By Laura Iglehart, Student at Georgetown University
While the start of a new semester can be a fresh and exciting beginning, it can also be overwhelming and stressful time.
By getting organized, healthy, rested, outfitted and active, you can overcome this initial anxiety and put your best foot forward. So, give yourself the tools to make this your best semester yet!
1. Get organized
The most important way to combat syllabus week stress is to get organized so that you feel prepared to take on anything the semester throws at you. I recommend making (or buying) desk calendars in order to map out and visualize the cadence of your academic month. Consult your syllabi and mark on your calendar the date of big assignments, like papers, tests, presentations or field trips (I use a different color pen for each different subject). Add dates of extracurricular meetings, job application due dates, career center workshops and school events.
Don’t forget to add fun stuff, like a friend’s birthday or a school holiday (I use bright colors for this!). Tack or tape it above your desk so you can’t forget an important assignment, event or birthday. I also suggest roughly planning out the following month’s schedule and placing it next to the current month to give yourself an idea of upcoming assignments, activities, etc. As the semester progresses, remember to continually update and make new monthly calendars!
Another suggestion for organizing yourself is to take just a few minutes each night to straighten up your room and desk, pack the following day’s books and binders and take a glance at your calendars. Sundays are also a good time to check in with your calendar and do laundry and get yourself and your workspace organized for the week.
2. Get healthy
By making exercise just as important as any class, you will feel motivated and energized to tackle the semester. Think ahead and allocate an hour (or even 20 minutes on busier days) to get in a run, go to the gym or attend a fitness class. If you can’t spare the time, take 20 minutes for a brisk walk to give your brain a break and get your blood flowing. The endorphins released from exercise have been scientifically shown to boost energy so that you are left feeling motivated and ready for school.
Nutrition is just as important as exercise. I firmly believe in the phrase "you are what you eat.” Binging on junk food and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will leave you feeling tired, brain dead and unmotivated to give the semester your best shot. Sticking to a diet heavy on protein and complex carbohydrates (stick to a moderate amount) and low on sugar (simple carbohydrates) will give you, in addition to exercise, the energy you need to power through stressful and busy days. By avoiding simple carbohydrates, which can be found in soda, fruit juice, candy, products made from white flour and lots of packaged cereals and opting for complex carbohydrates, which can be found in many legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products, you will provide your body with longer-lasting fuel.
3. Get some Zzzs
Between classes, homework, extracurricular activities, family/friend time, eating well and exercising, it is no wonder college students seem eternally sleep deprived. Getting the suggested nine hours of shut-eye is just not in the cards … at least on weeknights. However, by prioritizing and organizing, it IS possible to get a good night’s sleep. Avoid all-nighters at all costs because they throw off your normal sleep pattern and affect your academic performance.
Set an alarm on your clock or phone for your ideal time to get ready for bed and try to finish your assignments before this time. When the alarm goes off, get off your computer and dim your lights to signal bedtime to your brain. Finish up some work, organize yourself, read a book or phone a friend for 15 minutes before turning everything off completely. I suggest keeping a sleeping mask around for when your roommate is still working or reading or if just can’t fall asleep. Remember to set another alarm for your desired awakening time!
Getting up at a reasonable hour can be just as challenging as going to sleep at a decent hour. As hard as it may be, waking early (around seven to nine hours after falling asleep) is great preparation for a productive day. Have a cup of coffee and bowl of oatmeal (complex carbs!) and finish up some homework, work ahead in class or take an hour to exercise and wake your body and brain up before class.
4. Get active
Getting involved will keep you sane over the course of your semester. When I want berate myself for taking a heavy class load, I distract myself with a variety of extracurricular activities. Having an organization or job or group of friends with similar interests to turn to balances the stress of school. Whether you work for the newspaper, run a charity organization or attend language coffee hours, you MUST surround yourself with other students (who are probably just as stressed and wired as you might be) to be the best student you can be. Being able to redirect your energy and temporarily channel yourself into something that doesn’t have anything to do with your GPA will provide the balance you need to succeed!
5. Get dressed
As silly as it may sound, dressing well is a great way to tackle the semester. When you look great, you feel great! Being the fashionista that I am, I try to lay out the following day’s outfit as I get ready to go to bed. Trust me when I say there’s nothing worse than waking up (grumpy, naturally) and staring at your closet for five minutes only to conclude you “have nothing to wear.”
Planning a good outfit is especially important when I have a stressful day ahead. Looking good is a little treat to myself for taking on a hectic schedule. Even wearing red lipstick or a cool scarf can make you feel a little more put together on days when you mentally may not be. An added bonus of dressing well is the compliment a classmate or a stranger may pay you when you least expect it. After all, we all can use a little pep in our step!
Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net