Six Methods for Overcoming End-of-Semester Anxiety

Spring has arrived and, with the passage of each new weather system, there comes a shift in mood in universites.  Warm moist air moves in from the Gulf Coast just as students become aware of approaching paper deadlines.  Crisp clear air awash in pollen, spores, and mold from points north blows through rendering everyone teary eyed, runny-nosed, and anxious about papers and exams.

Preserving your equilibrium at this time of year is paramount, so take a Claritin and read these few simple tips for maintaining some mental wellbeing.

  • Seek silence. You can do this through prayer, or meditation, or anything else that helps you still your untamed-monkey-thought-processes as they careen uncontrolled though the jungle of your brain.  The world is blessed by silent spaces indoors and out.  Use them.
  • Ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen, then prepare for it. That could mean reviewing your class notes, or begging off a social activity to get started on a paper.  If we assume that graduation is everyone’s primary goal, then we should all be focused on its achievement.
  • Take a short road trip. Did you realize that within a 60 to 90-minute drive of Dallas-Fort Worth there is . . . well, to be honest, not much of anything?  We are surrounded by a whole lot of wide open spaces, tiny towns, earth, sky, and cows.  Get out of town and look at the clouds.  Or stars.
  • Find a smart-phone accountability partner. This is someone who willingly looks after your phone for a set amount of time every day.  They will let you know if an emergency comes up but, otherwise, they will lovingly and intentionally separate you from your device and its attendant distractions.
  • Assume a power pose. If you are feeling especially fearful, take a few moments to stand with your feet apart and your hands on your hips.  Thrust out your jaw or raise your fist.  Imitate the posture of a 1930s dictator and you will start to feel more confident.  I’m not kidding, this actually works–just as long as you avoid seeking world domination.
  • Exercise with a purpose. We all know the about advantages of exercise, but give your exertion some meaning.  Instead of hitting the gym, do something active for the greater good.  Help a neighbor with their yard work. Remove abandoned rental bikes from sidewalks so the disabled can move freely.  Something as simple as collecting the trash you encounter on a walk will give you a physical and mental boost.

Pacing Yourself for Larger Papers and Projects

Pacing Yourself for Larger Papers and Projects

In case it has not yet become apparent, the idea of writing as a leisurely and meditative activity is something of a myth.  Large spaces of time in which to ponder life, the universe, and everything rarely fall into our laps.  If they do, they are likely to be accompanied by dental emergencies, car trouble, or a backed-up sewer line in the  kitchen the day before the arrival of your holiday host guests.  Is it any wonder that St. Jerome found a nice quiet cave in which to translate the Vulgate?

So how are you to manage a large research paper or project?  Here are some ideas I hope you find useful:

  • You have to fight for time to write. Nobody will give it to you and very few people will make it easy to hang onto.  This is battle, folks.  You want it?  Come and take it.
  • Start early. Get organized as soon as you can, and then work to stay organized.  Create an outline for the project and a timeline for your writing.  Whatever it takes and however you want to do it.  Just do it.
  • Do a little bit of work each week. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the body of your work builds up into something significant.
  • In the same vein, try to do whatever you can in the little snippets of time you get: in your child’s carpool line, waiting at the pharmacy, or during the pre-game show at sporting events.  You will be amazed at how many sentences you can knock out in the time it takes to check Facebook.
  • Keep a method of recording your thoughts with you at all times so you don’t lose that brilliant insight.
  • Plan what you want to say before you sit down at the computer. You can do this while exercising, showering, whatever.  Think through enough of your project to have an inkling of where it’s going to take you.
  • Structure is essential. If you don’t have one assigned, then create one.  And don’t underestimate the time it takes to do that.
  • Sync your work. As much as possible, try to relate your diverse bits of research so that you can borrow information collected in one for another.
  • Schedule time for serious re-writing and editing. A first draft is only a first draft.  Create a second draft and then schedule a time to ask your readers to review your work.