Happy adjusted students working together.

CAPS offers advice on helping you to cope with stress and the academic life on campus.

  • Coping with Stressful Times The lase few weeks of a semester can be stressful for many students due to academic pressures, sudden life changes, family issues, relationship concerns, losses due to deaths or breakups. It is going to be critical to recognize signs of unhealthy stress and figure out coping strategies.

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  • Improving Concentration – 11 Tips1.  Pick a good place to study (probably not your room) where you feel “scholarly” and where distractions are reduced.  Good light is important.

    2. Study in a non-sleep-inducing chair and position.  Get fresh, cool air periodically.  Walke up by running up and down stairs, push-ups, shower, or brushing teeth rather than excessive caffeine–coffee, tea, No-Doz, cola, chocolate. The excessive caffeine can make you jittery.

    3. Set a reasonable schedule and stick to it, with regular breaks (e.g., “I’m reading 35 pages, then talking to Sue for 10 minutes.”) If you can’t control socializing, study alone, away from places where you are likely to see friends (e.g., in P.E. library if you are in Education).

    4. Study in times earmarked for study, even if your room is messy (e.g., leave your room and study elsewhere) or a new magazine has arrived.

    5. If troubled by distracting thoughts, jot them down to obsess over later.

    6. Change your study methods until you find one that demands concentration. This ultimately means attacking the material with an active (rather than passive) mind. For example, don’t simply re-read the material — quiz yourself on it, pretend you are giving a lecture, etc. Don’t rely on underlining.

    7. Some material is best learned in short spurts–e.g., memorizing. Don’t try to do it all in one sitting; intersperse memorizing with other work or activities.

    8. Make the material interesting. Pretend you want to read this book and now finally have the chance.

    9. Find an empty classroom and use the blackboard to work problems; also practice “lecturing” the material. Practice “imputing” and “outputting” materials as many different ways as possible, especially out loud.

    10. If you know that copying-reorganizing notes helps you, go ahead. However, especially a few days before a test, it’s a bad idea to do this in lieu of active thinking about the material and integrating the concepts. (Like underlining and re-reading, it’s too passive; it feels like studying, but isn’t.)

    11. Ask yourself throughout the semester what the important ideas and facts are. Before a test, if you have no idea what’s likely to be on it (or if you’re frequently mistaken), you probably are not doing enough active processing of the material.

  • Organizing Your Time – 10 Tips1. Make your schedule somewhat flexible.  Avoid scheduling every minute (it would be impossible to live up to, and you need some unscheduled time anyway).  Develop realizstic plans (when have you every studied productively 11 hours per day?).  Avoid Vagueness (“I’ll study in the afternoons”).  Include exercise, socializing, chores, and some types of relaxation.

    2. Study your hardest/longest assignment first and your easiest last. (Benefits here include greater motivational control and greater efficiency).

    3. Budget your time among assignments so that super-compulsivity on chemistry doesn’t mean you never get to Russian. (This also teaches time discipline for exams.)

    4. Plan “rewards” for sticking to schedule, completing projects, etc.

    5. If concerned about missing/losing friends, spend high quality (vs. high quantity) time with them. For example, instead of watching TV with them, plan a high-interaction activity (playing sports, etc.). Make one segment of time double duty–e.g. as long as you have to eat, eat with friends; take your girl friend to the library (study once you get there!).

    6. Planning time for recreation or for “doing nothing” helps you avoid the common trap of never really doing or enjoying either one; planning increases pleasure in off-time. You know you have other times planned for the unwritten term paper, etc., so you can relax and be free of guilt when seeing Joe Blow during your scheduled goof-off time.

    7. Don’t make things unduly tough on yourself. For example, don’t pick a time to study when everyone around you is socializing; if you must do that, anticipate the temptation and find a place away from leisure cues.

    8. If it helps you, make a list of things to be completed. (Here it also helps to try to give realistic time requirements.)

    9. Match jobs to time blocks–i.e. don’t try to write a paper in the half hour before dinner. Save this for a 2-3 hour block when you can get your thinking going. Learn to evaluate time requirements and say to yourself, “I have a half hour free. What half-hour task shall I do?”

    10. Help yourself resist overdoing socializing by scheduling it before a firm time commitment (e.g., “until dinner, “until the laundry is done,” etc.)

  • Reducing StressDuring stressful times like mid-terms, paper deadlines, finals, and holidays approaching, university students need tips on how to best cope with their stress. In a survey done a Penn, students identified stress as their number one health concern. We at CAPS understand this and want to provide you with some quick and easy strategies to help you deal with these times a little better.

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  • Coping with Grief and LossGrief can disrupt your daily life, causing problems with sleep, appetite, motivation or concentration. You may be despondend and have no interest in work or socializing.

    Counseling can help you make sense of thoughts and reactions to grief and develop a coping strategy.  Some worry that sharing these thoughts may be a burden on friends and family.  If so, it may be easier to share feelings of anger, guilt, and sadness with a professional.  Grief is difficult to process, but it can be overcome.

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  • Helping Friends in DistressDon’t manage a friend’s stress alone.  There are professionals across campus who can help if you feel overwhelmed, fearful, or uncomfortable.  Reach out to your House Dean, RA or GA.  Call CAPS at 215-898-7021 or the Student Health Service at 215-746-3535.  You will be helping your friend by getting others involved.

    Remember to take care of yourself.  It’s great to be a supportive friend, but you need not be a hero.

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