The Daily Gamecock

Column: 3 ways to handle academic anxiety

Academic anxiety can present itself in various ways that affect students’ ability to do academic tasks, such as difficulty focusing or sleeping, self-doubt and dedicating a lot of time to schoolwork without actually getting any done. According to the American Psychological Association, 41.6% of college students have anxiety.

“The anxiety that you feel, initially laying out all of the course content that you have to memorize for that exam, is so overwhelming that it can very often lead to just task paralysis,” Alexandria Hall, a fourth-year cognitive and behavioral neuroscience student, said.

USC is reaching its midpoint in the semester, which means exams, projects and homework are starting to pile up on each other. In the midst of academic chaos, there are ways to manage the stress.

Studying techniques

For students who tend to procrastinate, the Pomodoro Technique can help by encouraging student to fit tasks into smaller and more manageable intervals. Students should aim to study for a set amount of time — 25 minutes — and then take a short break for five minutes. The process is usually repeated four times

Using the Pomodoro Technique allows students to study in small bits and take in the information more efficiently. Giving enough time for studying and taking breaks can prevent burnout and cramming on test days. 

Additionally, there are apps that guide users to overcome procrastination. For example, Doer allows users to set tasks, track progress and prioritize activities. Doer provides specific analytics on task completion rates and goal progress. It also identifies patterns such as peak productivity times and suggests ideas, such as setting reminders or creating a study schedule.



According to Neuroscience News, meditation positively impacts memory and the ability to recall information. One study in the article concluded that people who meditated were able to maintain their attention and working memory capacity even under high levels of stress

“For focus during exams, genuinely the best thing that has helped me in the past year and a half has been daily meditation," Hall said. "I cannot stress that enough. I feel less crazy, more focused and more mindful of both the content that I'm absorbing and just walking around campus and social interactions. You respond instead of react.” 

Sometimes, having a long to-do list can be frustrating and cause students to lash out,so it is important to take a few minutes to meditate outside to clear the mind. 

Set realistic goals

Oftentimes, a fast-paced environment leaves no time for balancing academic and personal goals. While it is important to achieve academic goals, personal goals such as self-care and bonding with friends are just as important.

“There's so much unstructured time that it seems like there's so much time to get things done," Sarah Wright, a psychologist for Student Health Services, said. "We can set up some not great habits around time, so I think it's important that people set a key-based schedule that's realistic for them.” 

Physical activity such as a brisk walk can help, and taking in the environment can relax the mind.

"Consider leaving some cushion to stop and appreciate the changing leaves or fall blooms," Wright said in an email to The Daily Gamecock.

Students living on and off-campus can tackle assignments by first getting minor tasks out of the way on Mondays and focusing on major assignments later in the week. For example, if a large project needs to be finished by Friday, it's easy to forget the smaller assignments due on the same day.

Factors outside of college play a significant part in planning a schedule as well. When it comes to creating a realistic schedule, it may feel as if there's not enough time in the day to complete one's task.

“Be realistic – talk through the actual worst case scenario.” Wright said in an email. “Sometimes it really might be pretty bad, and being honest with yourself about this can allow for the planning needed to address it. Oftentimes, it’s more likely that we realize things aren’t as bad as we were fearing.”

Overcoming academic anxiety can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Students shouldn't hesitate to talk to professors, family, friends or a counselor who can provide guidance during stressful situations, and they should never feel ashamed to ask for support. The university offers resources, such as the Student Health Center and the Student Success Center at no cost.


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