This is the mantra that a wise and respected mentor would repeat each year right about this time while I was getting my PhD at Michigan State University - and for good reason! April is typically one of the hardest times of year (for those of us in academia), however don't ask me why that is. There is something about this time of year, our semester is ending, it's nice outside so no one wants to work, and it is a major transition between seasons... to the more "fun-loving" and "free" summer time. As a society we tend to think of the summer months as a time to frolic and have adventures, basically spending as little time as possible doing the menial tasks of day-to-day life. It is time to shed all those responsibilities of the seemingly endless working months, right? Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. While many lucky people get to have an increased amount of quality time spent with family and friends in the summer a whole lot more get to simply continue on doing the same thing over and over ... with what appears to be even more lumped onto our plates! With this stressful, and often feeling overwhelmed, time on our (read: my) hands I thought, "hey, why note write a blog post about it. You've got time."
Famous last words.
1. Make List(s)!
This one may not work for everyone. Some people are not list people. Some people find lists to be overwhelming in and of themselves - reminding them of what needs to be done that hasn't been completed... However, I find lists to be soothing. That's right, I admit it - they are soothing. Especially the more detailed I can make them. The more that is on the list, the more I can cross off as I complete them! This is highly satisfying, and helps me to feel as though I have accomplished something in my day.
My procedure for list-making; 1) get a blank sheet of computer paper 2) brain-storm everything you need to do, writing down every little detail and making sub-points 3) reorganize your list by grouping similar items together (e.g. work, housework, activities, deadlines, etc.) 4) re-write your list in the organized format 5) prioritize your list by highlighting or placing weight with certain items... and lastly - 6) do the items on your list! Complete something! Then you get to cross it off! #score.
Now, my procedure is old-school, I know, but there is something about that tactile sense of physically crossing off the item on your to-do list that feels just ... wondrous. :) You can, easily, create lists via many apps and websites, or even use a simple text editor to make an electronic to-do list.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is gaining popularity by the day. It is a method of being based in Buddhist philosophy with a goal of being "centered" and aware of the present moment. Sounds hokey, but it honestly works great when feeling hyper stressed or overwhelmed with life. One of the easiest ways to break into mindfulness based life, is to work on deep breathing, relaxation exercises, and focus on clearing your mind of everything except the present. Click here to watch a 10 minute TEDTalk about mindfulness, and how to work toward achieving it each day. You'll be surprised by the effect it will have on your mood and cognitive abilities!
3. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is very hard for most people. Not many people want to do things for themselves, thinking that if they do something for them it could be seen as "selfish." I can't tell you how many times I see people in therapy because they don't know how to take care of themselves. It is one of the easiest and most powerful things you can do for you, and if practiced readily and consistently, will lower your stress and you will be able to achieve more! Self-care is not necessarily something as drastic or overt as buying yourself something pretty that you've been eyeballing at the store, or taking a weekend off. You can practice self-care everyday in smaller ways, that may actually mean more and cause less stress! Some ideas include:
This list could literally go on for pages and pages and pages and pages....
There you go! That's it for my tips for dealing with end of semester/April overwhelmingness (I made that word up). What kinds of things do you do to combat this time of year, or when you are highly stressed? Let me know in the comments below!
This page is a blog and repository of Dr. B - a sex therapist, educator, researcher, activist and speaker. Interested in all things sexual, social justice, LGBTQQIA+, and mental health.