With a first round of midterms behind us, now is the point in the semester when some people start to get a little stressed. Left unchecked, that stress (which can be useful – more on this in a future post) tends to hang around and manifest itself as more persistent anxiety or depression.

In the early stages though, it’s very easy to fix if you know how. It’s a lot like the schoolyard bully from your childhood days: calmly stand up for yourself, and it’ll leave you alone. Consider the following tips as easy ways to refocus and get on with your life.

  1. Recognize that something’s off. Those of us that have dealt with this sort of thing before know that there are warning signs. For me, my work habits quickly grind to a halt, I spend lots of time aimlessly drumming and perusing YouTube, and sometimes my appetite changes. There aren’t necessarily causal links here, but these things do tend to correlate. Whatever your warnings signs are, recognize them quickly.

  2. Change things up. Go for a run, go somewhere else to work, cook yourself a good meal. Step away from your stressors and your bad habits long enough to get out of your head.

  3. Give yourself some structure. Plan out the rest of the day, or the next day or two. Don’t push yourself, but do set a schedule that will require you to buckle down a little.

  4. Declutter, physically and mentally. Clear your workspace, or move somewhere more open. Record any to-do items floating around in your head in your task management system. (If you don’t have such a system, this is something you should create. I will be posting mine later…)

  5. Unplug. Put your phone out of sight. Close social media pages. Close your email. If you don’t need it, you can turn off internet altogether. I’ve been doing this a lot lately , and I highly recommend it.

  6. Just start doing something useful. Take baby steps. Even if it’s only solving one problem or reading one page, do something. Things get much easier once you have the ball rolling.

  7. Socialize*. This suggestion comes up a lot, but take it with a grain of salt. If you’re introverted, this might not help you. Try it, but feel free to drop it if it isn’t useful.

  8. Sleep. If you’re running low on sleep, resolve that as soon as possible. It’s amazing what a few extra hours of rest can do for you.

  9. Take a small performance hit. In the long run, your sanity is more important than one late or missed homework. Be judicious with this one of course; use it sparingly.

  10. Don’t worry too much. If you get scared of the schoolyard bully, he’ll have an easier time manipulating you. Similarly, if you get scared when you notice emotional changes, you won’t be well equipped to tackle them effectively. Be assertive, deal with it promptly, and move on.

Other suggestions? Let me know.