Stop Worrying – Start Learning
There are at least two sides to this idea: stop worrying; start learning.
The first is that worry, or more generally, stress, will hamper, or even halt your ability to learn anything.
You know times in which you have been worried and you practically panic. Even the simplest tasks become difficult when we aren’t thinking straight. The more we worry about, “Where did I put my keys!” the more we can’t think about where we might have put the keys. It is counterproductive.
The second side is that to truly start learning, you have to learn to control worry or stress.
Some ways to reduce stress include sleep, proper diet, exercise, preparation, and deep breathing.
One of the best ways to avoid overall stress is to ensure that you are taking care of your body and brain – one and the same if you think about it.
No matter who you are, you need sleep for your brain to work at full capacity. This is a proven fact. Yes, people can perform with little sleep sometimes, but they all make more mistakes, retain less new information, and sometimes even have very dangerous results – think driving or doctor errors. It is not a good idea to deprive yourself of life-giving sleep! Give yourself at least eight hours to rejuvenate the body.
Similarly, you need to maintain a healthy diet in order for everything to work optimally. This means eating breakfast. You have heard it before: The Most important meal of the day. I don’t know if it is the most important as they all seem important to me, but it is definitely the boost you need to get started. It has been hours since your last meal, so you need some protein and carbs to get you going. Note: Coffee alone is not breakfast no matter how many by-products you dollop on it!
Eating several smaller meals throughout the day is better than one or two very large meals. In this way, you will avoid the peaks and valleys that people often experience as their blood sugars change.
Of course, add more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds to your diet to avoid the fatty (though often fun) foods that we tend to grab for a snack.
Exercise is another helpful method to keep yourself in shape both physically and mentally. Not only that, but exercise will make you feel better, too. It releases endorphins that help ward off anxiety & depression, boost self-esteem, improve sleep, and reduce stress!
So don’t forget to go for some brisk walks, a jog, or play a sport you enjoy. You don’t have to join a gym or do anything radical to get exercise. Just get started.
Try to be consistent and get a sufficient amount of exercise. While taking the stairs at work might help, it isn’t enough by itself. Try to get 30 minutes to 1 hour at least four or five times a week. There is no magic number, but this is a good rule of thumb for most people.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.
Preparation is key to reducing stress in an academic setting (and other settings as well). This might sound obvious or too simplistic, yet many students do not prepare. Yes, they do something, but it is not the total preparation required.
Preparation begins on the first day of class and continues every day thereafter! Honestly, this is the best way to reduce stress and worry. If you know the material backwards and forwards, so to speak, you will be comfortable with pop quizzes, tests, and even exams.
Think about some of the routine things you do today that were very difficult when you first started to learn them. The only reason they are easy now is because you have done them repeatedly, and you have learned how to accomplish them with skill.
Of course, I don’t expect you to be perfect and always get the right amount of sleep, maintain a perfect diet, exercise daily, and be absolutely prepared at all times.
In fact, you could stress yourself out by trying to be perfect!
The goal is simply to aim for improvement. Make a change or two. Take it step-by-step. Before long a lot of good habits will become second nature.
Speaking for myself, I know what I should do, but that does not mean that I always manage to do so. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mind you, the fact that I am a worrier has helped me to learn how to help myself and others. Having these tools in my toolbox has allowed me to return more quickly to a positive path when I do get off track and being to stress.
If you do find yourself feeling tense, whether you have carried out the steps mentioned above or not, deep-breathing can come to your defense.
Conscious breathing will calm everything down and bring you back into control. Our automatic defense mechanisms can kick into high gear when we are under stress. You might have heard of the “fight or flight” response. This was very helpful for human survival a long time ago, but it is not all that helpful when you are sitting in a classroom getting ready for an exam. Punching the teacher won’t help any more than running away from the exam!
To practise deep breathing, you deliberately breathe from your abdomen rather than your chest, hence the deep-breathing title. Focus on your breathing. When we are nervous, we tend to tense up and breathe more rapidly from our lungs.
You will want to lower the breathing down into your abdomen or stomach area. Slow deep inhales, hold a few seconds, and then release smoothly and with control. This intake of oxygen and the controlled nature of your breathing has a natural relaxing effect on the body.
Some people like to picture a peaceful location for themselves. It might be a beach, an old home, a relaxing walk in the forest, or anything calming.
This is a picture of Bridal Veil Falls on Manitoulin Island. It is a very peaceful place in my memory.
Above all, don’t be afraid to make a few changes and to take steps in a new direction. We can all get caught in a worry cycle, but there is a way out. It just takes some conscious effort and consistency.
This week's video: Stop Worrying. Start Learning!