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Expert Q&A - Managing Stress and Studying Skills



  • JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,301 Part of The Furniture
    Ewan_R wrote: »
    How to cope if you're relapsing during your exam period?
    Hi there. Not sure exactly what you mean by relapse, but I'm guessing it's something to do with your mental health. First of all, your mental health and safety is your first priority. Consider reaching out to a mental health professional if you haven't already. If you're at a point where you can't cope with the exams, I'd advise talking with someone at your school/ department and see what the best option is moving forward. In special circumstances, it may be possible to retake exams.

    This is more general advice to reduce exam stress, which may or may not help, depending on your situation. Looking after yourself during exam season is very important. Make sure you're getting the best quality sleep you can (look into sleep hygiene), keeping hydrated and eating properly, as well as exercising. Making time for all this will help you perform better on the day compared to locking yourself in your room for hours cramming for the exam. What helped me personally to reduce exam stress was going for walks, especially when the weather is nice. For me, it put my exams into perspective and allowed me to enjoy a bit of nature.
    Building on this, I want to add that relapse is a natural part of your recovery journey and it's important to allow yourself the space and support you need when it happens. It's not something anyone should be expected to work through on their own, much less with exams on as well.

    I know it can be difficult to ask for support when you relapse, because there can be this feeling of 'oh but I should be okay now', but it's just as valid to seek support for a relapse and there's no shame in it.

    As @Ewan_R said above, that might mean retaking exams (which is absolutely okay), talking to a professional, or just outright taking some time away from studies. It's about doing what you need to do for your mental health, and there isn't necessarily a right answer there. :)
    All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
  • JustVJustV Community Manager Posts: 5,301 Part of The Furniture
    edited June 2021
    It sounds like some of you folks are finding things real tough right now, and it's not easy to be in those dark places at the best of times, but especially so when you're dealing with exam pressure.

    If you do find yourself reaching breaking point and it all just feels too much, there are crisis services out there who can support you in the short term:
    Crisis Messenger (24/7) | text THEMIX to 85258
    Samartians (24/7) | call 116 123 | email jo@samaritans.org
    Papyrus (2pm-midnight) | call 0800 068 41 41 | text 07786 209 697 | email pat@payrus-uk.org
    Supportline (hours vary) | call 01708 765 200
    And if you're under 19, you can contact Childline:
    Getting mid and long-term support is important too of course, but if you need something to get you through those intense moments, these options are here.

    You don't have to deal with these things alone. :)
    All behaviour is a need trying to be met.
  • Ewan_REwan_R Posts: 4 Expert
    edited June 2021
    what are some good ways to break up time and fit in breaks when working?
    Great question! Study schedules are a very personal thing, and some people benefit from short sessions broken up with short breaks, long sessions broken up with long breaks, or something in-between. Breaks, I've found, are a really important and often overlooked part of studying. When used effectively, they can allow for greater focus and efficiency for your work blocks.

    It's probably best to start small and work your way up. I'd advise looking into the Pomodoro system. There are plenty of online timers available, as well as phone apps. I personally use Productivity Challenge Timer. The usual default split for the Pomodoro system is working for 25-minute stretches, with 5-minute breaks. You do say 4 of these sessions (don't be afraid to adjust this to best suit you), and go for a longer break say of 1 hour to 90 minutes where you can take a proper break from your work with a walk, exercise or have food. I've found it useful to split different topics by long breaks, too. For example, I'll do 4 x 25-minute sessions on this essay, have an hour break, then do 4 x 25 minutes on reading this textbook/paper. In my experience, this allows for a higher level of focus on each task.

    This may be the optimal way for you to work already, but if you find that, depending on the type of task also, that the short sessions disrupt your workflow, play around with longer sessions and longer breaks. I wouldn't go longer than 90 minutes with an hour break, as it is hard to maintain focus for that long, and it's important to regularly stand up from your desk, stretch your legs etc. This will also help avoid eye strain. Especially in your short breaks, I'd also advise not to do activities like browsing social media. In my opinion, the idea with breaks is to allow your brain to recharge a little bit. Browsing social media doesn't do this in my experience. I feel much more ready to approach my next work block after 5 minutes spent refilling my water bottle, and stretching out a bit (it also allows a break for your computer screen).

    To avoid burnout, I've also found it especially important to maintain a work-life balance. Unless you are forced to work overtime for an assignment or something, I recommend you have a set time every day (provided you start working at the same time) where you switch off from your work. If you are able, avoid doing menial tasks like checking emails after this time, as this will keep your head in work mode, rather than relaxing. Make sure to also still do things you enjoy to wind down in the evenings and weekends to allow your mind to recharge. A bit of bonus advice for someone who spends lots of time in front of screens for work is to get a hobby that is screen-independent. For me, that's walking, running, and going to the gym.
  • Ewan_REwan_R Posts: 4 Expert
    edited June 2021
    Natasha_D wrote: »
    Anch0r33 wrote: »
    I'm going into my 3rd of 4 years at uni and I've struggled to find the motivation. I've managed to get decent grades but I'm wondering what I can do to help keep myself engaged and motivated?

    On a totally other note - how do people choose their dissertation subject? I study English lit and theatre studies and will be writing my diss for English lit.

    It's worth taking some time now to discover what your intrinsic motivation is. That's the thing that puts fire in your belly and you'd choose to do, even if there was no such thing as society, money, grades etc. The most common intrinsic motivations are helping others, attention, competition, socialising/connection and independence/freedom. You probably have more than one IM but one will be stronger than the others. People who understand their intrinsic motivations are not only happier (they make choices which serve their intrinsic motivators which leads to greater life satisfaction) but they can also motivate themselves to do anything by incorporating an element of their intrinsic motivation into the task (a simple example is, if you're motivated by socialising and connection, studying with friends).

    Can't help with the dissertation - hopefully one of the other experts will jump in on that but hope the above was useful!
    Hi @Anch0r33, thanks for posting. I agree with Natasha's response to do with motivation, so I wont add much; just this. When I lose motivation and engagement, I like to get back in touch with what drove me to choose physics in the first place. For me, it's the idea of being able to understand how the universe works, and how mindboggling it all is. In order to do this, I like to watch youtube videos/ documentaries on physics to get myself psyched up and think "yeah, I'm a physicist too". Maybe there's an equivalent you can do, like re-read a favourite book from when you were younger that really got you into your subject.

    To do with choosing your dissertation, It's something that's really tough to do. In my case, the professors offered a list of projects, so I can only offer my experience in this regard. I had to do this whilst studying for exams, so I didn't want to spend too long on it. I started off by making a shortlist of projects based on the title (some are easy enough to rule out based solely on this). Then I read the entire project description, and again cut out ones I think I wouldn't find interesting. I then cut out the projects offered by professors I didn't know (unless it was a super interesting project) or didn't like, and favoured ones offered by professors I know and liked. (An important part of a successful project is getting on with your supervisor!). And then ultimately, I picked the one I found the most interesting and was in an area which I wanted to continue in (which you can base on how much you enjoyed your lectures on each topic). Not sure how exactly your department does things, but I'm sure it's also possible to get in touch with the person offering the project and ask them further questions if you have any.

    Ultimately it comes down to interest and potential enjoyment, and working with someone you like, in my opinion.
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