How to Slay College Application Season Stress
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There’s no denying it: application season is a stressful time. You may feel anxious and at times overwhelmed. So how can you avoid letting stress get the better of you? Here are four tips to prevent your nerves from overtaking your life.
This is a busy time, so try to maintain balance in your life, and make sure you have time and energy for everything on your plate—apps, schoolwork, and extracurriculars. One important part of maintaining balance is avoiding overcommitting.
It’s natural to want to take on many commitments to show colleges that you’re up to the task of undertaking a challenging curriculum. However, if you become overly stressed, your commitments could become detrimental to your future—and your well-being.
If you’re feeling stressed, consider cutting back. While it’s not time to cut a club of which you’re president, you may want to cut back on the number of hours you devote to a certain activity, at least until you’re done with applications. This is especially true of activities that aren’t a defining feature of your profile or within your area of specialization.
For instance, if you’re an aspiring writer, you should stick with newspaper, since it’s aligned with your college and career goals. Instead, consider cutting, say, French club. For help deciding which extracurriculars are the ones you should keep and highlight, read How Do I Decide Which of My Extracurriculars is Most Important?.
This is also not the time to start joining random clubs or activities you haven’t been doing all along. Doing so won’t look good for colleges, anyway; they want to see commitment, not someone just loading up on meaningless extracurricular activities.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may want ease up on elective courses that don’t contribute to your academic profile in a substantial way, too—but keep important APs.
Remember to Take Breaks
It may feel like you don’t have time for breaks, but if you manage your time well by creating a schedule and to-do list for tasks and making an action plan—you’ll be able to fit it all in and have time for fun activities, too.
Remind yourself to take breaks by factoring them into your schedule and setting alarms. This will help you re-energize. Read a book, have a snack (eating well is important!), go for a run (see our next point: exercise), see friends, or watch a movie. The important thing is that you’re giving your mind a rest and allowing yourself to recharge—so you’ll be able to tackle the next important item on your to-do list.
You probably know that exercise is important for your physical health, but it’s also essential for your mental health. It gives you a psychological boost producing endorphins, mood enhancers and the body’s natural painkillers, and reducing levels of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones). It also gives you energy to study and do your work. (Read more about the benefits of exercise in 5 Reasons to Prioritize Health and Fitness in High School.)
Vigorous aerobic exercise is very beneficial, but even more “relaxing” exercise like yoga can help you let off some steam and relax your mind and body. Mindfulness, a type of meditation, can also help you relax and regulate your breathing.
All types of exercise also help you sleep better, which is important for your academic work and other commitments, as well as lowering your level of stress. Getting started now will help you develop healthy habits for the future.
Ask for Help
It’s okay to ask for help. Parents, friends, teachers, and your guidance counselor can be a great source of support. Check out Dealing with Junior Year Stress for tips on finding support.
Don’t ask your support network to do your homework for you, of course, but if need help talking through problems, working through assignments, prioritizing, or dealing with other issues, asking for help can be useful.
If you’re really struggling, you may want to talk to a mental health professional. She can help you develop coping strategies, as well be another support system.
Don’t Let Your Stress Get the Better of You!
This is a busy time, but paying attention to your stress—and when your mind and body are telling you it’s too much—can help you get through it. Developing coping skills now will help you throughout your life; you’ll encounter stress frequently in college and your career, so having the tools to handle it will be extremely useful. Remember: it’s okay to ask for help—and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed to seek professional support, either.
For more tips on preventing stress from getting the better of you, read:
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