"In it deep" is how one student described his exam stress recently. "Blinded by anxiety" are the words another student used.
This is the time of the semester that all college students are feeling extreme stress. Studying for college exams is the ultimate test of stress management.
Some students fortunately have figured out and applied a study system and will cruise through the stress of the next week. They have developed strong study habits that work. They started preparing weeks ago – revisiting syllabi, going to study sessions, organizing study content, and developing the most effective approach to exam week.
Other college students, however, have not figured out how best to approach planning, organizing, and executing studying for exams. The stress and overwhelm that this creates is what causes mental distress and emotional breaks, and ultimately leads to poor academic performance.
For either type of college student, is not too late to study with sense, sanity, and less stress.
STUDENTS: Be proactive. Kick it into gear. If you adopt (even a few of) this list of study tips and reminders and put some of these into action, you will have successful exam week. Your mind will feel less chaotic. Your emotional state will feel calmer. Your ability to focus and concentrate will increase. Good Luck.
Plan, organize, and create your exam study schedule. Use good old-fashion paper and pen and sketch out even the simplest study schedule. Waiting creates the sense of rush which multiplies feelings of angst. Spend 20-30 minutes today (and tomorrow) prepping for your direction and plan of studying. How will you structure every hour? What is the best time of the day for you to focus? What will be your primary way of studying? Give it some thought.
Decide where you will study. One of the most practical things you can do to enhance your study endeavors is to pay attention to your study environment. Switch it up daily. Make it bright but not cozy. Be sure to incorporate fresh air into your study space. Your dorm room is not a good choice. Leave your apartment. Choose a place with minimal distraction capability. Mix up your go-to study space and be sure to emulate your test taking environment when you can. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you can listen to music, while scrolling your device, while watching passer-byers, while studying. This is a set-up for wasted time and decreased concentration. Say NO to multi-tasking.
Plan your study breaks. Study sessions are critical for ending the semester with success and brain breaks are even more critical. Incorporate mental breaks into every part of your studying. When you take study breaks is as important as what you do in that break time. In general, a twenty-minute break every two hours is sufficient. You can also apply the 20-20-20 rule to give your eyes a break. Stretching, catching up on social, having fun, nourishing, and even taking a teeny tiny nap are all great ideas for study breaking. Taking care of your brain in the next few days will in part determine how you produce and apply your knowledge on exams.
Clean up your spaces. You want your mind to be free of distraction. You want to minimize the amount of time you spend each day looking for things or avoiding studying because your mind is on what is in your immediate space, reminding you of other nonurgent and unimportant things. Clean your dorm, apartment, car, bathrooms, and study spaces. You will be able to focus and concentrate on only what is in front of you, making your study sessions more productive. A clean space is a clean mind.
Be prepared with study essentials. Time is so critical when you are studying for exams. Every single minute is needed. One way to assure you are freeing up good study time is to gather everything you will need to support your actual studying and mental focus. Essentials like highlighters, sticky notes, and your computer are a no-brainer, but also remember to organize your electronic files, have handy any notes, quizzes, chargers, syllabi, and supporting materials you might use. Have near, phone numbers of professors and classmates, sustenance (food), neck and spine-supporting tools, and items that bring you comfort and fun.
Know what content is covered on the exam. This may seem so elementary, but it is inevitable that you sit down to focus on a class and realize you either forgot what sections are covered, what content is included, or what is not expected, or, you have simply not looked at your syllabi recently. Refer to your syllabus first. Review class notes for emphasized, repeated, and highlighted concepts, examples, ideas, and professor comments. Be very clear on expectations. Figure out your knowledge gaps in the material covered and focus on this for the bulk of your study session. It is never too late to email your professor either for clarification. Also, know what format/application your exam will be in – multiple choice, essay, project presentation.
Please sleep smart. Your brain will tell you to go, go, go. It will be in ultra-produce-mode. And it will forget to remind you of the importance of sleep. You will constantly feel like studying is more important that anything. This is false. Although your brain is still active during sleep, quality sleep is as important for your existence (especially focusing, memorizing, concentrating, and recalling) as food and water. Sleep effects every system in your body. It effects neurons, tissue, metabolism, mood, and immunity. You need these things to be ideally functioning and healthy when you are generating emotional, cognitive, and physical energy while studying. It is unnecessary to be inflexible about how much sleep you get. Schedule it so you follow through with adequate amounts (7-8 hours). Know what bedtime, wind-down strategies work and even incorporate a few new ones.
Bullseye. Enter each study session with a single target of focus. Go in with a detailed plan. Have actionable steps and check lists. Have a set time, and an end time in mind. Know what you will study for how long and in what manner (actively studying and passively studying – both work). Use a timer. Stay true to your study goals. Be very clear when you sit down to produce.
Critical Outcome. If one of your exams is critical for a certain grade, or your class passing depends on this one exam, pay close attention to studying for this class, but try not to hyperfocus. Maintain a “balance” approach when you consider how you will study for all exams. One exam might be both urgent and important (Eisenhower Matrix), but you have other exams that need attention. Be flexible with your time and energy and be smart about how you divide your focus.
“I can’t get motivated.” It is going to happen. You will lose the gumption to study. Your brain is exhausted. Any momentum you had, will disappear. What do you do? Pair the dreaded task with a fun activity. Set yourself up with a reward. Just to get started, choose an easy, quick part of a task, and knock it out. The brain releases dopamine when you do this, and it gives you a general sense of success, so you build upon this momentum and keep going. Move on to tackle more of the task. Then move to the dreaded task.
Give yourself grace. Envision two weeks from now. Plan how you will celebrate even if it is just a pat on the back. Know that your efforts are honest and that you gave the semester your (best) shot. Do not dwell on short comings. Allow yourself to “fail” while planning to do things differently. All these soft acknowledgments help move your through stress and negative thoughts. You want your mental and emotional energies to be free to study. Give yourself grace.
20 Remarkable Tips on How to Study for College Exams and Reduce Your Stress Now
This is the time of the semester college students feel the heaviest stress. Some are able to express the overwhelm and make a proactive plan to stay on top of the heavy feelings. Others, like the students with whom I coach are not able to visualize and create actions that help them approach stress and anxiety effectively.
From now until final exam season 2022 is over, Students Stress Less Coaching LLC will support college students in building and creating the most effective and successful stress management plan for themselves. In addition to offering discounted one hour coaching sessions in December, SSLC, LLC sends stress less care kits to students anywhere in the US .
For now, sharing this comprehensive list of tips and reminders for a successful exam season can be your parental contribution to help your student monitor and neutralize exam stress. When students are emotionally and mentally prepared and supported (and reminded), they are more likely to take action to bolster their mental and physical health.
Share these helpful tips with your student as they prepare for weeks of distress, poor self-management and daily balance, overwhelm, and feelings of helplessness:
1. Start planning, organizing, and creating your exam study schedule today. Do not wait until "dead week" to get ready to study. Waiting creates the sense of rush which multiplies feelings of angst. Spend 20-30 minutes a day prepping your thoughts and envisioning your study structure.
2. Decide where you will study. One of the most practical things you can do to enhance your study endeavors is to pay attention to your study environment. Switch it up daily. Make it bright but not cozy. Be sure to incorporate fresh air into your study space. Your dorm room is not a good choice. Leave your apartment. Choose a place with minimal distraction capability. Mix up your go-to study space and be sure to emulate your test taking environment when you can.
3. Plan your study breaks. As critical as study time, planning when and how you will take study brain breaks is extremely productive. Taking care of your brain in the next few weeks will in part determine how it produces. So, include study breaks into your study schedule.
4. Clean up your spaces. You want your mind to be free of distraction. You want to minimize the amount of time you spend each day looking for things or avoiding studying because you mind is on cleaning or organizing. Disruptions can be in the form of thoughts (on what needs to get done), so free mental chaos by cleaning your dorm, apartment, car, bathrooms, and study spaces. You will be able to focus on only what is in front of you when your space is organized and clean.
5.Make sure you have all of the essentials needed for a good study session. Gather study materials and essentials like highlighters, timers, chargers, old quizzes, phone numbers of professors and classmates, syllabi, and books. Have access to a printer and to electronic files of content.
6. Know what content is covered on the exam.
Refer to your syllabus first. Review class notes for emphasized, repeated, and highlighted concepts, examples, ideas, and professor comments. Be very clear on expectations. If you have any missing links or gaps, ASK now.
7. Failing the class? Need and want a better grade? Do not give up. Your exam is only worth a ce
Credit Google Images
Adjusting to college life is no joke. It is the first time that most students experience a major life change. Naturally, with change comes a combination of growing pains and unfamiliar emotions, as well as excitement and eagerness. It is this fluctuation of emotions that makes the first semester of college seem unsettling. If you are a parent, your student may have experienced The W Curve.
The W Curve is a model or phenomenon, or a
path or pattern of stages that occurs when
one is introduced to a new culture.
Created in the 1960s to illustrate the
expected and unexpected range of emotions
experienced when adjusting to a new culture,
and readjusting to the native culture, The W Curve
has since been used to describe the nature of
transitioning to college from high school.
The W Curve explains the predictable nature of how students adjust to their new college life. The beginning of the semester is marked with anticipation, confidence, and elation, and is followed with periods of sadness, displacement, discouragement, and isolation. Then, there are more feelings like contentment and coalescence, followed by more feelings of displacement and fear. This variation of emotional experiences through The W Curve is recognized as normal.
Understanding the normalcy of The W Curve helps both college students and families approach the emotional roll-a-coaster of the college transition with more acceptance and grace.
In The W Curve model, the first of five stages usually begins when students recognize their refreshing new start. Everything is new: new people, new schedules, new sights and smells, new cultures, new self-awareness, new mental and emotional experiences, new-found-freedoms, new tolerances. From here, students experience oscillating emotions elicited from culture shock to final integration into the campus community.
The Honeymoon Stage:
As with all honeymoon phases, the beginning of something new brings about excitement and curiosity. The unknown and newness of this "next step in life" serves as a motivator for college students as they adopt an open mind and discover their new world. Students feel stimulated, enthused, and full of adrenalin as they meet new peers, try new events and activities, and look forward to this new status.
The Culture Shock Stage:
This stage begins at about weeks 3-6 when the reality (of what college is about) is acknowledged. “I don’t know if college is for me.” “I don’t know if I can do this.” As the newness wears off, students begin to realize the vision they had of college prior to coming to campus may not be the reality of college life. Daily life as a college student may feel overwhelming; students may feel academically inept; confusion, isolation, and a sense of not belonging may occur in this stage of college adaptation. During this stage, students may feel homesick, compare their abilities and skills to their peers, and may feel none of the excitement they experienced just weeks prior. Culture comparisons cause various uncomfortable emotions.
The Initial Adjustment Stage:
This stage begins in weeks 5-9 of college. Its most marked feelings are balance and control. Students realize that they are somewhere between their “old life” and their “new life,” yet they do not necessarily feel completely integrated into the college community. Students, however, stereotypically feel settled, accomplished, and confident in their abilities to do the work. They continue to make friends and feel like they belong. Feeling set in a routine and in-the-flow of things is common as students continue to successfully manage their independent life: situations, issues, challenges, responsibilities, and joys. This is the stage when students feel normal, well-adjusted, and in-control of their campus experience. Wellbeing levels are highest during this stage.
The Mental Isolation Stage:
Fall Break occurs changes things. From this point until mid-next semester students enter the “gray area” between feeling “at one” with the college life and still feeling alone. This stage lasts the longest (seemingly) because the integration has not solidified. There is ambiguity in that students have the title of college student but do not feel like a college student. The stress of not belonging brings about a sense of existing in “no man’s land.” There is some confusion about feeling uncomfortable on campus when students expect to feel settled after having lived there for months. Home visits may cause an emotional setback and homesickness may strike in this stage. Values and beliefs continue to be challenged as the “new life” continues to unveil realities of the college culture. Peer groups continue to shift, leaving students feeling alone. The feeling of co-existing with the campus community is interrupted with feelings of mental isolation. Students feel like they do not belong anywhere.
Acceptance, Integration, and Connectedness: (up)
This final stage of college adjustment feels like “the light at the end of a tunnel.” Students finally feel connected to people and places, and truly feel like a part of their college community. Late Spring is usually the time when students begin to feel like college is “their place.” Childhood homes finally feel more like a place to visit. College feels like "home". This is the stage of college adjustment when students feel the most balanced and secure, yet flexible with accepting that their two worlds are now “one.” Students accept the realistic existence of college, and can integrate the range of emotional, social, cultural, mental, personal, and academic experiences.
This transition to college is everything but normal. It is the first time in most students' lives where they manage all components of life (especially feelings and challenges) alone, for the first time. Successfully adjusting to college life through The W Curve of experiences builds life skills that will benefit students for the rest of their lives.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month in our country. This is the time of the school year when mental health organizations and universities bring awareness to this continued public health problem by offering awareness, education, support, and trainings for both parents and students. It is also the time when we hear about campus suicides.
Here are things about youth and young adult suicide to know as you enter a new semester.
Suicide among our nation’s youth (ages 10-24) accounts for 14% of all suicides in our country. For the age group 15-24, suicide is the third most common cause of all deaths.¹
The good news is that statistically, the rate of suicide for these ages (number of completed suicides, not attempts), dropped between 2018 and 2021, and the rate is below the national average. ²
However, according to the CDC, even in its latest research of 2019, 20% of teens surveyed reported seriously considering suicide. In addition, in 2021, over 27% of college were diagnosed with depression or other mood disorders. ³⁴⁵
Teens and college student death by suicide continues to be alarming, as young adults continue to struggle with life challenges, transition, mental health, and personal struggles.
While a sensitive topic that families and students still do not feel comfortable discussing, it is a possibility that death by suicide is something that any college students might indirectly or directly experience this semester. For each death by suicide, 135 other acquaintances are affected by the experience.⁶
One of the biggest stressors for college students is the transition from high school to college. It can be one of the most stressful times in a young person’s life – one challenged by extreme emotions and pressures, frightening and frustrating “firsts,” and overwhelming feelings of depression, anxiety, and insecurity.
For the first time students must make independent decisions, manage multiple demands, face untapped levels of stress, feel real loneliness, solve conflicts, and navigate difficult feelings. Academic demands are brutal. Support systems may not be solid. The risk factors can seem endless. ⁷
Emotionally, mentally, and physically, these the weight of these struggles mask the reality that help is available.
As parents, peers, professionals, friends, and mentors, we all play a critical role in helping students overcome feelings of despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, and preventing death by suicide.
Here is how to start:
1. Have open dialogue: It is OK to be direct when talking about suicidal thoughts, ideations, and plans. Create a safe space to support these conversations. The most important and effective way to safeguard student mental health is to have open dialogue about anything related to mental health. Do not be afraid to ask your student how they are self-managing. Ask open ended questions. Listen intently and notice nuances. Reframe from advice and secrecy. Do not be scared to talk about suicide despite feeling uncomfortable. Ask about social connections, self-care, and wellness habits like sleep, exercise, and stress management. Let your student know they are safe, supported, and not judged.⁸
2. Check-in on a regular basis: Some students arrive on campus with a mental health diagnosis or undiagnosed mental struggles. In fact, one national survey states 41% of college students report having symptoms of depression. Diagnoses or not, checking in on your student on a regular basis does not mean you are helicoptering. Stay in touch through ways that your student is most likely to respond. Talk to roommates. Be involved in their daily happenings. Ask, “How are you really doing?”. Create a verbal bond with your student that encourages them to seek you or someone out. As the adult, shed the shame of staying connected with your student despite society convincing you that you are overprotective. There is a difference between hovering over and solving your child’s problems for them and simply listening to their voice, laying eyes on their appearance, and noticing behavior changes.⁹
3. Know the risk factors and warning signs of suicide: The state of students’ mental health plays a critical role in risk factors of suicide. Knowing warning signs of suicidal thoughts and ideas, and of depression is your main mode of protection and prevention of your student’s mental health should they become incapable of managing mental distress. Listen to your intuition when you feel something is off. Is there a mention of giving up? Ask about sexual trauma, feelings of isolation. Is there verbiage such as wishing to end pain? Has there been family issues or mental health struggles? Are mood swings severe enough to be concerned? Has sexual orientation and identity been a challenge? Is withdrawing from usually enjoyable activities a new behavior? Are academics slipping? Is there a preoccupation with death? Has there been increased risk-taking behavior such as caring less about being injured or killed? Is your student giving away possessions. Ask, ask, ask. Pay attention to factors that would increase the risk of wanting to die by suicide. This list is not exhaustive.¹º¹¹
Remember, all mentions or jokes about suicide should be taken seriously.
4. Know the FACTS about Suicide:
(1). Most people who threaten suicide want to live.
(2). Talking about suicide does not cause people to complete death by suicide.
(3). Most suicide attempts are behaviors expressing deep psychological pain and distress.
(4). Even when a person decides to talk about suicide, this does not mean the risk of them completing suicide is nonexistent.
(5). Most suicidal people do give warnings of intention, and this can go unrecognized or unnoticed by friends and family.
(6.) Over 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder.
(7.) Males are four times more likely to die by suicide than females. Females are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide with nonlethal means.
(8.) Not all individuals who consider suicide (thoughts) appear sad or depressed.¹²
5. Be familiar with suicide crisis lines, help lines, and organizations.
988 is the easiest to remember. There are
both on and off campus local help lines,
as well as national help lines.
Lori Bender, MSW, Life and Wellness coach for students founded Students Stress Less Coaching LLC in 2016 to help high school and college students across the country learn how to effectively manage stress and anxiety. She uses her foundational program called "Everything but Books - 8 NECESSARY Skills to surTHRIVE College to coach students through the chaos of stress and anxiety. Lori has worked with universities, published articles for Grown and Flown and Collegiate Parent, and has run wellness workshops for students. She is an advocate for all things student wellness. FOLLOW Students Stress Less Coaching LLC:
TIKTOK - @schoolstressbegone
September 02nd, 2022
A mental wealth plan is nothing more than a written mind map of what to do when you feel overwhelmed in college. It is a road map to lessen anxiety and empower your efforts and capabilities. Together with your professional stress management coach, you design effective anxiety-reducing exercises and strategies to implement into you daily life, and concrete steps to follow when you feel the anxiety rising in your mind and body.
A simple but powerful concept, the mental wealth plan is a tool that when used every day to nurture your mental health, and to balance your mind, feelings, and body, provides a protection from and the prevention of high stress - the kind of stress where your body breaks down (illness), your wellness habits get neglected (sleep, body movement, and nutrition), and your confidence and strength feel weak.
So, how do you design the mental wealth plan?
The purpose of designing a mental wealth plan is twofold:
(1) to prioritize your mental health through intentionally thinking about (your) most effective strategies (ways, exercises, tools) to use to lessen stress and anxiety.
(2) to map these thoughts out on paper so your eye/brain sees what actionable steps you need to take and when.
If you have ever written down goals or made stick notes for something that you really wanted to accomplish or felt passionate about, those visual reminders guided you to your end desirable result. They served as your road map. Your brain was reminded consistently of what to do, how to do it, and when to act.
A mental wealth road map works in the same fashion.
You become self-aware as you assess what your optimal mental wealth looks and feels like, as you process ideas and design your mental wealth plan. If you feel like more focus needs to be on your self-care when you get overwhelmed, this aspect will be a “point of interest” on your map. If you are concerned about academic overwhelm (not being able to balance and keep up with assignments, projects, and due dates), this aspect is laid out in your plan. And, if you just want a toolbox of personal things you can do to lift your spirits (mantras, physical exercises, schedules), this, too, is included in your plan.
Mental health is as important to your college success as are your grades, your social connections, and your personal growth. In fact, if your mental health wavers through stress and anxiety without proper management, these other aspects of college life suffer.
So, think of a mental health plan as insurance for your college experience.
Think of a mental health plan as your never-ending source of support.
Think of your mental health plan as your compass through the forest of college stress.
"The mind and body are strongly connected. When one is having challenged or compromised, the other is likely to be suffering as well."
"A bad day is not a bad week, or a bad year, or a bad life. A bad day is a normal day with obstacles tripping you up. That is all. Jump the hurdles. If you clip your foot and break your ankle, it might be a bad(der) day, but you will adjust. Ice it. Elevate it. Take pain meds if prescribed. Tomorrow will be a new day.
More about "Everything but Books" - 8 Skills Necessary to surTHRIVE Freshman Year of College
Congratulations graduates! You have worked hard to get where you are. If you are heading to college in the fall, are you really ready? Do you know everything there is to know about college life? Are your anxious?
Students Stress Less Coaching LLC has a college transition course that you can take on your own that includes 2 hours of professional coaching. It is 8 modules and will take about 4 hours of your summer. You will feel so much more prepared and confident to go to college. The course covers..."Everything but Books - 8 Necessary Skills to surTHRIVE Freshman Year of College".
Check it out!
May 26th, 2022
March 01st, 2022