This time of year always seems really busy. And while there is always more schoolwork to do (always!), April also brings with it the end of the year crunch – thinking about summer plans, looking for a job, deciding on fall classes, and planning end-of-year shenanigans. Some of these activities are fun and well worth adding to your schedule even if it makes life a bit more packed. But that does not diminish how crazed I feel this time of year.
As a graduate student myself, I was feeling particularly anxious last week with lots of decisions to be made and thoughts of summer. Talking to others about what was going on, there are those people, those calm people, who say: “Don’t worry! Everything will be fine…” (you know who you are). And while that is comforting for a minute, I usually walk away from those people and think “What?! How can they say that? They don’t know everything will work out!” Needless to say, I may be a bit of a worrier. But I am also beginning to learn that those crazy calm people might just be on to something.
Worrying about something doesn’t make the situation any clearer, nor is it productive. If you are concerned about finding a summer job (or your first post-graduation full time job), it is probably much more beneficial to write a really strong cover letter or set up an informational interview, than to sit and worry. Taking action and doing something about the issue at hand will make you feel better than just thinking about it. It will also free up a whole bunch of time for the fun things on your calendar too!
So here are some of my thoughts for being a little more like those calm people and a little less like this:
Patience This one is particularly hard for me because I like plans to be ironed out right away, but it is important to accept some uncertainties in life without getting upset. Life doesn’t always run on your timeline, and sometimes letting things go for a day or two is all that is needed for something to work itself out (even though 24-48 hours can seem like forever). You can only do so much, like emailing a prospective employer, dropping by a professor’s office, or checking to see if airline prices have dropped, but not everything is in our control and that’s okay.
Sleep I find that during stressful times I tend to sleep less, and yet, what I really need in order to be at full-functioning capacity to make decisions and get through the day is more sleep. At least 8 hours, for me. I find it much easier to tackle my daily routine and all the extra activities that are happening when I am rested.
You can’t keep it together all the time Even calm people don’t hold it together all the time. But they do release stress or anxiety in different ways. Instead of letting everything ball up inside, go for a walk, find a fun activity and laugh with friends, call mom, or give yourself permission to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for half an hour. Having some down time or time to socialize is really important, especially during the busy times. Hopefully some of the activities that are adding up are social events, like graduation ceremonies, end-of-year dinners, farewell-lunches. Think of these not as adding to your to-do list, but as fun opportunities to unwind a bit.
Express gratitude Take a minute to assess all of the people, things, and opportunities you have that you are grateful for. It may not seem like much, but doing so can actually help reduce the hormones that increase with stress and anxiety. Also flooding your mind with positive thoughts will re-train your brain to focus less on the negative. Instead of focusing on the what-ifs, maybes, and all that might come with the future, think about how much you have already accomplished.
Image Source: themissfits.com; Muse Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/04/habits-of-calm-people_n_4174903.html