August has always been my favorite month of the year. The word itself feels warm and seems so full of light. Summer is winding down, many of us have been able to do things we never have time for during the school year. We've been able to spend loads of time with friends or family, gone on vacation to somewhere new and exciting, explored some new DIY projects, or tackled a task from our ever stagnant To-Do list. We might even be exhausted from all the fun and relaxing times we've had that the thought of summer ending, is naturally bittersweet. August is our last month to ourselves. When August 31st comes around, classes are just around the corner. Now, I don’t mean to scare or worry you that you are running out of time. You still have plenty of time to relax and prepare. (But tick tock..)
This September will mark my own re-entrance to school after taking a year off. In May of last year, I graduated with my Bachelors and will be going back as a re-entry student to study DIETETICS! I am so excited you guys, you don't even know! Even though it's only been 15 months since I was in college, I feel like the mom who rediscovers herself and goes back to school after x number of years devoted to others. But this is MY time to shine! My heart is so full of excitement and intrigue for the new topics I'll be learning about and the career path I am headed towards. I have had 15 months to decompress from all those days spent studying, non-stop, on end and will be reattending with renewed energy and outlook. Because I know how stressful college life can be and the added stress of taking care of a chronic illness, I want to share some of my own insight on how to prepare for another school year.
After having a few rough semesters and thinking about this new year, I decided to do some research on how to prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Many of the tips I found were in reference to another stressful life event, but they still hold potential for alleviating the stress experienced in school. Stress is stress, right? And when you have an inflammatory disease, a part of keeping your disease in check is taking the right precautions around stress management. So whether you are ready to get a move on or still trying to deny the fact that summer is ending, here is a five step plan to get you started.
Step 1: Use this last month of summer to really get to know yourself, on every level. Try to understand how you deal with stress by thinking about your past. Think back to a time when you were dealing with a lot of stress, maybe even in the midst of a flare-up, and ask yourself: How do I tend to perceive about the situation? Do I react to the stress or work through it? Are my thought tendencies self-deprecating or more self-righteous and determined? How did I feel physically, emotionally, and mentally? What was I missing? What could I have done differently?
Try this writing exercise! Like you would write a story, write down what was happening during a time you were being pushed to your limits. Bullet-point every obstacle and bold everything you tried to overcome the situation, even the failed attempts. Then, like how a writer outlines a storyline, write out how you would resolve the story. Include who and what from your life you would need and when you would use them. Keep this as a guide or for inspiration!
Step 2: Plan ahead, for EVERYTHING and keep yourself accountable. It can be helpful to set up a plan for yourself ahead of time. Whatever makes yourself more productive, make a promise to DO THOSE THINGS! Get tasks done early when you are feeling well and full of energy, so you can rest when you are not. Prioritize what is most important in your life. Stick to a routine or try new things. Think about how much you need to do to be successful and what kind of effort that will take. Then start to build up your plan around these thoughts. Being accountable for yourself and the work you must accomplish ahead of time will save you in the long run.
Try this writing exercise! Make a promise to yourself for the new school year. Write down a few things you want to strive for, big or small. Then display it somewhere you will see every now and then as a nice reminder. This will keep you centered and focused on what you want to achieve and how you will do it. Here are some examples: "I promise to make good decisions for my health and well-being. I promise to make my bed each morning. I promise to do what I can, when I can, and not judge myself when I cannot."
Step 3: Be the responsible person you and your body deserve! Make responsible decisions when it comes to food choices, workload, and managing stress. A part of developing a successful plan is sticking to it! If you know about your own unhealthy habits that can impact your ability to manage stress, then take steps to reroute them. Start with replacing bad habits with positive ones.
Step 4: Have a de-stress plan when life starts to get tough. By having something set in motion ahead of time, you can comfort yourself knowing you've prepared for this! So whip out your de-stress kit and get to it! Here are some ideas to get you started:
If you feel yourself getting anxious, stop for a moment. Practice deep breathing and positive inward thoughts or commit some time to a guided meditation. You may feel more calm and refreshed afterwards.
Set up a routine to decompress after a long week (take a warm bath with a glass of wine, settle in with your favorite book with a cup of delicious tea, or just take a nap - but use this last one sparingly)
If you struggle with eating healthy, staying away from trigger foods, or staying on a grocery budget then try your hand at food prep. Taking your Sunday afternoon just for this task can be relaxing in itself and can yield some great benefits. Say goodbye to wondering what your next meal will be and ordering too much take-out!
Write a letter to yourself to read when the going gets tough. I did this in the depths of a my lowest moment and it allowed me to pull myself out of an emotional rut to refocus on happiness and success.
Step 5: Pick yourself up when you fall. If you fail, a normal part of life, then you will need to brush yourself off and try again. Don't blame yourself, don't blame your shortcomings on your Crohn's or Colitis, and don't project your failures onto the universe. These tendencies will only allow you to harbor negative feelings about yourself or your past. Practice accepting things as they are and moving on with a more determined attitude. Find out where you might have went wrong and correct any bad behaviors that may have caused you to fail. Are your Netflix binge habits infringing on your study time? I know mine have before. Learning is all about finding what works for you and readjusting. This includes finding what works well in your own study habits. Try out some new ones if the old ones get stale.
Whatever your plan ends up being, make sure that it is true to YOU! Incorporate everything you know can work and don't waste your time on what doesn't. I promise to
What strategies help YOU manage stress?