Something I definitely underestimated at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was how much new stress I was going to feel, on top of the pressure from academics and my other responsibilities. Some people say that online classes are easier than in-person classes, but I have personally found them to be more work, and even more stressful.
This being said, I know that with finals looming, the pressure has begun to increase even more. At this point, getting advice about time management won’t help you keep stress levels down. Here are some tips and tricks that go beyond that to help you cope with the stress you’re feeling.
Ride the waves of motivation
Sometimes, you have to grind through an assignment that you procrastinated finishing because you have two hours left until the deadline and it still isn’t finished. But this isn’t the best case scenario. Something I’ve found that helps me a lot is to work when I feel up to it, and try not to force myself to when I don’t. I notice when I’ve already been working on schoolwork, sometimes I can find a little bit of extra motivation to start another assignment, or tackle other things on my to-do list. I really try to work with my brain and not force myself to do things when I don’t feel up to it when I really don’t have to.
Ask yourself why
If you’re procrastinating finishing something, sometimes it can be helpful to stop and ask yourself why you don’t want to do it. Is it because it’s a really big assignment and you’re intimidated? This could be helped by opening up the assignment page and figuring out what steps you need to take to get started. Is it because you run into the same issue every time and it makes you not want to do it? Look at what you could do to reduce the problem. Of everything I’ve learned during my college career, something that has been the most helpful is learning that often, I procrastinate for a reason. Finding out that reason can often help me stop doing it and feel more ready to tackle the things I’ve been putting off.
This is usually something I reserve for when things get really bad, but I have a specific method. I’ll open up an empty document on my computer, and literally just start typing. Every single thing that I’m stressed about — and everything that comes to mind while I’m typing — I’ll put on the page. I’ll put any and everything down, even the embarrassing thoughts I might not mention to another person. After a while of this, or when I feel tapped out, I just delete the document. This is a really helpful way for you to process some emotions, and burn off some steam.
Get out of your head
Often, I’ll start thinking about something and go down a huge rabbithole of overthinking to the point where I’ve created stress where there did not need to be any. Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is to stop letting myself overthink. I’ll step back and tell myself that I shouldn’t listen to myself right now because it’s likely anxiety, and focus my attention elsewhere. For example, maybe you googled a symptom on WebMD and now you’re convincing yourself that you have cancer. Take a step back from this, don’t think about it for a while. If you’re still feeling this way tomorrow, pay it more mind. But for now, try to just shut the thought pattern down.
When all else fails, and you only have the time or energy to get a few important things done, figuring out what things are absolutely critical can be helpful. Things that make the top of the list are things that are due immediately, or are necessary for your well-being such as eating, sleeping, or taking a shower. I have also taken prioritizing to the extent of figuring out which assignment I will lose less points on if I end up turning it in late. For example, if a professor has a “no late work” policy, I try and make sure to finish those assignments first. That way, if I have to turn one in late for another class and lose a few points, it’s less of a hit than if I couldn’t turn in that whole other assignment.
There are a million things we’re dealing with right now, but also a million ways to make it a little bit easier on us. Using some of these tips will help you stay on top of the things you need to do and keep your cool. Above all else, remember, the feelings you’re feeling won’t last forever. College is temporary, this pandemic is temporary, and you’re almost at the finish line.