School! Homework! Tests! How to Beat the Stress!

More times than I can count, I am contacted by people who are feeling overwhelmed with school and class work, causing them to have anxiety around tests and exams. This anxiety can end up hurting their test performance, and ultimately affecting their grades in the end. Schoolwork can be stressful, but it does not need to be. Summer break may be just about here, but it is still a good time to map out your strategy for the coming school year, so you can help to ensure that you are studying at your highest efficiency, and lessen some of that stressful burden that comes with homework, tests, and fitting in all of that study time. Here are a few things that have helped me greatly in the past, and have also helped several clients of mine.

First thing to do is take a look at your schedule. You will need to schedule yourself time aside your schedule where your time and focus will be strictly studying. Schedule yourself your study time at a time where you are comfortable, but not as your last activity in the evening. It is not a good idea to study late into the night, and then go right to bed, so do not schedule your homework time as the last thing you do that day. Be sure to set aside ample time in each day to meet your school responsibilities. For example, my rule of thumb when I was studying was to set aside 2 hours each day for reading, homework and projects. When you schedule this time, you need to honor it. Do not schedule your study time, and then do something else during your blocked aside time, telling yourself that you would do it later in the day, or make that time up the following day. When you honor your time, you are telling your mind and your energy that while in school mode, nothing else is important, so your focus will be greater at the task at hand. It is also important to block aside some down time. Your mind and body will need a break to absorb the information you are taking in, and to recharge your batteries so that you have the energy to keep on learning. It is totally ok to allow yourself on day that is homework free in your schedule.
Secondly, set the stage for your schoolwork. Create a space that is free from distractions where you will be doing your studies. This should be a space away from the television and phones, where you can be assured that you will have your uninterrupted time to devote to the task at hand. When you set yourself down to do your work, leave the cell phone on the other side of the room, so you are not tempted to respond to text messages, or peek at your Facebook page. Sometimes it even helps to light a fresh scented candle. White Linen, Citrus or Peppermint scented candles are very invigorating and can help to keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Make sure your space is comfortable, and you have all of your tools and books ready so that when you sit down to do the work you will not need to stop to go hunt down something, breaking your focus.
MEDITATION!! You would be surprised at how much a brief meditation before you sit down to do your work can help you. A short, clearing meditation before sitting down to do your schoolwork can help to clear away any energy you were carrying through the day, that may take away from your ability to tune in on your studies. I like to set the intent for my meditation to release whatever is not serving me, and open myself up to absorb what I am studying. If you are not a seasoned meditator, do not worry. This is a practice that you can take up with little trouble. Simply sitting calmly, focusing on your breath, and repeating to yourself this statement will help greatly:
“I am here to study, to receive information and retain it. None of the stressors of the day matter right now. I am here to learn, and that is all that is important at this moment. Everything else can be dealt with later.”
When you are finished with your studies, a brief meditation is also helpful. Think of this as a way to seal in the knowledge that you just fed your mind. This meditation will help to pull your mind out of study mode, so that you can relax and retain the information you just received. Meditation is also good on the day of an exam. A brief meditation to help calm yourself before a test will help to release the anxiety and stress that would otherwise take away from your focus.
FUEL YOUR BODY! It is important to know the difference between feeding your body, and fueling it. When we feed our body, we are simply putting food into it to satisfy a hunger. When we fuel our bodies we are giving our body foods that promote optimal physical health, top energy, and focus. Making sure that you are eating a diet that is healthy, and free of artificial preservatives and sugars will help you to have strong natural energy. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is crucial during your school time. Poor diets can leave you feeling tired and sluggish, and not in the right space to learn efficiently.
GET PLENTY OF REST! This is a no brainer. If you are running on 3 hours of sleep, your mind is not sharp. You are not working at your highest potential. Getting plenty of good sleep will ensure that you are focused and strong during your homework time. Allow yourself appropriate amounts of sleep, and when it is bedtime leave the cell phone off, or in another room and turn the TV off. Cell phones and TVs in the bedroom cause a great interruption in sleep.
NO CRAMMING!!! This goes back to the first portion of this post, but it is so important that I felt it needed a section all on its own. When you cram for finals or exams, you are frantically studying. When you are frantic, your focus is not as strong as it could be, making your studying not nearly as efficient as you need. If you honor your schoolwork time in your schedule, you should have little need to have an all night cram session. If you have a time arise where you need to allow extra time in your schedule to study, be sure to not overload yourself. Many times when we try to cram a ton of information into a short period of time, we can find that our minds do not absorb it anyhow. During finals, or projects, allow yourself extra time in your schedule to study and complete work, but be mindful to also allow yourself time to relax and recharge.
These are all some pretty basic steps, but they will help to make sure that your school year runs smoothly. Being mindful during your studies, taking care of your physical body, and planning out a routine will help to train your mind and body to do the best you possibly can with your schoolwork, and make those year end finals a lot less stressful. School should be fun! Learning is an adventure! Taking these steps will help to remove the stress and anxiety, so that you can learn at your highest potential, and have a blast while doing it!

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