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6 Tips to Manage School & Holiday Stress

By DeVry University

December 10, 2019
3 min read

Ah, ‘tis the season. Jingle bells, candy canes, mistletoe—and finals? Yes, finals. Seemingly endless, intimidating finals. But not to worry. We’ve rounded up six tips to help you better manage school and holiday stress while keeping your cool during one of the busiest times of year.

Write out Your Priorities

Juggling tests, assignments, and family plans? The best way to balance them starts with the basics: pen and paper. Create a "dump list" by writing all your goals for the month in one place. This is precisely what it sounds like: a brain dump; your special place to note all the deadlines, assignments and priorities swirling in your head. From there, break each priority into weekly assignments then daily tasks. Prioritize upcoming deadlines first. The goal is to ultimately have no more than 3-5 tasks to focus on each day between holiday commitments.

When in doubt, take a "top-three" approach to managing your day. Ask yourself, "If I can only accomplish three things today, what are the top three I must focus on?" Create the dump list as your holiday guide but aim to steadily check off assignments as you complete their corresponding tasks each day.

Don't Overcommit

"No" is a complete sentence. Don't be afraid to use it. If the day's priorities require you to type a paper or study for a final exam in your pajamas, it’s OK to politely pass on Aunt Jackie's potluck. It's OK to opt out your friend's ugly sweater party. Grant yourself permission to prioritize yourself as needed.

Of course you probably still want to enjoy holiday festivities, so be sure to choose activities that will boost your spirits without adding too much pressure to your day. Attend the potluck, but bring a cake from your local bakery instead of preparing your own dish. If you'd like to catch up with friends, hop on a video chat or attend the party early but set a specific time you plan to leave and stick to it. Let them know beforehand. True friends should understand you’re still a busy student, even during Santa season.

Leverage Your Resources

Many colleges offer creative ways to support students in their work-life balance. Tap into your university's local resources via online tools, your admissions office or career services. Don't be afraid to ask your professors for help. A little nudge can go a long way in helping to reduce school stress.

Practice Gratitude

Keep the winter blues at bay by practicing a little gratitude. Despite feeling pressed for time, taking even just five minutes to jot down "5 things I’m grateful for right now" can help you stay focused and avoid a holiday stress rut. Research suggests that daily gratitude practices—like keeping a gratitude journal—can support overall well-being, positivity and stress management skills.

Care for Yourself

With assignments, family responsibilities, and a calendar full of events, it can almost feel impossible to take time for yourself but that’s precisely what you may need to avoid burnout this holiday. Similar to gratitude practices, sometimes taking a little time away from work may improve your productivity when you return to it. In between studying and scrolling Amazon for holiday deals, be sure to practice proper self-care via soothing showers, eating nutritious foods (even on a student budget), and getting enough sleep.

Keep Things in Perspective

It may feel like this end-of-the-year crunch will make or break you, but in reality, it's just one moment in time. Stay focused and remember that this too will pass. The final exam only lasts one day. As long as you do your best and plan for success, don't be too critical of yourself. Afterall, it's the holiday. Work hard but remember to smile. You deserve to feel proud of what you've accomplished and the goals you can continue to achieve.

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