- Take care of yourself physically. Out of all my tips, this is probably the most important. Get enough sleep, exercise and nutrition. Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol. The mind and the body are connected, and if you don’t take care of your body your mind won’t work properly. There are many studies linking poor nutrition and lack of exercise with increased anxiety. As a full-time doctoral student, private practitioner and instructor at the University of Florida, I have lots of anxiety. Proper nutrition, as well as swimming on a master’s team, doing spin classes and weight lifting has literally saved my life. It has kept me (relatively) calm and focused.
- Stop worrying and start doing. Don’t waste time thinking about or complaining to others about how much work you have to do. You will literally psych yourself out. Instead, take action! Divide and conquer. Use the energy generated by your anxiety to start getting things done! Even just completing the smallest task will help you feel better, reduce your anxiety, and encourage you to keep going!
- Don’t allow yourself to fall behind. Once you fall behind, it is very difficult to catch up. Falling behind generates unnecessary stress, which will paralyze you, generating more stress because now you’re even further behind…you get the picture. In fact, try to stay a bit ahead of your work if you can, just in case you get sick or have a personal emergency. My personal goal in my master’s program was to stay at least one week ahead of due dates. At the end of the semester, compared to classmates who waited until the last minute, guess who was calm and focused?
- Work on your self-talk. Tell yourself you CAN do it, you’ve done it before and you can do it again. Yes, it will be hard work, but that’s OK — you’re not afraid of a little hard work, are you? Tell yourself about your strengths, not your weaknesses. If you don’t know what your strengths are, it may be helpful to consult a supportive friend or loved one.
- Expect the unexpected. Sometimes other people just aren’t very organized or professional. This could be anything from a professor flaking out and changing their mind about an assignment, or someone in the administration office who lost all of your financial paperwork. People mess up all of the time. Don’t panic. Keep your side of the street clean and escalate as necessary. Know your rights and stay calm. Don’t wait until the last minute to submit anything, whether it’s a financial aid application or an assignment. That will help to create a protective buffer.
Lastly, if you still struggle with overwhelming anxiety, utilize the counseling services provided by your university. Many large universities have a counseling center where students can get free counseling or attend free workshops.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,