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Column: Learn to chill before the semester heats up

by Alexandra Weaver-Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Sep 5th 2017 05:00 pm
Photo taken by Emma Misiaszek/PHOTO EDITOR Keep a planner to stay organized and help reduce stress.
Photo taken by Emma Misiaszek/PHOTO EDITOR Keep a planner to stay organized and help reduce stress.

Everyone knows that college can be extremely stressful. Between work, school, extracurriculars and the time that it takes to just be a person, we're all pressed for time. But the decisions and habits that are made and formed early on in the semester can make the rest of the semester easier. 

Doing one's best to reduce stress is a form of self-care. Stress increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is widely known to have negative effects on the mind and body, including fatigue, poor memory, difficulty concentrating and a decreased immune system. 

It can also worsen the effects of pre-existing mental illnesses. That's why I'm dedicating the first article of my self-care column to tips on how to start the semester off on the right foot. 

One of the most crucial elements of college is organization. The more organized you are at the beginning of the semester, the easier things will be once there are essays, exams and group projects to keep track of for every class, and the more likely you are to continue those good habits later in the semester. 

The best way to stay organized is to keep work from different classes separated into different folders on your computer and into different notebooks, or at least into different sections of one large notebook. 

Staying organized can make it easy to find information from past projects and lectures, which are sometimes needed later in the semester to write essays, use in projects and study for quizzes and tests. 

If you keep all your information from that class separated from information from other classes, you'll spend less time combing through literally everything you've learned throughout the semester. This will help you finish your projects quickly, and in a less stressful manner. 

Time management is also essential in college. Whether you're just taking classes, or you're a non-traditional student balancing a full-time job, kids and classes, time management skills help you complete everything on time. 

Planners are a fantastic tool for managing time. Whether it's on paper or your phone, being able to look at due dates, appointments and weekly commitments all mapped out in front of you makes it much easier to manage time. 

A psychological study done at the University of Kentucky tested the effects of using a planner, as well as other small, grade-improving actions such as getting up early, sitting in the front of the class and reviewing course material. 

The study found that students who used planners felt more organized, less stressed and were less likely to miss important due dates. Many reported that their grades improved while using a planner. 

This result is only natural, because late and missed assignments can add up quickly and take a huge toll on your grade at the end of the semester. 

On the topic of time management, getting work done early is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Procrastinating is a tendency that most people have, but fighting the urge to put things off until the last minute can improve your grades a lot. 

Getting an early start on work makes it possible to write an essay or work on a project in several small intervals rather than one large interval. The quality of your work is generally higher when you're not rushed, because you have more time to look things over and edit them for spelling and grammatical errors. 

This will save your bacon once the semester takes off, and new assignments are being given out almost hourly. Another useful tip is to take naps. School work and regular work tend to run late to accomodate our class schedules, killing our sleep schedules in the process. 

Research has repeatedly shown that taking 20 to 30 minute naps when tired can help people feel more awake and alert, and improve brain function and mood. 

However, taking naps that are longer than 30 minutes can make actually make people feel more tired than when they started napping. A short nap can help you feel rejuvenated and ready to take on afternoon classes and homework. 

When things seem overwhelming, keep calm and remember to breathe. Take each assignment, each day and each week one step at a time. Focus on one task at a time, and things will seem much more doable than when you focus on everything that you need to do all at once. 

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you need to budget some time for yourself. Whenever possible, spend a little time doing something you love. It's easy to get into a rut in college, so be nice to yourself by hanging out with friends, taking a bubble bath, partaking in your hobby or whatever else makes you feel whole. 

Try and remember that as important as school is, you and your mental health always come first.