Forming better habits

Stress has a nasty way of getting students down, and it is very easy to become distracted from tasks or to take on habits to power through responsibilities.

“Stress is a normal part of deadlines and juggling priorities, and it’s important to have healthy ways to deal with it,” explains Jenna Olender, Manager of Writing and Study Skills Services at the Brantford campus’ Centre for Student Success.

It is easy to find distractions during moments of high stress. For Jenna Beserth, Netflix is an easy escape from the stress of coursework. “It’s definitely taken my attention away from studying, sometimes I’ll study for a bit and think ‘I’ll just take a twenty-minute break and watch this show,’ but then the next show comes on 15 seconds later and I find myself watching it for six hours. Since the next show comes on 15 seconds later and it’s so available wherever you are. I think it’s a good distraction from problems and stress so that could be why it’s so popular among students,” said Beserth.

“Indulging in distractions like binge watching a favourite show can derail our best intentions to study or get our assignments done,” explains Olender. “Sometimes stress and anxiety about the magnitude of what we need to do prompts us to avoid the task.  Sometimes we get involved in a time-sucking activity (like a tv marathon) and what we intended to be a small break becomes a lost night for studying…the resulting guilt from not getting our work done can increase our stress and begin a negative cycle of more procrastination and guilt.”

Distractions are obviously not the only vices students gravitate towards in hopes of coping through the stress of coursework. Habits like smoking cigarettes to curb anxiety, and over caffeinating are common student afflictions.

“We do not get many students who want to quit smoking; mostly mature students,” said Cindy Wood, Manager of Laurier Brantford’s Wellness Centre.

“Too much caffeine can have a significant impact on our sleep cycles, and too little sleep in the long run prevents us from doing our best – we may not think as clearly as we do when well-rested,” explains Olender.

Olender stresses the importance of self-care and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “I encourage students to keep up the things that help them feel good: exercise, hobbies, volunteering, seeing friends and family, religious or spiritual practice, and personal care (like going for a massage or having a manicure),” explains Oldener. “Another great strategy for managing anxiety and avoiding temptation is the practice of planning a weekly schedule.”

“In a weekly schedule, students can identify their commitments [like] class time, work shifts, the tv show that can’t be missed, gym time… to make sure that they have time for everything they want to do, including those healthy self-care choices,” says Olender. “The keys to scheduling success are two-fold: [firstly] break down tasks into smaller goals, which helps us manage stress, stay motivated, and build momentum to completion, and [secondly] break down scheduled study time into shorter chunks with breaks built-in, so we don’t need to rely on stimulants.”


In regards to reclaiming vices for positive study approaches, Olender explains, “use the things we love doing as rewards for getting through what we need to do.”


“Little pleasures reward little goals; keep the bigger rewards for the larger achievement at the end for example, when you’ve completed three papers or gotten through all your final exams, that is the time to reward yourself with a night out partying with friends,” says Olender.

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