By Iva Brajković

On Thursday, 19 November 2020, the students had an opportunity to meet the College psychologist Chloë GOETINCK and get useful advice on managing stress, a topic that is especially relevant in the upcoming examination period. In case you missed the meeting, here is a short summary of the most important topics we discussed.

We first talked about the importance of biorhythm. Our everyday life is very monotonous, we spend too much time indoors and go to bed late. Daily walks to the canteen are often the only exercise for many students. Our rooms have become multifunctional spaces: we study, eat, socialize and sleep there. This lack of boundaries is confusing for our brain and can lead to negative associations, for example: if we spent the day studying on our bed, we might struggle to fall asleep at night as our brain "learned" to associate the bed with work. It is true that our rooms are not huge (with the exception of some very lucky students), but one simple tip is to set micro-boundaries: sleep in bed and work only at your desk.

It is also very important to be active to help us to stay motivated and energized. Our options may be limited, but we can always go for a walk or cycle around Bruges, even on a grey and rainy day. Moreover, we shouldn’t always take the same paths. There are so many nice places in Bruges, so we can always find a new route. Have you tried a different route from your residence to the canteen? This can help break the monotonous pattern a little bit.

Time management can be a challenge these days. It can be beneficial to create a daily timetable, not only for our activities during the day, but also for rest and going to bed. Our exams are taking place in the morning, so even if we are night owls, we should try to schedule going to bed early enough to wake up and be fresh and focused for the exams.

We all know that is impossible to study without breaks, but what is a healthy break? Checking emails or messages on WhatsApp or Facebook is not the best option as we need regular screen breaks. A good alternative would be to take a quick walk, talk to a friend, maybe do a few exercises or mediation. It is also important to listen to our body, so if we feel tired, it is better to take a break and resume studying afterwards when we are more productive.

What to do if we are feel very worried and anxious? In cognitive therapy it is recommended to consider our thoughts. We are often not aware of our thoughts, but they still influence our performance. If we are aware of a thought, we can try to modify it. For every negative thought, we should come up with an alternative one that is still credible. For example, for a thought like “Everyone at the College is smarter than me”, a good alternative would be “I was accepted because of my achievements so far; I have the capacity to study.” We need to try to challenge our negative thoughts in order to change them. Additionally, it can be useful to schedule 'worrying time' and write down our worries to limit the time we spend ruminating.

Furthermore, a good night's sleep is very important. For students who struggle falling asleep, it is important to have a routine before going to bed to give our brain a chance to prepare for sleep. Darkness is necessary to produce melatonin, so screen time is not advisable, but we should at least use blue light on our screens via the Night Shift setting on our phones.

If you want to talk to the College psychologist, please feel free to contact her via email, phone or even WhatsApp. Meetings can take place online or in person.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. This is a stressful time for students, but to use the wise words of an academic assistant, we will all meet at the other side of the tunnel soon enough.

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