Attending university online enables you to get an education while still maintaining a career and a personal life – but having to juggle your professional life, your studies, and your personal life can come with tremendous stress. Managing stress is something you can learn to do (yes, really!), consequently helping to avoid burnout – which leads to lower productivity, less energy, and an overall negative outlook.
Keep track of your stress
Keeping track of situations that trigger stress will empower you to better handle or avoid those situations, altogether, in the future. If stressful situations are unavoidable, which they often are, it is important to keep your mind and body healthy. Getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are known stress busters. Keep a positive attitude about the work you are doing and try to practise some form of mindfulness, whether that is meditating, watching a movie, or spending time with your family. Getting worked up over situations that you cannot control will only contribute to your stress level.
Use one calendar
Schedule all of your professional and personal appointments as well as academic deadlines in one place. Although you can’t plan for work or personal emergencies that come up suddenly, keep in mind that these things can, and often will, occur. Be sure to allow yourself enough blocked-off study time in the day to be able to adjust. Include scheduled breaks on days that are particularly busy.
A typical rule of thumb for taking study breaks is one 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of work. Having allocated time in your day for everything that needs to be done will allow you to focus on the task at hand and avoid splitting your attention.
Keep it positive
In a world where we are constantly flooded with information, photos, and social media updates, it’s easy to define your own self-worth by comparing yourself to the success of others. Be mindful of negative self-talk. Recognize when you start to have deleterious thoughts and try to replace them with something positive. Your own inner dialogue has an enormous effect on how you feel about yourself. Being aware of these negative thoughts and working to replace them with uplifting thoughts, no matter how small, can have an overall positive result on stress levels.
Set task-focused goals over performance-based goals
Having set goals for the grades you want to receive throughout your education is a great start, but it’s not enough to get you there. It can be intimidating and overwhelming to see how much work it will take for you to reach your goal. Having performance-based goals is common, but the goal of simply receiving a good mark may not be enough to push you to get that A+ grade. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research says that students who set their goals on the tasks required to get a good grade, rather than just setting a goal to achieve a certain grade, performed better, overall. By setting a task-based goal, you are focusing on the input of work rather than the output result. Good grades can be a major source of stress. Therefore, focusing on the tasks and steps required to get to the good grade, rather than just the end result, can help to alleviate stress.
Create a dedicated space for school work
Designating a space in your home to focus on your studies can help to delineate study time from personal time. But whatever space you choose, keep your bedroom off the list. Your bedroom should remain a sanctuary – a place of rest and relaxation, not a work space. When you go to bed, you are there to unwind and recharge. While it is important to create an environment that encourages productivity and focus, having a space that is not associated with work or school is equally as important.
Professional support for maintaining a healthy balance between school, work and everyday life is available through Athabasca University Students’ Union, and Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association‘s free, 24/7 support resource: Student LifeLine.
Article excerpted from Athabasca University’s Faculty of Business’ Connected magazine, 2017.