Dealing with stress during end of term deadlines: an approach of awareness and purpose.

End of term stress is almost unavoidable. And while there are plenty of productive ways to manage stress, here we look at one that any person can engage with.

The same things that used to stress me out during exam and end-of-term submission times are the same things that can stress me out today.

Namely - emotions, feelings, and the disastrously hectic thought processes triggered as they gang up on me.

And these are, of course, all vastly complex experiences and entities in their own right.

And ultimately, they can and do dominate everything.

A lesson from recovery

As a person in recovery, one of the most disappointing life lessons I’ve had to attend was learning that these troublesome reactions were never going to go away. It was up to me to accept that this quarrelsome combination of conflicting, fired-up senses would threaten to engulf me at irregular intervals, forever.

And I still despise it, from time to time,

So as a student, whether drunk, high, or the complete opposite, I had an unfortunate propensity for procrastination. Spending generous time thinking about getting on with a project, than the meagre completion time I would eventually allow myself.

However, there’s no doubt this approach worked for me, in many ways. I would plough through essays and research at pace, somehow leaving time for editing and reflection, and still receive a grade that filled me with genuine pride.

Applying it to academic life

I’m sure many of you have experienced similarly hectic periods in your own work - whether at University or otherwise.

And in some ways, these experiences are more reflective of the life that is waiting to be built, beyond academia. Conflicting schedules, competitive markets, lifelong learning.

But, running on adrenaline for too long, and never developing healthier methods of planning, or coping, doesn’t bode well for a low-stress existence.

And this is the most significant life lesson I’ve taken from being a student, and then a professional, in recovery.

While there are plenty of suggestions out there for how to plan, remain calm, destress, and navigate our way positively through periods of stress, the most effective indicator of wellbeing will always be our own mind and body.

If my mind is racing, my anxiety surging, and a foreboding sense of dread beginning to gnaw, it’s a sign that I need to take a little action.

And that doesn’t mean approaching life with a bite-sized, micro-management approach to tasks and achieving goals (in my experience that simply doesn’t work). 

It’s more of a form of emotional maintenance. Making sure I remain aware of how what I’m doing (or not doing, in this instance) affects my wellbeing. Responding to anxiety as though it’s a trigger for action, as opposed to a time to get away from it.

And there are plenty of ways to do that, albeit temporarily. Whether it’s alcohol, exercise, binge-watching, reading - endless numbers of healthy or otherwise activities - but that sense of dread will inevitably return, perhaps with a vengeance.

Keeping it consistent

A person in recovery can’t really afford to let that feeling build up for too long, as it will only become more intense. But persistent procrastination isn’t a healthy mindset for anyone.

So, while cramming, and completing work at the last minute might often result in an equally positive outcome, ask yourself whether it’s worth the emotional stress of working this way?

Because if a period of time is already going to be jam-packed with stressors, then why add even more substance to its weight?

Anxiety and stress, in essence, can be full of purpose. An indication that something needs to be done. So to reduce moments like this, this summer, approach it with reason, not retreat.

This way, it will depart from our summer shores much sooner. After which, it’s genuinely time to relax.