my tasks, and this knowledge helps me to stay sane. If there are any younger students reading who are feeling overwhelmed, hopefully I can help out by sharing a few tips specifically for college students.

Don't take too many credits. I recommend always at least signing up for 15 credits, so that if you drop one, you will still have a full-time course load. But don't be afraid to drop a class if you feel especially overwhelmed. If you're afraid of not graduating in four years, summer classes are actually really laid-back and not that bad. Online classes are also extremely convenient and available during the summer. Whatever you do, just remember that your mental health should be your top priority. No one is going to care in ten years that it took you five to finish college.

Take study breaks. It's easy to get yourself into a "zone" and feel like "I have to finish this now," but that's not always the case. Sometimes procastination will require that intense effort and concentration, but save it for then. In the meantime, don't feel like you have to get all your schoolwork done during daytime hours. There is nothing wrong with taking a break during the day and studying at night. Or if you'd like to have the night free, even a short break is so helpful and even makes the work seem easier upon your return.

Your GPA is not THAT big of a deal. I graduated Summa Cum Laude, and honestly, it wasn't worth it. I ended up going to grad. school at the same school I went to as an undergrad, and while it's a good school it's really not that selective. If I could go back and have more of a social life, and more extracurriculars, I definitely would choose to over having a high GPA. No one is going to ask you about it later. It's up to you to put it on your resume. If you want to go to a super-competitive grad. school, then yes, it should be competitive, but extracurriculars and experience in the graduate program subject matter are big factors as well.

You will not be poor forever. I know that when money is tight, it feels like you're going to be in this situation for the rest of your life, and it can feel desperate. But bills will always be there, and there's no sense in worrying about something you can't change. And in my experience, money always just seems to come, somehow. Whether it's a check from your grandparents, or finally finding a job, you will eventually come up with some cash. Temporary employment is also often available on college campuses. And don't be afraid of loans, assuming you've calculated what your payment would be after college and you could pay it while working in your future career. Loans are a lot better idea than credit cards. 

Finally, don't dwell. If you grab lunch while you can between classes, and it wasn't that healthy, there is no point in dwelling on it the rest of the day. I've talked about my dorkiness before, but I picture an imaginary line in my head signaling a new beginning. There's something about actually picturing a symbol that makes it feel more real and conclusive. There are an infinite amount of situations that you could spend your life dwelling on; why that guy didn't want to date you, why you failed that test, but in a few years, you're barely going to remember.

     Enjoy your freedom from overbearing parents and full-time jobs. Experience new things and meet new people. Find out what you like, who you identify with and what your passions are. Don't spend your time thinking about what you can't change and what you're not. Accept yourself now. You're going to have to eventually. Why not do it now?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is very wonderful advice! I struggle with dwelling on what I eat. If I eat a bad lunch I always have that 'I give up' mentality and eat more junk for dinner. Then the next day I end up eating more junk because I might as well because I was so horrible yesterday. And so on. Lately I've really been about making the healthy decision now regardless of what I ate earlier. It really all really adds up. You're either eating well or eating junk and how you feel will match.