No man is an island entire of himself
~ John Bunyan
Parties, family ‘get togethers’, gaming groups, sports teams, quiet congregations around the coffee shop table, Socratic walks in the park with your best mate(s) talking over the latest news and putting the world to rights – many of our happiest moments are spent in the company of others. In truth, people are gregarious and we need the company of people we like, at least some of the time, in order to stay happy and keep everything in perspective.
This is particularly true when we are under pressure. Yet it is when we are at our most stressed, pressed for time and ‘up against it’ that we so often shut out the world. We do this with good reason: people can be distracting and anything looks more attractive than the prospect of starting revision, and yet it is a mistake to isolate yourself at times of heightened anxiety and increased workload. It is well said that a problem shared is a problem halved. Talking about problems, or just writing them down, fixes them and makes them concrete. Fear casts a long shadow in the mind far larger than it looks when brought out into the light of conversation.
Much stress stems from the sneaking suspicion that you are the only person who feels the way you do, and that this speaks to some hidden inadequacy. In academic circles, this feeling is now so common that it has been named “impostor syndrome”: the feeling you are somehow not good enough to succeed and only got this far because of some streak of absurd ongoing good fortune that must surely now run out. This is not reasonable. You earned your successes this far and there is every reason to think you will succeed now. These anxieties are illusions. You got great A-level grades in order to get here, and you may also have passed exams here in previous years. There is no good reason not to think you will succeed once again! Have confidence and be gentle with yourself. Relaxing and focusing on one task at a time allows you to remember more, do more, and enjoy the rest of your time more.
Whatever happens in life, breathe in deeply and then send away all the things in your life that are unhelpful to you swept away on your outbreath. You do not need them and you have no responsibility to carry them around.
Help for the vexed
If you find you are feeling stressed, it helps to gently shake out your limbs and very gently stretch to release physical tension in the body because your mind notices how tense the body is and responds accordingly. This means you can persuade your mind to relax simply by relaxing your body. Sipping water throughout the day and taking regular breaks also helps keep the body loose and limber. Remember the 25:5 working pattern – 25 minutes focused work then 5 minutes break moving around or doing something totally different? There was a reason for recommending that!
Another thing that works really well is a focused 10 minute relaxation session where you sit. Just plug in your headphones, tune in to a relaxation meditation and let the world outside dissolve for a few minutes. You will more than make up the time spent when you return to the work you were doing before, being now more relaxed and productive.
You can download relaxation podcasts for free from Grounded In Stillness and actually turn up to ten minute relaxations in the Library Meeting Room (0.12) between 2-3 pm on a Thursday (except next Thursday, 9 May). There is also a 5 week mindfulness meditation course running on Sundays in Spinnaker building on which you can book a place today through Sports & Recreation.