I think we can all relate to the impending doom of stress that builds up and explodes as the holidays approach. The holidays are supposed to be a cheerful time. If you’re a college student, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas feel like you just dropped all your marbles in the middle of Target and are running around trying to get every last one before someone slips. Ok that was an overly-detailed analogy, but nonetheless the group projects, presentations, final papers, and final exams can make you feel stressed to the point of paralysis.
Now I’m not going to tell you not be stressed because that would just be fucking irritating. But becoming too overwhelmed to tackle anything will only intensify the stress. The alternative solution to managing your stress is to use it as fuel to get after all the shit you have to do.
My strategy: channeling stress into tackling my to-do list
When you’re stressed out, you’re most likely thinking of all the things you need to be doing, but you don’t know where to start. Maybe you’re intimidated because you know the task is going to be hard or take a long time. The thing that your stress doesn’t want you to know, though, is that if you make a list and just do the first thing on that list, you’re most likely going to feel some relief and motivation to tackle the next thing. – this is the goal.
Managing stress isn’t all about making lists, taking breaks, and getting sleep, though. If your mindset sees stress as negative, you’re going to be miserable no matter what. The key is to change your mindset from “I’m so stressed, I have so much to do, and I don’t know where to start and I’m scared,” to “Okay let’s tackle this shit.”
There are dozens of resources to find ways to manage stress and be productive, but I think it’s important to make a long-lasting mindset change so that you can see stress as a motivator instead of a paralyzer.
Try getting rid of the idea that stress is a bad thing.
We’re always acting like being stressed out is not an ideal state to be in. Sure, we feel calmer and more relaxed when we have jack shit to do. But, stress due to work and/or school doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. If you can find the silver lining in why stress is okay, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable in that state.
The alternative to feeling stress is feeling numb. You can’t get yourself to care about anything on your list. Stress means you care, and that you hold yourself to a certain standard. It pushes you to fulfill your responsibilities, so channel that energy.
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In a calm time, reflect on what it is that makes you so stressed when you have a lot to do.
Is it not having enough time to do it? Does the actual number of responsibilities scare you? Are the tasks complicated? If you can pinpoint the feelings you get from being overwhelmed and figure out what part exactly stresses you out, you can also get to the root of why that particular thing makes you anxious and overwhelmed.
Once you recognize why you feel stressed, you can work to unpack and unravel those feelings so that when they come up, you’re more in control.
Remember that things tend to work out.
You were probably stressed about tests and sports games and work in high school, or even before that. Yet, I’d bet you can barely recall all the times you felt like shit was hitting the fan and your whole life was going to pivot downward because you had so much to do. In the end, whatever you have to do is most likely not going to make or break your life. Get out of your head, because it’s not the end of the world.
You’ve chosen to work, to pursue a higher education, to volunteer, whatever it is, so remind yourself that you are doing these things for a reason; to better yourself, to be proud, to better the world or your family.
Please don’t take this the wrong way - college is a privilege
If you’re in college and/or you have a job, you’re already more privileged than most of the world. I am in no way saying you don’t face adversity, because I don’t know your life. I’m speaking from my own experiences. I do know that anyone who is stressed about schoolwork is lucky to be getting an education.
I don’t mean to come off harsh, but when you look at the bigger picture, you realize you have amazing opportunities. It can often motivate you to take advantage of your education.
Stress can be overwhelming, there’s no doubt about it. Unfortunately, it’s an unavoidable part of life. When you shift your mindset to see stress as a motivator, as a privilege, and as a push to do great, you might find yourself thriving in a stressful time and feeling eager to grind things out and feel that productive sigh afterwards.
Almost all of our emotions in life are controlled by our mindset and perspective. Sometimes it’s important to shake ourselves up and stop feeling bad for ourselves. I’d rather get into a mode that is productive for a greater reason – to recognize that we’re stressed due to our opportunities, and to make those opportunities worthwhile.