The New Year is responsible for all sorts of starry-eyed, gleaming-teeth, manic positive stories and quotes about change and fresh starts. Take this inspirational (or terrifying, depending on how you look at it!) quote from Edith Lovejoy Pierce,
We will open the book.
Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity
and its first chapter is New Year's Day.
Opportunity with a capital O. Whew. No pressure there, Edith. Thanks.
Never mind New Year’s resolutions: Returning to school for the second, and final, semester of the year is pressure enough. Here are some strategies to reduce back-to-school stress and make the most of the semester.
Let go of expectations (ours and others’) and focus on manageable, measurable goals
Expectations don’t have a basis in reality. They’re just a belief about a future outcome, but not a strategy. For example: you may find yourself lonely and homesick.
Expectation: “I’ve been on campus for five months - I should have a lot more friends! I should be going out more!”
Goal: “I will make sure I stay connected with my current friends and try to make new friends. I will join a meet-up group (or a team or volunteer organization) and arrange to meet a different person each week for coffee.”
Which one is actually going to result in actually hanging out with people?
- Learn how to study more effectively:
Are you spending hours reviewing class notes and reading…and nothing is sticking? If you aren’t studying effectively, you could be creating more stress in your life. Join a study group or take a seminar through academic or counseling services on campus.
- Make sure you always go to class:
The strategy: “I’ll stay home, really dig down and catch up” never works. Why? New material! And professors usually always reveal exam gold during lectures.
- Take it easy on non-academic stuff:
The ultimate goal is to do well in school and graduate - so don’t let the other stuff sidetrack you. Enhance your experience - sure. But not to the detri-ment of the whole reason you’re in school in the first place. Prioritize your commitments!
- Understand that no two people are the same
Edith Lovejoy Pierce may have charged into each new day with an unshakeable determina-tion to seize Opportunity. But some of us aren’t like that all the time. Some of us need to ease into the new day sideways. We’re still learning. Or sometimes we sleep in. Sometimes we just don’t feel like going out and meeting people. That’s OK. There is not one way to do things. There is no set timeline. What is ‘normal’ for one person, isn’t for another. It is about self acceptance and understanding what is good for you and progressing from there.
- Ask for help if you need it
Sometimes it’s tough to figure things out on our own. No matter how many strategies we try to put into place, we may feel lost. We’ve approached a problem from all angles and we’re still frustrated. Or we avoid the problem because it’s too overwhelming. There a number of re-sources available to you on campus: take advantage of study skills workshops, counselling, fi-nancial aid or call good2talk.ca, a free, confidential and anonymous helpline for post-secondary students, at 1-866-925-5454.
So start 2015 with a deep breath, open your own book and find out what you will write on those pages.