Bit of Motivation

Okay, so I haven’t posted in absolutely ages. But that is because a number of things have happened recently:

 

* Got a placement sorted

* Coursework

* Exams

* Three weeks of just… recovering

* Starting placement

 

I have a lot to write about this year and I will definitely get round to it soon!

 

The main thing I have to say right this moment is…

Never Give Up!

 

Things get tougher as university goes on – as do A-Levels/BTECs, and GCSEs – you just always have to keep in mind why you’re doing it, the end goal, and ultimately that you can do it!

It’s easy to forget how capable you are when it feels like your work is 12 foot high above your head, and pressure is creeping in from all sides. Just remind yourself that there will be an end to it soon. A few more hours/weeks/months and that part will be over and you can move on to the next, even more exciting stage in your academic/professional life!

 

Second year has been a real struggle for me personally, but one of the things that kept me going was telling myself that no matter what, in 3 months, 2 weeks or 4 hours time, I will be past that exam, piece of coursework, or the end of second year itself. Reminding myself that a stressful period in my life would actually come to a close in a finite amount of time was actually kind of reassuring and helped me to focus a bit more on the tasks at hand.

 

Another thing is – take time for yourself! Summer is now upon us, and now is your chance to catch up on some well-earned rest, relaxation, and time to do things you may have side-lined throughout the year because of your studies. Remember – you deserve it!

 

It’s been a relatively short one today, but I do hope to post more in the future 🙂

 

Have a good summer!

Keeping Stress at Bay

Okay, so I’ve already written a post about the more personal side of being stressed a little while ago; in honesty, I’m still stressed now – I mean, who isn’t? Whether you’re first, second or final year of uni, or even at sixth form/college, the lead-up to Easter is a tough one, as it means summer exams are getting nearer and nearer. It’s nail-bitingly tense.

 

So anyway, I’m trying to be proactive at the moment, and find ways that are actually going to work for me to keep myself calm and – most importantly to me – happy. I’m kind of on a happiness-hype right now, trying to keep my head above water and keep a smile even when I start to submerge, because I know I’m always going to be okay in the end – and so are you!

 

Here are some things that I have recently found to help with keeping happy, sane, and stress free (well at least less stressed!):

 

Number One – Alpha Waves

My friend Aron pointed out to me on the bus back from the Tamworth Snowdome that “alpha waves” are meant to be good for when you’re revising – to help keep focused. I’d never really heard of them, and to be perfectly honest I still don’t quite know what they are; check it out for yourself, this is what I’ve been listening to a lot recently:

I have it on in the background when I’m working, and so far I’ve been listening to it for about a week now. It helps me to keep chilled out when I’m doing things that would otherwise stress me out, and I feel that overall in the past week, I’ve become more relaxed when I’m not working as well as working. Revision and writing notes for me personally is always stressful, as I spend so long doing it. So, having this on in the background reduces the built-up stress and I think it’s actually helped me out to be less of a stress-head  in general day-to-day things! I might be talking rubbish – but hey, it’s worth a try!

 

Number Two – Whatever you’re doing that’s stressing you out… stop!

It might sound a bit dumb to say this, but if you’re getting stressed out by something… stop doing it! Take a break, go make a nice cup of hot chocolate, or sit and watch cats on YouTube for half an hour. Just do something else. Believe me, I’m saying this from experience; if you’re hitting a wall, you’re not going to be able to get through it if you’re just continuously banging your head against it, hoping for the best. You’re going to tire out easily, and it’ll start affecting other things in your life like sleep, friend/relationships, and also your general attitude to life in general. If you’re hitting a wall, the only thing you can do is take a rest, so you can come back and knock it down completely in a bit! 

I got a Tassimo as a present from my parents; having a Caramel Latte is a nice stress-break and a little treat too!
I got a Tassimo as a present from my parents; having a Caramel Latte is a nice stress-break and a little treat too!

I thought this picture was actually quite good for getting my point across here; in order to succeed, you need to have a balance of working and taking time for yourself. It looks like a yin-yang symbol is in the latte foam, which I thought perfectly captured my me-time treat of a caramel latte when I was taking a break from work. Also, I hope you like how pretty my coloured pens are 🙂

 

Number Three – Have Something To Look Forward To

This one has come in a number of forms for me lately: trips home to see the family; going to the snowdome in Tamworth to ski; having a random meal out with friends – just because we’ve all gotten a bit fed up and tired with working. The point I’m trying to make here is that having something to look forward to – a goal if you will – will help you stay motivated, and also take your mind off working when you get to that event.

My flatmates and I have also set aside Wednesday evenings for movie night where we each take turns to chose a film, and we just sit and watch it together. It doesn’t really require any planning or added stress to make it happen, it’s just a nice, quiet, social time to get you out of your little bubble in the library or your room and taking two or three hours to do something else.

Aron, Chaz and I going up to the top of the Tamworth Snowdome; that's me and Chaz on skis, and Aron on a snowboard!
Aron, Chaz and I going up to the top of the Tamworth Snowdome; that’s me and Chaz on skis, and Aron on a snowboard!

You’ll only get to experience uni once (unless you’re a certain Dr Sheldon Cooper and have about a million degrees of different levels), so you want to make sure you’ll remember it for all the right reasons in the future – so definitely not a dark period in your life where you were so stressed you cried yourself to sleep every night. That’s bad – and you can help yourself to avoid it!

 

Number Four – Bedroom…

Okay this is a weird one. My mum always used to tell me when I was in senior school and sixth form that “A tidy room is a focused mind” or something similar, and I was always just like pssshh okay because I was a teenager and anything that adults said, you know, I naturally had to disagree with. One of the aims I made at the start of the term to try to combat my stress was that I would have my room for living in, and I would go to the library or a lab to work. It’s a shame because I can’t tell you whether that would have worked or not, but I suppose it would have done. The only reason it didn’t work is because it would have been so impractical to take all my stuff to and from my accommodation each day as it would be quite heavy – so I just do it at home instead.

The thing is, if my room is tidy, I feel I can focus a lot more… It’s weird. I mean, my bedroom isn’t a complete mess all the time, and when it is messy, it isn’t the type of messy that anyone else would consider “messy”, if you get what I mean. But if everything is away, my desk is clear of anything not related to work, and my bed is made, I find it easier to get into the swing of things as I’m not thinking every 8 minutes that “jees, I really need to put that jar of curry sauce in my food box” or something like “I really need to sort out the stuff at the end of my bed so you know it’s like not at the end of my bed…” and things like that. If I’ve already done those things, my mind can’t really wander to them when I might start hitting a wall.

 

Number Five – YOU

Take some time for you. This is you-time, so doing what you want to do, and what will make you happy. Paint your nails, read a book, start watching a new TV series, get some flowers, go into town and window-shop, actual-shop, online-shop, cook a nice meal or order in, watch a film, make nutella on toast or the best toastie you’ll ever eat. The most important thing in your life shouldn’t be your degree – it should be YOU. If you graduate with a 2:1 but are so broken when you do eventually graduate from the stress you put yourself under, you’re not going to be able to do anything – let alone commit to a job that’s basically what you’ve been stressing about for the past 3/4 years! Take time for yourself, and start to realise that having 10 minutes to yourself here and there isn’t going to do anything but get you a bit more chilled out, and more ready to tackle your work.

The beautiful flowers my boyfriend got me for Valentine's Day!
The beautiful flowers my boyfriend got me for Valentine’s Day!
The other beautiful flowers that my mum sent my up to surprise me!
The other beautiful flowers that my mum sent my up to surprise me!

Okay! I think that’s pretty much it you know, all I can think of right now, but I’m probably going to post another thing similar to this in the future as keeping your stress under control is a big part of getting through your degree!

 

As always, stay happy!

 

~Chloe 🙂

Dealing with Stress

It’s been ages since I’ve posted. There are many reasons for that, but I’m going to talk about one of the most important, and contributing, factors now, and that is stress.

 

I admire you if you’re not stressed at university at any point; that must mean you’ve either got nerves of steel, you’re super composed, or you’re ace at managing your time. I’m not saying I don’t have time management skills (because I do), it’s just adjusting to the workload of second year is tough – almost too tough to deal with as well as finding placements etc.

 

What I’m going to write about today is a very sensitive and personal part of my life right now, as I haven’t been coping very well – and I’m going to admit that. Like any kind of recovery, it is the first step to making things better for yourself. Now, this isn’t just going to apply to any workaholics out there that don’t know how to turn off; it applies to every single student who is at, or wants to go to university. I’m going to outline a few things I have found to help deal with stress, as it’s bad if you let things get on top of you too much.

 

Okay, so, negativity over – let’s talk about how to deal with stress.

 

First thing’s first – stop. Now, being a self-confessed workaholic, I know for a fact that this is easier said than done, because when it is a part of you, stopping working for a minute or two seems like an impossible task. But seriously – take time for yourself. You need time in the day where you need to not do work, and actually think about something else for a while. If you feel like you’re getting to your boiling point – just put down your pen, shut your laptop lid, sit back in your chair or lay on your bed and shut your eyes for a moment. Breathe. It sounds stupid saying it, but if you’ve gotten to the level of stress that I have lately, this helps a lot – even if you’re not that stressed at all. Taking a few moments to focus on yourself when you’re surrounded by work will help you focus better, and to clear your head. If it doesn’t work – listen to your body. If you feel you can’t type another word – don’t. Go to bed, or go for lunch. Do something that isn’t work, because if you force yourself to work anyway, the result won’t be great – trust me.

 

It’s taken me many a time to realise that I stress myself out way too much. I found a method in first year, of visually recognising the fact I was making progress to keep my stress levels down – and it worked. What I did was have a sheet of paper tacked to my wall, with bullet points of all the things I needed to get done. Here’s a short extract from my current list:

  • Write myAston Uni Life blog
  • Neat notes of Software Engineering lecture
  • Talk to careers centre about placement progress
  • Look over functional requirements for group project
  • Put DVDs on eBay

When I did something, I could cross it out, and it signified I had actually done something. When you’re stressed, it becomes hard to acknowledge your achievements or progress, and that sucks. Doing something like this will help keep you focused, and most of all, positive.

My alteration for this year is that I have a paper spike and post-stick notes. I write a post-stick note for each task I have to do and stick it on my wall. Once I’ve done it, I can stick it on my paper spike, and hey-presto, an impressive stack of tasks is there to show me that I am actually getting somewhere.

IMG_1210

 

 

Another thing for when you’re stressed is to do something that makes you happy. Take today for instance; I went out for lunch with my friend, and my mood instantly improved, because I wasn’t thinking about my course, and I wasn’t in an environment that made me think about my course. In stressful periods, removing yourself from the place that reminds you of working can be a really good thing to help you out – I have found this so useful. Saying that, don’t then take your work to restful places, as then that will remind you of work and subsequently if you visit that place without doing work, you’ll think about it anyway and it won’t do your stress levels good. So basically – keep the places you work to just the places you work, and make sure the places for yourself stay that way too. Segregate your work and your life, and you’ll feel a lot better.

 

I’ve found that one of the biggest contributing factors of my stress right now, is that I had all these things that I needed to do swirling about in my head, and because I only found the time as and when to work on those things, my mind snowballed them into this massive task that I couldn’t bear thinking about anything else but. I can’t stress enough how you don’t want to end up in this situation! Seriously; jot down all the things you need to do, then sit down with your timetable. Work out where you can fit these things in, and plan for your tasks. More importantly, plan some break time! Down-time is just as valuable as work-time when you have a lot going on, as it helps you to focus, and rest too. If you’re emotionally drained from stress, you’re not going to be good to do anything, let alone producing quality work you can be proud of. Planning breaks was the hardest thing for me, because I felt guilty that I could be doing work during that time. Do yourself a favour – take a night, or even an hour off. As I’ve said – do something that makes you happy, because if you’re not happy, you’re going to keep being stressed. Go out with friends, or take a walk. Go on the internet for an hour or two. Do something.

 

I’ve found I was in a vicious circle. I felt stressed because I had a lot of work to do. Because I had a lot of work to do, I spent more time doing work, and not resting – so working late nights and getting up early. Because I was working more, it took longer to do things because I was exhausted. Because I was exhausted, I got stressed. I got more stressed because I still had loads of work to do… and the cycle continues. The hardest thing is breaking out of the circle, or your body forcing yourself out of the circle because you literally can’t take it anymore. Either way, once you’re out, you can work to make things better. That’s what I’m doing now. In the words of my boyfriend – when you’re stressed, “a part of it is because you’re creating deadlines that don’t exist”.

 

A way I’ve managed to do this (surprisingly) is by making a schedule.  Yes, I’m conquering my stress by setting myself a schedule  – but hear me out. Having all these things to do cooped up in my head was not a good way forward, and I was getting stressed because I couldn’t forsee them getting done. I would fit things in as and when I had time – but this also came with its issues as I had become so unfocused that this was proving to be another problem in itself. I drew out a simple grid on paper, with seven rows (one for each day), and 17 columns (roughly). The first two are the biggest in size. The first column is “Today’s goal”. This is a positive start to the day; it is for something that I want to achieve, or if it is a rest day etc. The second column is for deadlines, so anything that has to be done by that day, like coursework or personal deadlines. This gives an aim for the day, and helps to plan ahead because I know when things have to be done by. Then, I have hourly slots from 9am to 12am, to plan in what I would like to do that day. I’ve found this majorly helpful because I can see what time I have, when I can have breaks (instead of winging it, or taking a break when I’m desperate), and also to stop me working six+ hours at a time without a break. It’s taking time management to the extreme, but I need this structured approach to get me back on track and out of the hole I have been in personally. It could work for you too, or something similar. I recommend a diary of some sort, or a calendar with space to write a lot, so you can plan in things with detail for what you’d like to achieve. This helps to organise yourself, and also making you remember deadlines – my academic diary has been my saviour this year!

 

Wow, this post has gotten very deep quite quickly (well, I say quickly very loosely, as I’m over 1.5k words currently…).

 

Okay, a summary if you’ve made it this far:

  • Stop, close your eyes, and breathe
    • Do this immediately when you’re feeling stress; you can’t plan for this to happen, it’s your back-up when things get too much
  • Recognise your achievements, and put it in a positive light
    • I’ve done this through a list on my wall of things to do, that I cross off as I go along. I’ve also done this with lots of post-stick notes and a paper spike to represent finished tasks, and accomplishments.
    • The most important thing to remember is you’ve made more progress than you give yourself credit for. Sometimes, you should give yourself a pat of the back for taking a break, as when you’re stressed, that can be an accomplishment in itself.
  • Do something that makes you happy
    • Go out for lunch, treat yourself, buy yourself a new piece of clothing, splash out on full price Ben and Jerry’s…
  • Segregate your work and life
    • Don’t do work where you have your leisure time, as it’ll always remind you of work. If you’re trying to unwind and destress, the last thing you want is little niggles at the back of your mind that you still haven’t finished that piece of work you started in that place…
  • Plan in breaks
    • You can’t work 100% all of the time. I’ve learnt this the hard way, as it’s always what I have strived to do. You’ll eventually grind to a halt. Breaks are good to focus yourself, and to clear your head, instead of getting worked up. Even though breaks are time you’re not working, and can be seen as “wastes of time” (Me, 1995-present…) – they are actually more helpful than you think.

 

Some other things that are useful, are to get your feelings out. Take five minutes to write down everything that’s getting you down, stressing you out, or that is on your mind. Get it out your system. If you don’t want to write it down, rant about it! I ranted to my course mate yesterday, and we found we were both in the exact same position. One thing to remember about stress and university – you are not alone! Talking to people can help, as it gets it out and you can lean on each other. Your friends are your best tool for success at university, in my opinion. Others may disagree, but I strongly believe that without all the support – emotionally and academically – from my friends, I would not be in the privileged position I am today. Alternatively, write a super long blog post about how you’re coping with it… I surprisingly feel a lot better than I did an hour ago.

 

This has been a very unstrucutred, whatever-comes-out-of-my-head-styled post, that turned out to be so much longer than I intended! I suppose I will write a more condensed and planned piece soon, that isn’t all over the place, but for now, I hope I have helped. If all else fails, know this: there is always a way to break out the circle. It may take a while, it may be that you find it difficult to identify that you can make things better, and not everything is as bad as it seems at first. I have certainly learnt this over the past two days. I hope in the future I can help you as much as the people in my life have at this moment in time, and throughout my time at university, because without them, I believe things could be quite different right now.

 

All deep-thoughts aside, I do hope I haven’t sent you to sleep with this insanely long post, and I hope it’s contained even a sliver of useful information you can take away to improve your stress.

 

Thanks for reading, and until next time.

 

~

 

Busy busy!

So, one of the most important factors of university life is… organisation!

All throughout your academic life, you’ll have had to get coursework and homework in on time, making sure you plan enough time into your gaming/going-out-shopping routine to actually get it done – and well. At uni, things make a sharp turn and become a little more intense to say the least.

 

If you’re the studious type like me, you’ll be a bit more ready, but everyone gets a shock in their first term/semester!

 

The biggest difference  that everyone finds with university is that your lecturers and tutors will not nag you to get your work in. Most likely, they’ll say the deadline one time in your lecture, and then expect that to be enough to spur you on to do it. You won’t get regular check-ups from them asking how you’re getting on with it, or even if you’re understanding it – because it is now completely your responsibility! Don’t be scared though, you can get on top of it.

 

Lecturers and tutors will expect that if you have a problem or don’t understand something, you will go to see them and ask them, or read up on it in some of your course textbooks. University is about independent learning and studying, so if you don’t get something, be proactive and go ask someone! To put it bluntly (but most effectively), lecturers aren’t going to care on deadline day if you’ve been struggling with your piece of coursework, because you’ll have had the following opportunities to better your understanding:

  • Seminars/tutorials
    • These are a chance to cement your understanding of the material covered in lectures. Use them well! You can also get the chance to do some related questions maybe, and ask the lecturer/tutor questions and actually highlight to them if something has been majorly unclear in the lecture. This helps everyone!
  • Lecturer/tutor office hours
    • These are bookable appointment times or drop-in hours that you can talk to your lecturers in their office about absolutely anything! My lecturers always say that noone ever comes to see them, yet there are some people not doing very well. If you’re struggling, go talk to someone!
  • Books
    • You have a list of core textbooks for a reason!
  • THE INTERNET!!
    • although don’t forget the majority of places aren’t verified explanations, so books are a better resource – also, for everyone’s sake… DON’T USE WIKIPEDIA!!!!!!)
  • Academic sources
    • Aston has a number of different resources you can use to further your learning. For example, for Computer Science/related subjects, we have the Programming Support Office, where there is a post-grad officer that you can sit down with and discuss/ask about programming/other stuff. We also have the LDC in the library, which you can get maths tuition, one-to-one help, study tips and report writing guidance etc. It’s there, so use it!
  • Friends
    • your coursemates will be better at explaining something in terms that you and I understand, without using the academic jargon that flows in lectures…

 

Get a calendar with a decent amount of space to write down what you have each day. At the moment as I’m in second year and I’m doing a lot of different extra curricular things, I have to be really careful about organising my time so things don’t clash and I remember to do everything!

busy time!

 

This becomes especially true when things like deadlines and exams start getting added to the picture, but right now it’s just meetings and work etc.!

This part is really really really really (you get the idea) important!!! Here are a few guidelines about how to avoid late-submission penalties, because these will be enforced no matter what your excuse pretty much (unless you talk to your year tutor about it and see if you can get some exceptional circumstances to be relieved of it, but it’s better to do that before the actual deadline has passed!!!).

Top tip for any work ever… don’t leave it til the last minute. Hopefully you don’t need to learn from that as you do it anyway, but seriously, things get piled up when you least expect it, then you’ll find yourself working til 6am for three nights in a row trying to get everything in on time.

By the way, universities are strict on deadlines; there will be penalties if you get it in even 30 seconds late if it’s submitted online, so don’t risk trying to upload it with 5 minutes to go, because the likelihood is that a lot of other people will try to do the same thing, it will take forever, and you’ll eventually upload it after the deadline, losing 5-10% of your grade usually! This goes up every day you leave after the deadline before submitting it, so either do it the day before if you’re happy with it, but if you are running a bit late, leave at least an hour to ensure it gets in on time and you are credited for all the marks you deserve!

If it has to be handed in to your school office on paper, make sure you check the opening and closing times of your school office! Some people that I know have coursework deadlines for like 5pm, but the school office closes at 2pm! Don’t run the risk of having to submit it the next day and losing more marks because you didn’t check the times – submit it either when the school opens in the morning, or even the day before!

 

Hopefully I haven’t scared you, just motivated you to do your work to the best you can, and to actually get it in on time! Everyone that you speak to at university will have the same view on this as I do, because you really don’t want marks being taken from you that you deserve. If you plan your time carefully and don’t leave it til the last minute, you’ll be absolutely fine. Also, don’t forget to ask for help – you’re paying enough tuition fee for it! 🙂

 

~Good luck, you’ll be fine!