Posted on Dec 12, 2017
Anyone who knows me will laugh when they see my name under this blog's title. I'm known for being an anxious worrywart, bugging nearly everyone I know with a "dua request" whenever anything remotely stressful comes across my radar. You'll be happy to know I've learned to control these anxiety-prone urges and am eager to drop some of my learned wisdom upon you. :) As finals descend upon you (or any of life's other curveballs for the out-of-school folk), read on to learn how to keep your stress at bay and energy more productively utilized.
1. Deep breaths. There's an entire yoga practice dedicated to this. Breathing will help you re-center yourself and shift your focus where it needs to be.
2. Start early. This is best to avoid stress altogether - but is understandably not always an option. Either way, you shouldn't cram for an exam the night before. If you can, create a study schedule from now so by the time finals roll around, you're not looking at your notes for the first time.
3. Pace yourself. Whatever task looms ahead, don't think of tackling it all at once. Break it down and take it on bit by bit. If writing a schedule helps you, go for it. For example, if you have a cumulative exam coming up, assign a chapter or two to study for each hour. That way, you give yourself a "deadline" to meet, after which you reward yourself and move on. If you're not the planner type like me, create a loose, mental timeline in your head with some healthy buffers to get a realistic idea of how to take apart a daunting task, step by step.
4. Make room for breaks to avoid burnout. While breaking down your work into manageable chunks, make sure you add in some zoning out time to give yourself a break and recharge your mind. Go for a walk - you'll often find that physical breaks are far more effective than just pulling out your phone and going through Instagram.
5. Create the right atmosphere. Whether it's making the right playlist on Spotify, getting in the zone at your favorite coffee shop, or organizing your workspace, take time to create an environment that maximizes your productivity. Be reasonable though and don't decide to spring clean the day before an exam! ;)
6. Reward yourself. To keep your momentum and motivation going, it helps a LOT to visualize how you will reward yourself for all your hard work. The best part is that once you relish that treat, it will, without fail taste/feel/be 10 x's more worth it because you know you've earned it and worked so steadfastly for it. This requires self-discipline; don't cheat and reward yourself before you complete your task!
7. Ask for help. Sometimes we get so caught up in the minutiae of what needs to get done that we lose sight of the bigger picture and actual solution. Take a step back and reach out to someone - whether it's an expert who has deep knowledge and experience in what you're trying to figure out or an objective third person who can give an alternate perspective. Our fitra makes us social, not isolated beings. We are hardwired for connection and empathy. Getting help from others is not only valuable in and of itself, but also deepens our bonds with others and reinforces mutual understandings and lightens the burden we carry.
8. Let go and let God. Have faith in Allah (S) and yourself. 'Tie your camel' (at-Tirmidhi), i.e., work as hard as you possibly can to get where you want to be, but also remember that Allah (S) is the 'Best of Planners' (Qur'an 8:30), and His plan is already decreed and perfect.
Life can be incredibly stressful if we let it be. Between exams, graduation, job applications, marriage, in-laws, family, kids, our health, today's politics, crises abroad - the list for mental paralysis can go on forever. Focus on what's in your control and what you can reasonably accomplish. Whether you're systematic and regimented in how you get your stuff done, or play it by ear, know that you possess everything you need to overcome daily stresses and anxieties. Take it in stride. Say Bismillah. You got this!