Hi Pretty people!
I AM IN MY FINAL YEAR IN UNIVERSITY.
Just read the above statement again. Anyone who has been through this, is going through it or who is facing in will probably of had a sharp intake of breath and shuddered. It's possibly one of the most stressful times of this age and stage of life.
For the last seven weeks, I have been a completing a Wellness Recovery Action Plan at St Patrick's psychiatric hospital as an out patient two days a week, and then spending the rest of the week in college. At the beginning of last week, I started to experience sever anxiety again. I think when you've been well for quite a while, when you do start feeling depressed or anxious or what ever type of symptoms people experience with their particular mental health difficulties, it's some how scarier than before. This is, I think, because you're almost afraid that you will get sick again, that this is the beginning of a bigger problem. Also, I think it's because being well is so enjoyable you're angry at the thought of being sick again, of going back to being the person you were; the person ruled by your illness.
I spent that evening in bed with a serious migraine, which is always a sign of stress in me. The next morning I had to attend the hospital again and luckily, even though I felt frightened and physically and mentally stressed, I was able to discuss what I was experiencing with the facilitators there, and realise that I was hugely stressed over college.
Final year is tough. Like, seriously tough. I had been neglecting that fact and had expected to sail through it, and also forgotten how much college stress affected me in general. The WRAP programme taught me how to plan and deal with these type of situations and learn more about myself, so I had the foundations to build a plan for how to deal with this stress and stop it bubbling over. I'll put the link to the WRAP website below. It's an amazing program and I would recommend that anyone, with or without mental health difficulties do it, the life skills it teaches you can be applied to any situation.
So these are so bits of advice and tips to try to help you deal with exam stress!:)
- Try to be organised: I don't mean in every aspect of your life! But having deadlines written down, what the type of assessment is for each class and how much the assessments are worth is a big help. Knowing how much an assessment is worth is a good way to decide how much time you should devote to it and having the dates written down avoids any uncertainty and panic. Try keep a copy where you study, on your computer and in your phone.
- Back up everything: If you're like me and all your work is on computer, make sure you back everything up, either it be to iCloud or google drive or even the good ol' USB stick. If you've an iPhone set it to auto update your iCloud and google drive so you'll have everything together.
- Find somewhere and a time you're comfortable studying: For me I study best in the morning down in the kitchen. I always find something to distract me or tidy in my room and by the end of the day I'm just way too tired for study!
- Drink as much water as you can: This is a really basic one I know, but you do feel better when you drink water! Add some fruit or sugar free cordial to make it less boring! Have a couple of different bottles around the house and take sips out of them.
- Try to eat well: This is soo hard when you're busy with college!! I walk past two chippers and two pizza places on the way home from college and its so tempting to go in and get something quick and tasty. But your body actually uses energy to break down processed food, energy which you could be using to study or write assessments! If you can, try cook simple pasta dishes with tomato sauce and some veg, or even get the ready made dinners you can get in most places now. They're only a €5 and you get two days out of them. Spar do the nicest ones I think. Or else make soups and freeze it, throw in a potato or pasta and happy days:)
- Try some yoga: I have gone on about the benefits of yoga in my October Favourite's post already, but I'm finding it brilliant for dealing with the physical aspects of stress like sore, stiff neck and shoulders and muscle spasms. If it's really not your thing, a great tip my physio gave me is to take a tennis ball, and place it between a wall and your back, and use the ball as a way to massage out knots. You can even study while you're doing it!
- Mindfullness: Ok, Ok, I know, this is a dirty word. This is also the new buzz word in the mental health industry and its severely over used! But I have found mindfulness good recently. I use the app Headspace, which is a slightly more modern take on mindfulness, with some fn animations and great advice. People think it's all about stoping your thoughts and clearing your mind but that is NOT true! I find Headspace particularly good because its explained in simple English and it is realistic. If you're still not convinced check out their website. Also try following mindful or wellbeing pages on Twitter and Facebook for tips and if you can't do without your social media fix!!
- Don't take on anything extra: I know this isn't always possible as people have jobs and family commitments, for which may I say FAIR PLAY. I am in the very lucky position that I don't have a job or kids and I honestly don't know how people who do have these constraints manage college at all, least of all in final year. What I mean by this is that this may not be the best time to decide to paint the house, or take up couch to five k, or vow to loose that half a stone before Christmas or try read War and Peace! (I have this running joke with people than when college is over I'll get to read all those complicated books I want to read, instead of college stuff!) Basically college is going to take up the significant part of your time, so don't be trying to kill yourself doing or achieving other stuff.
- Do something everyday you enjoy: I can hear you screaming at me now, 'Are you kidding?!There's not enough hours in the day!' but please try to do this, just for fifteen minutes a day. Whether it's reading a (light!) book, writing a diary, watching a tv show what ever it is, allow yourself to do it for at least fifteen minutes every day. It will really benefit you mentally and physically.
- Have what ever drives you around you: For me it's a list on my wall of all my presentations and assignments and crossing them off as I'm done, best feeling ever! I've also got a list of short and long term goals to remind me of what I want and why I'm working so hard. Also, my background on my computer is a picture of three snow men that remind me of my family and make me smile. It can even be pictures of the places you're going to go travelling or your dream job.What ever it takes to remind you of why you're doing this and there is an end in sight.
- Take multi vitamins: This is just about the worst time ever to get sick, but somehow it always happens! Ask your college doctor or pharmacist about a good brand to take and try and take it with your main meal in order to absorb the most goodness. If you're really feeling poorly and tired consider being tested for B12 deficiency, which is done through a blood test. Remember though, it's natural to be tired with everything thats going on. Try have a regular bed time, and they say the best sleep you get it the sleep you get before 12pm.
- Stop working an hour before bed: This is an important one my psychologist advised me to do. It's because your brain needs time to wind down before it can sleep, so this is especially applicable to worriers who find their brains very active. Try and stay away from the phone and computer for that hour too! If you're not getting good quality sleep it will affect the quality of everything else in your life, including college work!
- Ask your college for help: Seriously I could do a whole article about asking for help in any situations of your life, but this is one where people will definitely be able to help you! You are not the first, nor will you be the last student who'll approach their college in need of help in final year. Or any year for that matter. So just go, ASK! Talk to your class rep, your year head or any department that helps students. If you're not sure what to ask for help about ask them about time management skills, assignment writing skills or if needs be about extensions or extenuating circumstances. This is when a set of unusual personal circumstances which has greatly affected your college work and will be taken into account when you're being graded. This can include physically injury, a death ect
- Try remember LIFE WILL GO ON!! This is a hard one. Mostly because if they worst case scenario happens and you fail, well it does change your circumstances and what you had planned for your life. But life does go on. It may not seem like it at the time, but it will. It will take strength to get up and try again, but you will find it somewhere, and its always worth using the appeals time to see if you can speak to lecturers about where you went wrong. Again, you will not be the first or the last, but make how you react different to all the rest, and you could still have that dream job, just maybe not the exact way you thought you'd get it!
So those are my tips for trying to keep your head around college stress. They're all ones that have been said before but sometimes you need to see them written down again! If anyone has any tips or tricks they do for coping with exam and college stress please leave a comment below, or on my twitter or instagram account.
Thanks so much for reading!
Wellness Recovery Action Plan Website: