About three-quarters into the school year, academic burnout is beginning to wash over, as students start to wonder, “what’s the point?” The Albert Einstein College of Medicine lists factors of burnout being "piles of school work, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, concurrent family demands, limited or no physical exercise, poor time management and unrealistic goals."
The pandemic especially inspired these feelings of fatigue and study burn. With students globally pushed online and left isolated in the constantly-changing world, many found staying focused to be difficult.
However, as we transition into the post-pandemic world, we must find a balance between mental health and school. Remember that being a high achiever does not mean you should not respect your limits. Here are five effective tips to help you improve your studying habits while also decreasing stress.
1. Record yourself studying
Prop up your phone in a way such that you are the focal point of the video, set the setting to time-lapse, and hit the red button! Not only does this tip provide free entertainment after studying, but your studying will be phone-free.
Being able to see yourself studying might encourage you to continue, therefore increasing productivity levels. Plus, recording yourself helps keep you accountable and more inclined to stay focused.
You might also find that studying audibly by recording yourself is more effective. For example, read out your notes, which you may listen to later in the day. You can also create audible flashcards by reading one side and pausing in the recording to allow your present self to answer. However, do not forget to include the correct answer!
2. Light a candle, brew coffee, and make studying aesthetic!
Ambiance has the potential to make or break one’s concentration. Create a safe and comfortable study environment, perhaps by listening to piano music (or the La La La soundtrack on repeat, if you are anything like me).
A study conducted by a research team at Stanford University School of Medicine revealed that “music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions, and updating the event in memory.”
Consider lighting a candle, altering the lighting, playing relaxing music, or preparing a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. Immerse yourself in a safe, low-stress room, and allow yourself to work in a peaceful state of mind.
3. Work at a local cafe
Pack your laptop and a pair of headphones in a tote bag and travel to a local cafe, especially if creating a safe and comfortable study environment at home isn’t possible. Research indicates that the ambiance of a cafe boosts “creativity, alertness, and ability to learn.”
Find a cafe that is a study hotspot (for example, Starbucks). Being surrounded by other productive individuals such as yourself might elevate productivity levels. Plus, nothing beats the scent of coffee (besides a cup of your own)!
4. Go on a walk
Sometimes, you just need a break. A five to ten-minute walk around your neighborhood, down your street, or in a nearby park, will not hinder your goals. It’s common to immediately think that those ten minutes are a waste of time.
However, leaving the house might actually relieve some of the stress you consciously (or even subconsciously) have been harboring. According to a Princeton study, exercise collectively calms neuron activity, thus relieving one's anxiety. It is important to recognize that mental health takes priority over stress.
By clearing your mind, you gain energy spent on unnecessary stress, which hopefully is used to increase your productivity. Nature has a calming effect; take advantage of it to increase your productivity levels!
5. A good ol' to-do list!
Although to-do lists certainly will not work for everyone, those who love organization will likely appreciate the satisfaction of maintaining a to-do list and checking off a completed task. Setting attainable expectations for yourself and keeping yourself accountable through the use of a to-do list can help you increase productivity and decrease stress.
As the list shrinks and your satisfaction grows, nothing feels better than continuously checking off tasks, as it releases a substance called dopamine, making us feel more motivated. However, there are addictive qualities associated with dopamine, when the yearning for that feeling of satisfaction becomes dangerous. Therefore, focus on only the most important tasks of the day; do not list every basic task you know you will complete.
How do these tips help?
As students, we are all dealing with and battling our own stresses and anxieties. While stress can often be a trap, with these tips, hopefully, stress levels decrease and productivity levels skyrocket.
However, if not, don't be discouraged! Remember that we are all different, and certain methods that work for one will not work for the other. Also, remember that we are all human, and sometimes, giving in to the stress of our daily lives is also OK.