It’s the time of year when midterms and projects due dates are starting to creep up! I’ve been seeing a lot of posts of students discussing stress, overwhelm and designer eye bags. From undergrad to graduate school, I can confidently say I’m well versed in stress from school and life. It’s so important to be aware of your stress levels and to handle it accordingly. I still remember when I had a panic attack during my first year of university, the night before my calculus exam, or when I went M.I.A for 4 months before the GMAT exam because I was putting so much pressure on myself. Through these experiences, I’ve learned some tips and tricks on how to recognise the early signs of overwhelm and how to manage it.
1. Everything is going to be okay
Sometimes it feels like everything is well over your head and that it’s just IMPOSSIBLE. Take a deep breath. Its normal to focus on the mounting never-ending list of to-dos but dwelling on this will only makes the tasks feel more daunting and make you feel more stressed. Take a deep breath and think about an action plan. Shifting the focus from feeling overwhelmed and hopeless to calm and actionable is a powerful way to shift your perspective. A lot of the stress and overwhelm first stems from us putting pressure on ourselves. Whenever you start feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and tell yourself everything will be okay. You’re definitely not alone in feeling this way.
2. Make an action plan
Breaking each task into manageable steps makes the task seem less daunting. I like to use my planner and break tasks down into a day by day plan. It’s important to ensure the steps are realistic so that it’s doable. Sometimes I will go a step further and breakdown the day-by-day tasks into by hour plans to ensure I stay on track. If you decide to use the hourly step, make sure you buffer in room for unexpected delays. I found this very helpful when I was writing my 5,000 word industry report last week!
3. Know when to take a quick break
Sometimes we don’t have time to take long breaks, especially during exam time. However, it’s important to step away for 15 minutes to an hour to clear our mind and calm our nerves. While I was studying for the GMAT exam, I occasionally took 15 minute breaks to meditate. I used the “Calm” app which I found SO HELPFUL to calm my nerves and to stay focused. It’s important to take a step back and mediate, exercise or go for a quick walk to clear your mind. Overexerting ourselves could actually work against us and make us less productive than if we just took time for a quick break.
4. Feed your body well
During stressful times, it’s SO important to keep our physical health on point. With our mental health under pressure, the worst thing we can do is feed our body junk and not get enough sleep. When I know I’ll have to stay up late to study or read, I try to be conscious of the snacks and meals I put into my body. The last thing I want is to feel crappy and groggy while studying. I like to occasionally switch up coffee with tea and swamp the chips and cookies with fruits and nuts instead. Although deadlines can be daunting, at least I can study a little bit better knowing that I’ve made conscious decisions to eat well.
5. Know your capabilities and limits
This is something I’m still learning to master to this day! It’s so important to not burn yourself out!!! If I know I have a huge report coming up, I won’t schedule social activities or appointments close to the deadlines. It’s important to learn to say “no” sometimes and make our well-being a priority during times of stress. If there’s a commitment that cannot be cancelled or rescheduled, using step 2 is a great way to work your schedule around commitments.
I hope the above tips are helpful! I’d love to hear how you handle overwhelm in the comments below!
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