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Surviving the Stress of Spring Semester

The spring semester has come with all of its beautiful opportunities—better weather, amazing possibilities for internships, and most importantly, the approaching summer break to look forward to. But with so much on our plates, many people might feel overwhelmed by this semester’s pace. As a senior who is overloading on classes in his final semester, I can relate. I have constantly wrestled with the question of how to manage both my time and energy to prevent B-U-R-N-O-U-T. While there is no foolproof method to make life easier, I find that these simple steps are what have allowed me to manage my semester with a more calm and steady heart.

Literally … Just Breathe

While this tip may seem cliché, I truly believe in the benefits of concentrated breathing. According to an article in Inc., intentional breathing can be incredibly powerful. What has come to be known as the 5-2-7 breathing exercise can increase our physical alertness while calming anxious tendencies. It’s really simple—all you do is inhale while counting to five, hold your breath for two seconds, and then exhale while counting to seven. You repeat this process three to five times and then continue what you were doing. 

A study showed that students who engaged in two minutes of this exercise before a standardized test answered more questions correctly than those who didn’t. There are many factors to the study, but it underscores the fact that proper breathing actually affects our ability to handle psychological pressure. Navy SEALs even use this technique to remain calm and focused under intense psychological pressure. Ultimately, the stress we go through is far different from that of Navy SEALs, but engaging in short breathing exercises like this one has great potential for combatting academic and personal stress.

Find Simple Ways To Reward Yourself

Take this next tip with a grain of salt. I find that rewarding yourself doesn’t always necessarily mean buying yourself something nice or grabbing an expensive meal out after a long week. Instead, smaller rewards really help in maintaining a calm, composed mind when pressure is high. For me, taking a brief 30-minute stroll after a long day of work helps clear my mind. Taking a walk and looking at the stars or just walking with a close friend and debriefing about the week helps me unwind and reflect on the whirlwind of things I had to complete. A reward can be anything that makes you happy and gives you more clarity of thought. When life seems to be moving at a pace that you cannot control, it’s crucial to find ways to recharge yourself.

Get Good Quality Sleep!

I don’t think I need to become a pseudo-mother and explain how important sleep is for success. While a lot of people might believe that to be successful you need to sacrifice sleep and work when no one else is working, a lot of research says otherwise. A study done by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute showed that the effects of sleep deprivation extend beyond just our ability to pump out quality work—sleep deficiency can also cause problems with learning, focusing, and reacting. Solving problems, remembering things, and controlling your emotions and behavior become all the more difficult when you are sleep-deprived. Managing your busy schedule is already hard enough, so don’t punish yourself by making it harder than it needs to be. 

Helpful tips to get better sleep include avoiding electronics an hour before going to sleep, exercising in the middle of the day, and following a consistent night routine that your body can grow accustomed to. While the amount of sleep you should be getting each night varies from person to person, the baseline is about six to eight hours of good quality sleep daily.

Enjoy Each Moment by Finding Things To Be Grateful For 

Finally, always find ways to express gratitude for the present. I found that my biggest reflection point this year was figuring out what I enjoyed most during my time at Boston College. While it wasn’t a 45-page list, I found myself very content both with what I accomplished and what I learned through the mistakes I made. Still, if I could change one thing, it would be implementing an active routine of reflecting and writing things that I was grateful for—both academically and personally—during the past three years of my college experience. 

Practicing mindfulness and gratitude can totally change your outlook on life. No one’s life is perfect—no matter how much Dan Bilzerian’s Instagram account tries to convince you his is. What makes life more valuable is our ability to appreciate the things that come and go. Seasons of stress will come and go. Seasons of happiness and sadness will come and go. Seasons of glory and failure will come and go. What remains is our understanding of that time and how we move forward with those experiences.

Featured Graphic by Olivia Charbonneau / Heights Editor

March 24, 2021