OPINION: Anxiety at the start of the semester

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By Susan Katherine Corkran, Columnist

Cite at least six peer-reviewed sources for the paper. Don’t forget to read the next 100 pages in the textbook. The exam is next week—oh, and it’s cumulative. And I know all of you have been keeping up with your reading response journals on Blackboard. See you next class!

We’re not there quite yet though. There is a honeymoon phase of every semester just between syllabus week and the beginning of midterms, and here we are.

That honeymoon never seems to last long enough though, does it? It’s just far enough away from the looming deadlines of papers, projects, and presentations that’s toxically tempting to simply let them time slip by. Tempting, yet such a waste! If you are one of the many students on campus who suffers from anxiety, this beginning period of the semester is the perfect chance to find ways to make the rest of your classes far less stressful! If you have safety-lines in place, then an unexpected stumble or two won’t be able to throw you off your feet once all of the assignments and expectations weighing on you really start building up.

First off, get a planner. You can make your own out of an old, plain notebook or splurge on a fancy one from a bookstore. If you’re better with your phone than I am, there’s probably no shortage of apps you can take full advantage of to make sure that you know what work you need to be doing when. Planning out the things you need to get done, even if you don’t want to do them, makes all the difference in the world for relieving stress down the road. Even the most imposing assignment is manageable if you can break it into a handful of daily goals. If a project is really stressing you out, you can use the time ahead of you to meet up with a tutor or take your work to the Writing Center. Keeping yourself from procrastinating is the key to pulling through even the toughest of classes!

Next, don’t be afraid to use your time to take care of your personal needs as well as your academic responsibilities. Collapsing on your bed for a much-needed Netflix break can be a tremendous relief to recharge your mind before you jump into your next goal. Part of time management in college is understanding how to budget your time so that there is a balance to your activities. It’s easier said than done, I admit! With everything in moderation, there’s a lot to be gained from finding extracurriculars you love and using free time to unwind. I schedule my school work throughout the day and work ahead on readings between classes so that I can relax before bed each night with my family. Finding a book to read for fun or diving into an interesting new show lets your imagination flow, and I usually wind up doing better in all my classes if I manage my time that way!

Last of all, don’t be afraid to reach out to ask for help when you start to feel anxious—whether that anxiety is stemming from a challenging class, a difficult relationship, or just a general feeling of being overwhelmed. There are counselors, tutors, academic advisors, and so many friendly people to turn to on campus. These first few weeks are a great chance to set goals for yourself but remember that those goals aren’t written in stone. Your education is wholly your own, and the steps you take to attain it are yours to determine.

Graphic Courtesy of Billy Ferguson