Starting the Semester Right

You just returned to school after a long, relaxing winter break. It was great not having to worry about readings, papers, problem sets, quizzes, and exams!

Now you are back on campus and happy to see your friends, but you are not looking forward to the academic-related stress that comes with being a college student. The end of last semester was rough – pulling all-nighters to finish papers and cramming for finals is definitely not your idea of fun. Falling asleep in the library while you are trying to study is not very restful, and a bag of chips and soda is not much of a meal. Despite the stress, you got through it! But you promised yourself next semester would be different.

Now comes the tricky part, figuring out how you are going to do things differently. Deciding to change is one thing, and implementing specific changes is something else entirely. Change rarely happens by osmosis. Instead, it often takes a conscious commitment to a plan and hard work. So, what comes next?

Here are a few things to consider:

Develop a plan. Think about your goal and then break that goal down into smaller parts. If you want to avoid reading an entire textbook the day before a final, spread the work out over the course of the semester. A few pages per day or a chapter per week is much more manageable than trying to learn everything at once. You can probably use your course syllabi as a guide.

Stick to that plan. Each day you accomplish what it is you set out to do will feel like a victory. Because it is easy to put off to tomorrow what seems unpleasant today, remind yourself why you decided to make a change. Recall as vividly as possible the type of situation you hope not to repeat and visualize the success that will follow if you stick to your plan. Use activities you enjoy, like watching a favorite show or hanging out with friends, to reward yourself for your accomplishments.

Enlist support. Chances are you are not the only one who got so behind last semester that you practically lived in the library during finals week. Talk to your friends and classmates to see if anyone else is looking to commit to doing something differently. Support from others may help to bolster your resolve, providing you with the encouragement you need to stick to your plan.

Be mindful. There is sure to be some sort of fun happening at any given time on campus. Since you cannot do everything, really think about the choices you make. If you go to the party tonight, are you willing to do two days’ worth of reading tomorrow? If the answer is yes, by all means, have fun! If not, spend an extra moment contemplating the implications of your decision.

At Georgetown Psychology Associates, we know that change can be difficult. If you would like to discuss your goals and develop a plan of action with the help of a mental health professional, please do not hesitate to contact us!