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Give me a break! Dealing with Stress in Academics

Books on shelf with white cat. Different color books with ornament on shelf on teal background. Cute cat sleeping on bookshelf. Vector illustration.

Some people struggle on Mondays, some during long cold winter periods, and if you are anything like me, you just struggle all the time. There is nothing wrong with struggling, and the older I am getting, the more I am enjoying it. The beauty of struggling is that you always have an excuse to do things to make you feel better. Whether this is trying out a new bath bomb, going for a hike with friends, playing the newest video/board game, or taste testing the new Starbucks flavoured latte (team peppermint over here!), nothing is better for staying healthy than trying things. 

Obviously, you can read this as your final cue to drop whatever you are doing and hop on a plane, but to be a bit more realistic and stay grounded, I recommend starting a little bit smaller. If you are drawing a blank on new things, a great source of inspiration is the Queen’s University Be Well Instagram page. Every day they highlight activities that are taking place around Queen’s that are good for your mental/physical health, or give advice or information about things such as mocktail recipes, how to eat healthy, safe substance use, etc. If you do not have Instagram, you can also check out the Queen’s Be Well website, which is filled with great articles covering a wide range of topics such as dealing with stress and managing time. 

Sometimes, we are not in the luxury position to distance ourselves from our work, and in those cases, we need tools to mitigate the immediate work stress. A common problem for many graduate students is that we try too hard to do something perfect, while thinking that we are absolutely doing a terrible job. Sounds familiar? Luckily, you are not alone, and research has shown that roughly 43% of university students suffer from imposter syndrome. That you are not alone obviously does not necessarily make things better – now there are just more people struggling… which is exactly the point (no, not to have more people struggle), but to make you realize that you are not alone! Whenever you feel stressed about your work, but you cannot put it aside for several reasons, it is good to reflect how far you have come, and that everybody has rough patches in their academic career. 

To break up the stress that academic life causes, it can help to break it up in more manageable pieces. One of my academic success secrets is my white board, and whenever I start on a project, chapter, paper, assignment, I break down in sections what I need to do and wipe it off when I have done so. This does not only give me the feeling that things are getting done, but it also makes the stress leave my head, as I now put it on the board. And the best part of it all, my friends leave me messages on the board whenever they visit, giving me extra support and making me feel that all will be alright.

Of course, none of this makes the stress go away, and the key point is that we all experience stress, and that you are not alone. The most important thing you can do is acknowledge the stress, and find healthy ways of tackling it, whether this is by trying new things, or using tools to make work a little bit less stressful. Sometimes it will be good to talk about it, and sometimes we just need to get things done. And no matter how bad things seem, remember this: you are okay. 

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