Don’t Panic, Plan It! Get Organized Before You Get Stressed


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Wednesday, July 10, 2024
A stressed man with a low battery symbol hanging over his head

They call stress the silent killer for a reason. Stress can wreak havoc on your immune system, tip your mood into a depressive state, and leaving you feeling physically raw and vulnerable. Going back to school can be stressful at times; doubly so if you’re balancing other obligations alongside it like family and/or a professional career. You don’t have to let stress get the better of you: you can keep stress down to a minimum if you use the power of planning and forethought to better organize your efforts.

Set Your Priorities

Putting too much time and energy into the wrong tasks can be a huge stressor. Whether you’re going back to school full-time, balancing work with education, or working on an ambitious project on your own, you need to figure out your priorities. Understand how much free time you have each day and how much you can dedicate to each of your prioritiesTriage them like a doctor would: what’s the most important thing that needs to be done RIGHT NOW? What can be put off till later? Focus on what’s within your power to achieve, and break up larger, long-term goals into smaller and more easily achievable sub-tasks.

Make sure you reassess your priorities as you go and adjust them accordingly. If you don’t have time to complete one of your priorities and it can be put on the backburner for a while, don’t hesitate to take it off your plate. Don’t let the specter of uncompleted tasks haunt you; keep your eyes on the prize and do what you can do and do them well.

Mise En Place

There’s a cooking term that French chefs often use: “mise en place.” This translates as “everything in its place.” When chefs practice mise en place, they gather together all of the ingredients and supplies they need beforehand and set them up in the most efficient way possible. Doing this saves chefs a lot of time and stress because it takes the guesswork out of their cooking: they don’t have to stumble around trying to find the parsley or wrack their brain wondering if the recipe called for heavy or whipping cream.

While mise en place is a great strategy to employ in the kitchen, it also works in many other contexts. When you’re studying or working on a school project, gather “your ingredients” beforehand. What texts do you need? What tools can help you? If everything you need is on your computer, you can apply mise en place to your files. Organize everything in an easy-to-access folder. If your resources are in emails, forward them to yourself so they show up at the top of your inbox.

You can also apply these to everyday household tasks. Ask yourself what things do you easily lose track of, the important items that you spend too much time tracking down when you need them? Assign them their place in your home. Keep the important things in the same place consistently. The peace of mind and saved time that comes from knowing where to get what you need when you need it can be considerable.

Keep Things in Perspective

When something is stressing you out, it can be all-consuming. It’s important to keep yourself grounded and to remember that just because this one thing is bothering you doesn’t mean that the rest of your life is in the doldrums. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down three things every day that you’re grateful for and try not to repeat yourself.  On days where you feel overwhelmed or anxious, flip through the journal and remind yourself about the good things in your life. Remind yourself that there are other things you can direct your focus toward.

Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate

Are you doing a group project? Resist the urge to bite off more than you can chew. Don’t be afraid to share the workload.  If you’re working on a project by yourself, it’s okay to ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Get a second opinion if you’re not sure how to proceed; hang out with a friend to take your mind off a stressful task; talk to your instructor if you need more guidance on the topic at hand.

Get Out Of Your Head and Into Your Body

Stress gets you inside your head. One of the best remedies when you feel caged by your stress is to pay more attention to the rest of your body. Go for a walk. Swim a few laps. Exercise- even if for just a few minutes a day-  can do wonders. Physical activity gets your blood moving, unleashes neurochemicals that help alleviate stress, and gives you a sense of purpose and control over your life. A sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate stress so making a point to get up and get out there every day is good both for your mental and physical health.

Done is Better Than Perfect

There’s an old saying by Voltaire that can save you a lot of headaches: “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Few things can fuel stress like perfectionism. It’s important to do things the right way as much as you can; we should all strive to do the best that we can … within reason. If you find yourself dealing with tremendous anxiety because you can’t get things just right with your work, ask yourself if it’s already good enough. Is getting something done “perfectly” worth all this stress? Knowing when to stop working is an important skill set on its own; the key to good writing andediting is knowing when something needs no further embellishment.

On a related note: having set routines for your studies is good, but it doesn’t hurt to switch it up sometimes. If you get locked into a rigged process of studying and working, you may eventually find yourself in situations where howyou study can get in the way of what you’re studying. Your lifestyle may also change: job loss, sick family, a child. These sudden changes can make keeping up your old routines and old standards of perfection difficult, if not impossible; give yourself some grace and allow yourself to be flexible in these matters.



Article by Austin Brietta

For more of our Student Success blogs, check out some of our past stories: