Vital: How do you deal practically with school stress

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Hey everyone,

I have some excessive stress because of school work, which reflected on many other areas of my life. I just want to know what have you tried of strategies or tactics to deal with it and proved effective -- as in, right theory that can be also right from a practical perspective, too. I think this problem is so fundamental in dealing with academics, as a below-expectation performance can get worse when the intensity of the situation is not handled properly.

I value your help.
Many people go to the gym when they want to alleviate stress. I've also found that the beach helps, as does going places I normally wouldn't go (not too far away), just to get away from the tense atmosphere of school. Bus tickets are pretty cheap. You could go to a random part of town one day, then come back later in the evening.

If you want to push it, you can do what my roommate does. When he gets stressed out over his work, he buys a plane ticket to a random location in the U.S., flies there, stays a few nights in the airport doing his normal work (he claims it's relaxing), and then returns. He's also known to go on camping trips to random locations without any camping material, just to see what happens. Maybe it would work for you?


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I like the gym idea. Or going for a jog outdoors if the weather is ok. Flying to random locations sounds good too, but that sounds expensive. I think it's dangerous to go camping unprepared (unless he was camping in the Four Seasons in Boston).

I think the other thing is not to worry to much about your grades. If you misjudge the difficulty of a class, and it's after drop date (they have such things in the US, not sure about other countries), it's ok. Just work hard, ask your lecturers all your stupid questions during office hours, and do your best. There are many people without straight As, and many who didn't even get into college that contribute productively to society and live happy lives.


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Ensure you have a good social life. Reward your hard work by spending time with your friends, or having a good night out. There's no use working every hour of the week and getting stressed out by it.


There's no use working every hour of the week and getting stressed out by it.
ya Newton tried it that way and look what it got him. :rolleyes:

What kind of stress? short term like this problem is difficult or long term like too many distractions and not enough hours?


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ya Newton tried it that way and look what it got him. :rolleyes:
I don't know about the OP, but I would certainly not want to end up like Newton!
Well everyone does different things to get stress relief. The key is knowing what comes you down/enjoy. For me its videogames, after working non-stop for 4 days in a row a quick 1-2 hour of gaming is all I need to relax and get back to work.


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A few extra tips:

1. Spend time with positive people and avoid those who increase your anxiety with anecdotal stories about how last year half the class reportedly failed a given exam.

2. Time management. In the 7 Habits books they talk about dividing your activities into four quadrants:
Urgent and Important Important but not Urgent
Urgent but not Important Not urgent, and not Important
Stress results from having too much stuff in the Urgent categorites. Effective time management results from properly recognizing your activities and maximizing the time you spend working on important things before they become urgent to minimize the important and urgent category.

3. Identify and evaluate the sources of stress. Some sources are completely artificial - such as the pressure to look a certain way. Some are external, like for example the stress a parent can place on a son or daughter to do well in school.
3b. Once identified, take steps to minimize exposure to the sources.

4. Health and wellness. Other have talked about spending time in the gym or yoga. I would extend this to any solid physical activity that elevates your heart rate. I would also include proper nutrition, and getting adequate sleep.

5. Laugh. As much as possible.
Thank you all for your comments, I have some follow ups. Please let me know what you think as comments or suggestions. I tend to forget important things so much, of which is getting back to this thread that I started about a serious problem I am having. However, I am so pleased to read your comments;

phreak : Yeah I agree that gym is a good idea, I played intramural soccer for few weeks --we're out of the league now. I felt it helpd a little, but it also caused some stress as it was on Sundays and it was kinda time-consuming before the week start. Changing locations like your friend is very creative! But with my budget it's nearly impossible. I will try to push more for the gym option to be on my schedule as a homework.

atyy I agree with you, but I have reached a stage while alarm clocks cannot wake my up, and I just barely can make it to classes, as I have a bad sleeping cycle (go to bed around 6-7am, waking up near 3pm, having classes from 3-5pm everyday)

I changed my schedule this semester as last semester I lost so much points due to not being able to wake up for class. I have failed a class, too; one of the reasons is I can't concentrate, and the bad cycle did backfire heavily on this class, especially the quizzes part.

Ai52487963 Haha I think I am definitely one of them :biggrin:

cristo I agree totally that friends help in reducing stress. However, I just start to find myself escaping facing my heavy responsibilities by deciding to hang out with friends: I know I am in deep trouble, then I end up hanging out with friends, then I end up regretting it somehow as I still need to work on tons of things, and I feel that friends time could have been delayed till later. I started to see close friends much less, and the ones I see I end up spending a 'decent time' as it has been a while, so it kinda time-consuming again! I know I am sounding weird, but that's why I need help.

And yeah, I used to be an excellent student [as in top 1% of my class] but since 5 years I have dropped to be at the bottom %20 (I used to be an engineering major, but dropped it due to bad grades..)

Alfi I would say it's too many distractions, but most importantly too many overwhelming demands; from academic and social to deciding if I am going to grad school or finding a job. It's too much stuff.

Last tornado Thanks for your advice, actually it brings me to another dimension of the problem: I am a spiritual person and I do really like to pray and to reflect during it. However, I ended up being stressed to make sure I am doing my prayers properly, and sometimes it takes a lot of time. When stress did spread to this part of my life I started to feel heavily overwhelmed on how my day is running.

anubis01 Yep I am extremely fond of video games. However, I am always in the dilemma that if I play video games I am 'wasting' a 'long continuous chunk' of my time. So I tend to try to look for other shorter breaks, but nothing is working. I even started to watch movies much less due to the same reason. I have 6 weeks before graduating, and I need to do TONS of stuff, and I am trying to convince myself mentally that long breaks can be worth it, but I cant.

Choppy I do value your five points. I am to applying #1 by avoiding people who try to show me that I am a loser, or I feel that they are just friends for benefits and not true friends. I really did like #2 and I will try to implement it. #3 is wise too. I have a problem in being enough disciplined to apply #4.

#5 for me is an aftermath, I find it extremely hard to laugh these days despite my wishes for it.

I have problems in focusing, imagine that I have posted this on PF, and I did forget to check it back since couple of days, despite my extreme concern to listen to advise. This is how I end up about many things I do care for in life, but end up forgetting totally about them.


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Well, hang in there! Concentrate on getting through this term as best as you can, and see if you can talk to one or more advisors about how you can arrange next term's schedule, work load etc better.

the advice on here is really good,
i don't know if it'll apply to you or not, but when i get stressed, it's normally when i have a heap of work that i've left undone, prehaps it'll help you to get work done in plenty of time (and not put it off like i do) then, hopefully, not only less stress (as you don't have work building up and deadlines getting closer) but you'll probably do a better job with your work (more time and less stressed)
hope that helps!
I have this problem too :frown:. I like to think that I can do everything, take on any class, any leadership position, or any responsibility. I have finally realized that I can do it -- just not all at once. I recommend you assess your you have too many? It's okay to lighten the load a little. I finally withdrew from a class, and I had to realize that the W on my transcript just isn't that big of deal :wink:
Hey, why not doing your homework with your friends? I mean your friends in the same class.
This semester I took 3 math courses and 4 physics courses, and the homework really made me exhausted everyday. But I have several friends that we always work on the tons of homework together and help out each other. I think this may alleviate your stress.
If you're struggling with any aspect of your life when it comes to work, may I recommend this website:

It's absolutely brilliant advice from an MIT grad student.


Gold Member
I managed to get my course-work (engineering school) done nearly every night, and every weekend I played guitar and sang in rock-blues bands for frat parties, etc. It was brutal during the week sometimes, and if I slacked off, I'd have to work part of some weekends, but having weekends clear for relaxation and work (playing music never seemed like work to me, though I got paid) gave me enough structure so that the upcoming academic week didn't seem all that forbidding.


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The most important thing, that others have emphasized already, is to give yourself breaks from the academics. If you do nothing but study all the time, you'll have a harder time learning and remembering than if you just drop the books for an hour or two and go relax.

In order to stay sane, plan at least a half day each week (it doesn't have to be a weekend day if another day of the week fits with your class schedule better) and just go off and do something fun. Go see a movie or go to a party or go biking or whatever you enjoy. Then you don't feel like you're missing out on all the fun by studying hard the rest of the time.

You also need to study smart, not just a lot. Think about how you learn best, and maximize that approach. Do you learn better by just tackling the problems and only reading sections of book chapters relevant to the parts of problems where you get stuck? Or do you do better to read the chapter first? Do you learn better listening to lecture? Do you need to pace around the room while thinking about a problem to understand it and remember it? I used to do that all the time.

What type of notes do you take? With so many lectures presented with powerpoint and hand-outs provided, a lot of students take very few notes of their own. For some, that's great, because they absorb much more by just listening without furiously writing everything down. For others, that's not so great, because they learn more by writing the notes themselves.

If you know how you learn, you can study that way so the time you have to study is more effective, which will make you less stressed/overwhelmed.

Get enough sleep at night. If you haven't finished the work you planned to do that night, just remind yourself that you'll have a better chance of catching up the next day if you are well-rested and can stay focused...and you won't get further behind by falling asleep in your classes.

If you have trouble sitting for a long time and studying, break up your studying into smaller amounts throughout the day. Instead of spending hours at night studying, spend an hour in the morning while eating breakfast, maybe 20 min here and there between classes if you can, studying after your morning classes while eating lunch. As you walk around campus later in the day, take a few minutes to mentally review what you studied over breakfast and lunch. When your classes are over, eat dinner with your friends and relax a bit. Then tackle a few more hours of studying, and about an hour before you want to go to sleep, start to wrap it up so you can unwind and sleep well. When you're not so tired, it'll be easier to stick to your routine of studying. And, to reiterate, make sure you plan some time every week to do something fun...that way you always know you have something to reward yourself with if you stick to your studying.

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