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Dear Sue: “Stressed”


Dear Sue,

I know we just got back from spring break, but I feel like I never left. I’m getting swamped with homework, projects, and presentations. On top of that I have to worry about housing and pretty soon I have to pick classes for next semester. I want to do well in my classes, but I’m feeling overwhelmed.

– Stressed


Dear Stressed,

First, take a deep breath. Returning from a break can be very difficult, because you remember how much work you still have to do. It can be hard to stay motivated, especially if you can’t see where all the work will end. It might help to prioritize your assignments. Instead of just listing the work you need to do and when it needs to be done, try making a chart. Fold a piece of paper in half both ways, and in the top left corner write Urgent-Important. Label the upper right corner Urgent-Unimportant, the lower left corner Nonurgent-Important, and the lower right corner Nonurgent-Unimportant. This is called the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. In the Urgent-Important section you should list things like papers or presentations (assignments that are a big part of the course grade) and the due date. In the Urgent-Unimportant you could list things such as day-to-day assignments and normal homework. Nonurgent-Important would be grabbing lunch with your friends, or working out. Nonurgent-Unimportant tasks would include checking Facebook or watching another show on Netflix.

If you are still struggling to focus on the tasks at hand, figure out what is really bothering you. Maybe you are distracted by something your roommate said the other day, or maybe you haven’t slept well since returning from break. Try addressing these problems first – vent to a friend, put on some music and dance around your room for a bit, go for a run, take a nap. You cannot do your best work if your mind is elsewhere.

Next, try rewarding yourself for minor accomplishments. Surround yourself with your best working environment, whether that is locked away in a quiet room or Mill Mountain. If you have a five-page paper to write, get the first page down then get some coffee. Celebrate the small goals. Be wary of online sites though, as you can spend more time on there than you realize. If necessary, install apps like Self Control that block certain websites from your computer for a designated period of time.

If you have tried everything and you still feel overwhelmed, talk to your teachers. It does not hurt to ask for an extension or even a little bit of help. Most teachers will be glad to make sure you are working in the right direction, and may help you out along the way if you ask.

Have a productive day,

– Sue Z. Maroon