The End of a Stressful[?] Era

Today marks a turning point in my life.

Following my own advice (see 13 Things I Learned in 2013), I recently decided to drop my math major in order to devote myself to my true loves: theatre, English, and creative writing.

Am I a little scared about stepping out on a limb and pursuing my dreams? Yes, extremely. But I know that WashU is teaching me all I need to know to be successful with my degree, and they’re helping me connect with the people that can assist me in making my dreams come true. Plus, eliminating the stress of trying to add an entire major makes it worth it.

Classes will still be stressful, but I will manage, happily pursuing my dreams by taking classes that I am passionate about. And when you’re passionate about what you’re studying, the stress is so, so worth it.

But in the meantime, here are some tips to help eliminate stress. I hope these are helpful for you all. Perhaps they’ll make the stress a bit less stressful.

  • Identify how you deal with stress and how it affects you. Do you internalize it? Externalize it? I’ve discovered that I both internalize and externalize my stress, meaning that sometimes I’ll keep it all to myself while other times, I’ll tell my friends all about the stress I’ve been feeling. I also tend to become ill more easily during stressful situations, and I don’t always eat right when I’m under stress. But knowing my tendencies has helped me fix them and eliminate some of the stress that comes along with them.
  • Find an outlet. For me, it’s been performance–Cast n Crew student theatre and the Ghost Lights A Cappella group. For you, it might be something totally different–Model United Nations, writing for the Political Review, working on WUTV, anything. Even when I am bogged down by the stress of my schoolwork, that stress goes away for a while when I go to rehearsal and sing or act.
  • SLEEP. This should be a no brainer, but I find that we college students are terrible about getting enough sleep. If you don’t sleep, the stress will seem worse, and when you actually are awake, you’ll be too tired to do your work. So get some shuteye.
  • Take some time for yourself. Drink some tea, take a hot shower, go to the gym. For a couple of hours, do something not related to school–something that relaxes you–and you’ll find yourself in a better state for studying. Sure, schoolwork is important, but you are too.
  • Think about the big picture. This does not mean “don’t do your best” or anything like this. What I’m saying is that in the long run, your mental or physical health is more important than staying up all night to study for an exam, so put things in perspective. School is important, but so is your health.
  • Break down your work. Try to conquer your work a little at a time. I make to-do lists and ┬ábreak tasks down into parts, and then I focus on one part at a time until the task is completed. For me, the feeling of checking of a box on my to-do list instantly eliminates stress.
  • Eliminate distractions. I’m serious. Put away that cell phone, and make your sole focus the task at hand. When you’re studying, you should be studying, not stressing out about a million other things.