It’s a challenge for anyone to give their absolute best when their energy is so close to zero, and when the brain suddenly decides to turn into mush. Whoever came up with the word deadline sure knew what one would look like as they worked towards it: your thinning hair always seems to be a mess, you’ve either eaten anything and everything you can see (or haven’t eaten at all in the past 5 hours), or you’re half-consciously inhaling coffee.
Death itself could learn a thing or two from you on how to look good.
Surprisingly, even after all those years of cramming, it just seems that no amount of practice can prepare you enough for the next wave of this crazy feeling we all know too well: stress.
But what is stress anyway? How do we go about stress management? Should we really avoid stress in the first place?
Stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing
In a game-changing TED Talk by psychologist Kelly McGonigal, she reveals several studies that prove how stress only has a negative impact on a person when they believe that it does! The truth is, stress is actually a positive indication that your body is preparing you for the task at hand. From the way your heart pounds to the sudden shallowness in breathing -these are signs your body is getting ready, and that you are fully capable of handling the situation if you just believe in your body’s capacity.
“When you view stress as helpful,” says Kelly “you create the biology of courage.”
Now, she doesn’t recommend that we run towards stressful situations on purpose, but it helps to know that stress isn’t as deadly as we often think it is. In fact, stress is good for us.
3 tips on changing the way you handle stress
Just in case you find yourself in a constant state of stress and you honestly want to avoid it altogether, consider these 3 tips on how you can deal with the tasks and checklists coming at you:
1. Find out what you need right away.
Do you need more help in understanding a certain concept that you just breezed through before? Or maybe there’s a task requiring a material that’s difficult to get. Chances are, if you identify these small but crucial details at the last minute when you’re in “cramming mode”, your stress levels will only soar as the panic sets in. Even if that paper isn’t due ‘til next week, or the exam is far off at the end of the month, it wouldn’t hurt to skim through the readings and check what you could get ready in advance. Remember: preparation = peace of mind. Even if you don’t feel like it would make a difference at the moment, you’ll realize later that you saved yourself from the extra hassle.
2. Watch what you’re eating.
We get it: being able to grab any sugary, salty snack at the store is way more convenient than having to prep a healthy, home-cooked meal. BUT, the thing about these goodies is that they are most likely loaded with everything that can lead to unnecessary cravings; namely, all the -ucoses: fructose, glucose, sucrose, etc (see this TED Talk for more info on the lesser-known effects of sugar to the brain). The last thing you want to feel when you have a load of work waiting for you is regret over the weight you’ve either lost or put on. Keep this in mind for the next meryenda: unhealthy food could make you sick at the worst possible time (imagine having a sore throat from all those sweets on the day of your thesis defense) and can even mean unwanted absence from class.
3. Surround yourself with people who care.
Whether it’s asking for help or taking that much-deserved break, having good company is a reminder that your work is meaningful and that you’ll always have support in times of difficulty. Stress tends to make us feel like no one else has ever gone through what we have to face, and so we decide to handle it alone. You’ll be surprised to find out that the simple act of asking others for their insight can work wonders and help you gain an idea of how to tackle the challenges wisely.
Take a deep breath, know that you can always ask for help, and don’t forget: Even stress can make you stronger!