Let’s face it, we all have experienced stress at some point in our student lives. But believe it or not, getting exposed to stressful environments in college can actually work in your favour later on. As they say, it is better to lose sweat on the training ground than to lose blood on the battlefield.
Train your Mindset
Think about it this way: your college is not the battlefield, it’s a training ground where the worst thing that can happen to you is an abysmal grade score. So the question is, do we behave like stressed-out sitting ducks and wait for the stressful situations to hit us, or do we prepare for them beforehand and get ready to push ourselves forward and test our limits? The key to success is to stop stressing yourself thinking about the worst case scenarios every single second of your student life and to embrace them instead.
I know, you are likely thinking “who is this guy? Is he telling us to be pessimistic?” But hear me out! Once you embrace the worst case scenario, then your fears start to vanish. You are now mentally prepared to hit the rock bottom and you’ve got nothing to lose. Now there is only one direction you can go in – and that is upwards. Makes sense, right?
Learn from Experience
Okay, let’s branch off to an anecdote to clarify this further (PS: It’s a real life story). Throughout pretty much my entire student life, numbers have plagued me. I’ve always had this negative self-talk, thinking to myself: “Perhaps I missed that part of evolution where humans learned to count. I am not meant to be a numbers guy because I am not born intelligent. My peers who can do calculations in their head without the need to use a pen and a paper are genetically at an advantage. On top of that, I didn’t get enough attention from my teachers in school…” – and so on and so forth. Does that sound familiar? I bet at least some of it does.
But then came the finance module of my MBA. Sure enough, I was 100% convinced that I will never get a good grade in this class, and that thought disrupted my sleep, especially because my overall GPA thus far had been fantastic. I was worried sick that finance module grades were going to ruin my hard-earned GPA. Did the worrying help? NO!! Instead, I was spending more time worrying than actually picking up my course materials and giving it a fair shot. When I was almost enervated with constant worry, I decided to go and speak to my professor and ask for mercy grades (Yes, it was highly unlikely to happen, but my stressed-out brain tricked me into doing that).
That meeting changed my life. My professor asked me a simple question: “What’s the worst that will happen?” and I sat there, dumbstruck. He then explained: “Once you accept the worst, there’s no further downside, there’s only upside after that”. I came home and slept peacefully that night.
I woke up the next day and started making attempts to understand seemingly tough finance concepts from bottom up. I approached those “finance expert” peers in my class who initially appeared as a threat to me, and asked for their help. And you know what? I learned that sometimes you just have to ask, and things will start to happen. Things started to shape up nicely, and I was getting a hang of the core finance concepts at a rapid pace. To cut the long story short, my final grades for finance module was a whopping A+.
This incident transformed my life, and I started to believe in the positive effects of stressful situations. After all, not all stress is bad. Without stress and anxiety, homo sapiens (aka human beings) as a species would be extinct already. However, I am not here to repeat the scientific definition of stress and to bore you. Instead, I would rather share some coping mechanisms that worked for me during my student life.
Prepare to Cope
Here are a couple of coping mechanisms for the times when you find yourself stressed out:
- Never underestimate yourself. The only person who can defeat you is YOU. Sure, there will always be that confident student in the class who never lets anyone else participate and disputes everyone else’s opinions. But that doesn’t mean you should stop contributing in class. Remember: you are probably not going to see this bothersome classmate ever again after college. So why lose your chance to learn? As long as you believe in yourself and you have done your research, voice it out. After all, it’s better to get corrected in classroom than at your workplace.
- Choose your affinity group wisely. In a typical class, there will always be two types of students: the ones who are enthusiastic about studies, and the ones who have other, ‘bigger’ social agendas (sarcasm intended), such as talking behind other people’s backs, complaining about how difficult the course curriculum is, how unjust institution’s management is, etc. Needless to say, always stick to the former group and steer clear from latter.
- Make time for yourself. A 24/7 study routine is the last thing you would want if you want to be able to cope with the study-related stress. Do make time for exercises and sports, for your favorite hobbies, for quality time with family and friends, and for expanding your professional network. This brings me to my last advice.
- Network, network, network!! I can’t stress this enough. Connect with your institution’s alumni and ask for guidance if you are stuck. They have all been in your shoes, and they can offer the best advice. Start building corporate connections over LinkedIn and do some in-person meeting. These connections will eventually help you in finding the right job and relieve pressure early on.
Don’t think that stress is your enemy. It is your body’s natural response to a perceived threat. All you have to do is change your approach to it – and things will start turning around.