How to manage stress during your student days

How to manage stress during your student days, How to face stress during your student days, stress student life, work pressure student, student loan, student burnout

During my time at the university, your student days were called ‘the best time of your life’. Although life luckily had (and hopefully will have) many more good times for me, I doubt if people still use this quote that easily.

Student life seems to have gotten surrounded with more worries and stress. The current system with student loans implies large debts for many students. Employers ask more of their future employees, from high grades to extensive CVs. On top of that social media allow us to compare ourselves with others in the blink of an eye – while often showing an incomplete picture, hiding less beautiful bits and pieces. And although it might be possible to handle all of these, be aware of not getting into a toxic cocktail of severe stress. In this article I give some ways to better manage stress during your student days.

Stress

First, stress does have its positive sides. A bit of stress helps us through life. It makes you more alert and gives the extra energy needed to meet a deadline or to pass an exam. However, when experiencing stress becomes part of your daily life, it’s another story. Continual stress causes physical and mental symptoms and might even result in (near) burnout: you’ve been pushing yourself too hard for too long.

Short outbursts of stress increase your heart rate and cause sweaty hands. These signals fade away when the stress situation ends. Continual stress has different outings like stomach issues or headaches, problems with concentrating, anxiety or emotional instability. Eventually you might reach a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion.

How to manage stress?

There are several things you can do to cope with stress and stressful situations in a more effective way (meaning good for you and your health). They range from healthy living habits, to being conscious about what you really like in life and what you don’t, to introducing time to truly relax your brain.

Introduce healthy habits

Proper self-care should be a habit like brushing your teeth twice a day: routine. Go for healthy foods, not too much coffee and alcohol, and make sure you get the amount of sleep you really need (not the amount you can survive on). Take breaks every hour or two.
Thirty minutes of light, daily outdoor exercise relieves stress and releases happy hormones. A walk or bicycle ride is perfect and sports is fine as well!
A crucial part of self-care is thinking nicely about yourself. You’re as valuable as everyone else! Become aware of the thoughts that make you be hard on yourself.

What about work pressure?

The study load has several peaks during the academic year and for most students these are stressful periods. The university has a responsibility to spread the work pressure wisely, however making an adequate planning will help you a lot as well. Why wait for the deadline to finish a paper, especially when that deadline is during exam period? Postponing work (‘studieontwijkend gedrag’) increases stress.

Share not only the happy stuff

On social media life might seem all rainbows, glitter and unicorns, but real life isn’t! Share it with your friends when you have an off-day, when you feel stuck or if the tasks in your project group have not been assigned evenly. It might feel difficult in the beginning, but showing more vulnerability pays off. You can read more about this in ‘The power of vulnerability’ by Brené Brown. This is one of my favourite books and there is a great TED talk from her on YouTube as well.

Energy sources and drains

To keep your energy tank full, it is important that more energy goes in than goes out. You can make a list of all the things that give you energy (sources) and those that are energy drains in private life, study and work. You might also track this on a daily basis for one or two weeks. The list will help you prioritize what you really love to do. In addition, try to get rid of (part of) the energy drains.

A simple NO

Start with saying ‘no’, or something similar like ‘I do not have time for that’, ‘maybe person X can help you with this’ etc. Might feel awkward in the beginning, but practice makes perfect. More about saying NO (article in Dutch) you can read here.

Give your brain some rest

Another important factor in coping with stress is to give your brain some true rest. Although an evening with Netflix might feel good, your brain will still be active as it is when you are using your smartphone etc. Better to go for a walk or to just stare out of the window. Get bored!

Constantly checking your phone could also be a way of avoidant behaviour (as could be drinking, gaming, etc). It seems like an escape from difficult emotions like anger, sadness or disappointment or certain thoughts like doubt, but be aware that these emotions or thoughts will pop up again and again. Till you properly address them, so I would say, better do that today than tomorrow.

Ask for help

If you experience moderate to severe stress symptoms, please talk to a friend, family member, your GP, student advisor, student psychologist, or another professional care giver. It is important to get (professional) help, as it is one of the best ways to learn new and more effective coping methods. Universities often offer courses about stress management as well.

Do you want to read more?

On Facebook you can follow Sagitta Peters career and burnout coaching to stay informed on other blogs, or you can follow me on LinkedIn.

Do you experience stress related symptoms? Or do you have questions about your personal development or career and do you want to learn more about how I can help you with that? Please contact me to plan an introductory meeting. This 30 minute meeting is without obligations and free of charge. It will give you an impression how we could work on your questions or goals. After this meeting you can decide if you start coaching sessions with me or not.

On my English page you can read more about career coaching and burnout coaching and my way of working.

I’m looking forward to meeting you!

Photo How to manage stress during your student days: Tim Gouw via Unsplash

This article has also been published on the website of W.S.V. Simon Stevin and will be published in their magazine Simon Ster. W.S.V. Simon Stevin is the study association for Mechanical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology. Counting more than 1800 members of which about 150 participate actively in 25 committees, organising all kinds of events interesting for mechanical engineers.

Reasons I love working as a coach

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Some people openly ask me what I love about my job. Others might wonder… With a scientific and technological education and having worked in such an environment for several years, it has been quite a journey to embrace some parts of myself again. In fact, not using and even neglecting these ‘softer’ sides had also contributed to forgetting who I truly was.

Since I am working as a coach, everything has fallen into place. By accepting who I am (no matter what) I am now able to use my sensitivity, intuition and interest in human drivers and behaviour and let them complement that pragmatic and problem-solving approach and knowledge of leadership and management I used before so much.

For those who wonder why I am so happy working as a coach, and for those who would just like to learn to know me better, I like to give a sneak peak into the reasons I love working as a coach!

Reasons I love working as a coach

All the stories that people share and the different views on life they have, make me conscious, humble and make me appreciate and consider life on a different level.
I love people, knowledge transfer and teaching.
I really want to make the world a better and happier place. I believe that people who really embrace themselves will be more kind and accepting to other people. (My company has a sustainable bank account and eco friendly coffee, tea and chocolate as well 😉)
Coaching implies working towards a goal.
One-on-one contact and working in small groups fits my character well.
Simply being there for the other, without having to spread my attention and focus, feels special.
Having the autonomy to do my work as I like it, following my own values.
Personal development is important for me. Learning new things makes me happy and I love encouraging others in their personal development.
I love making plans, developing workshops and trainings, writing blogs…
It is my deep belief that everyone should have a job that makes truly happy and gives at least as much energy as it costs (and preferably much more!!). Supporting people to get there is valuable and rewarding.
I like to contribute to the knowledge that employers, colleagues and partners have of burnout and of course to the recovery of individuals experiencing burnout.
And last but not least, I love that I meet great people every day.

Why do you love your work? Would be great if you would let me know!

On my blog you can read more articles about career, personal development and burnout. Do you want to get in touch? Please contact me!

Workshop career orientation at TU/e PhD Event

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The Eindhoven University of Technology yearly organizes a career event for PhD students. I’m really happy to be one of this year’s workshop leaders. In a two hour workshop we will work on a structured approach for career orientation. Because I truly believe that there is a dream job for everyone, and that an inside-out approach is the way to find yours!

Who will be there as well on May 24?

Abstract:
Towards your dream job: a structured approach for career orientation

Orientation for a job after your PhD is often quite overwhelming. Where should you start and what should you do, to get a better view on the career perspectives that really reflect your personality and strengths?
In this workshop you will get a framework for your orientation process. We will also look deeper into the three questions that are important in this approach: Who are you? What are your capabilities? And what do you like to do? Via exercises you will get the first answers and you will end the workshop defining the next steps you can take in your personal orientation.

Ten important questions when considering a major career step

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Do you feel that it might be getting time to explore new career options? Or do you know someone for whom this counts? Then continue reading!
If your current job doesn’t fit you anymore and you are considering a major career step, a thorough self-analysis (and maybe a bit of soul-searching) can reveal what type of job will make you happy. It will help you to get a better view of your work and life goals, the type of work you love to do and excel in, the organisational culture that connects with your values and the environment you will flourish in.
In fact, this type of self-examination is also worth doing when you are happy with your work, so that you can adjust in time to stay that way. But how do you start such a reflective self-analysis?

Questions to ask yourself

Below I share ten important questions to guide you in your self-reflection. Without further ado, in a short but sweet list (let me know if I should provide a printable pdf on my website):

1. How was I as a kid, how did I grow up?

2. What do I stand for in life today?

3. Do I really aspire a new job, or do I run away from problems that I will face in another environment as well?

4. What are my strong assets (strengths, skills, talents)? When do they flourish?

5. What gives me energy?

6. Which fields or skills do I want to develop further?

7. What is my dream job (astronaut, musician, …) and what does this say about me?

8. What I don’t want anymore?

9. Which aspects should I take into account as well (from commuting to finance and cancellation period)?

10. What or who holds me back?

Which questions where eye openers for you when considering a major career step? Which ones should I add? Let me know!

Do you want to read more?

On Facebook you can follow Sagitta Peters career and burnout coaching to stay informed on other blogs with tips, information and more personal experiences, or you can follow me on LinkedIn.

Do you have questions about your personal development or career and do you want to learn more about how I can help you with that? Or do you experience burnout or other stress symptoms? Please contact me to plan an introductory meeting. This 30 minute meeting is without obligations and free of charge. It will give you an impression how we could work on your questions or goals. After this meeting you can decide if you will start coaching sessions with me or not.
On my English page you can read more about career and burnout coaching and my way of working.

I’m looking forward to meeting you!

Photo credits: Samuel Zeller via Unsplash


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pdf download Sagitta Peters Ten important questions when considering a major career step

Perfectionism (and how to handle it)

Perfectionism - Sagitta Peters career coach career advisor eindhoven highly educated professionals

A perfectionist? Me? No, not at all! I never regarded myself as a perfectionist, although I always tried my best to perform flawlessly, worked many, many hours and had high performance standards most of the time. I thought that I wasn’t meeting the criteria for being a perfectionist. Why? Some other people performed even better at work, made less mistakes, worked even more hours, had even higher performance standards, or they really could not quit a task before it was perfect. So, being a perfectionist could always be done better, or actually, worse.

In this blog I share my experiences and insights on perfectionism. I will tell you how it was driving my decisions, and also what has helped me to think and act differently. It feels pretty scary to be this vulnerable. That’s still a little perfectionism. Is this blog written well enough? Who am I, to have an opinion about this?

What wins, is the thought that it is okay to be vulnerable, and that I would love to read this story if someone else had written it. I also believe that we can help each other by being more open about the things that make us human. A comment would therefore be really nice. For me and for others. An email or PB is also welcome, if you want to share or ask something less publicly.

The perfect perfectionist

A few years ago, I was feeling completely empty, enormously tired and also quite a mess physically: burnout. I asked for support by a coach. When I told her that I didn’t see myself as a perfectionist, because I decided myself when I wanted to do something perfect and when I thought something was not important enough to do so, I realized something relevant. Not that I wasn’t a perfectionist, but that I was quite perfect in doing things perfectly. In this way I could fully use my energy in the areas where I felt it was needed. Pretty efficient, isn’t it?

Perfectionism: For whom do I act this way?

For a long time, I thought that performing by (and asking for) high standards was something I only did because I like quality and achieving goals (being ‘red’ in many personality tests). I thought I was in control of my thoughts, emotions and behaviour, and just loved my work and the organisation I was responsible for. It took quite some time before I realized that I actually acted that way out of insecurity way more often than I was aware of. Perfectionism helped me to feel valued by others: only by being in charge and capable I would be accepted by others and I could be part of the group.

The invisible judges

As entrepreneur, and being my own boss, I noticed that I was still holding on to a certain benchmark. And when someone else asked me who decided where this benchmark was, I recognized that there was a kind of jury judging my work. In fact, it was an invisible jury, with invisible members and misty standards and values. And these controlled my happiness and satisfaction.

It made me realize that I could choose who would be part of that jury. Since then, it’s me! It’s me deciding when something is good enough, and not all these little voices in my head.

Being addicted?

A little while ago I read a novel about a woman drinking way too much too often. In fact, the writer was a socially accepted alcohol addict, being a good guest at parties. Do you see some parallels with people who work (way to) hard as well? I worked a lot, you could count on me and I was having a lot of fun at work. But work served as a mask as well. And in fact I wasn’t able to work less if I needed or wanted to do so. Being a workaholic is also a socially accepted addiction.

What helped me to let go of that perfectionism?

Bit by bit I could let go of that perfectionism. I am happy to share my tips with you, as they may also help you. What are your tips and trics? Please share them below in a reaction of via email or a PB.

Good enough

Quite the opposite of being a perfectionist is to feel good and valuable just as you are. No matter what. With or without a job, independent of the success of a project or your annual performance review, and unrelated to the number of people that like you. Because you are good enough. I am good enough. We are all good enough. If you want to read more about this topic, have a look at the books by Brené Brown. She also has a TED talk (almost ten million views!).

Being your own supporter of being good enough is not easy. An old way of thinking needs to be replaced by a new, and that takes some time and repetition. That’s why I, practical as I am, had a sticky note at my desk saying “I am ok”. For you something else might be useful: a picture, quote, or an object. Make sure that you pick something that works for you.

Mindfulness

Doing a short mindfulness course (and continuing to follow some of the principles) has also helped me a lot. It made me aware that I can decide myself if I listen to my thoughts and if regard them as true. Thoughts most often disappear if you do not pay attention to them. A metaphor is to put every thought on a nice white cloud in a blue sky and see them fly away.

In this way I can make a better distinction between who I am, and who I and others might think I am. (Please note that not paying attention to every thought is something else than pushing them away – that might work counterproductive.)

Feedback and perfectionism

In theory I was open to feedback, as it would help me to further improve whatever I was doing. In reality it was a bit more complicated… Feedback is about your behaviour and not about who you are, they say, but for me it did feel very personal. It really affected me and made me self-doubting.

Today, I am able to see feedback as something that will tell me what part of my behaviour is working (effective) for the other person. So, it is not about me, but about the interaction and that other person. This makes the feedback less personal and more objective. It is about the behaviour that is, or is not, functional for a specific person. And only if I agree I will change my actions.

Fall and rise

That all sounds nice, letting go of perfectionism, and it is indeed a good thing. However, I still have a way to go. Something that has been part of my (your?) personality needs time to be reprogrammed. Luckily, I see more and more often when my perfectionism is in charge and not me. Dealing with perfectionism is something as learning to walk. You fall and rise, fall and rise, and at some point, you can even run 😊

He who stands on his tiptoes does not stand firm; he who stretches his legs does not walk (easily). – Lao Tse

Do you want to read more?

On Facebook you can follow Sagitta Peters career and burnout coaching to stay informed on other blogs, or you can follow me on LinkedIn.

Do you have questions about your personal development or career and do you want to learn more about how I can help you with that? Or do you experience burnout or other stress symptoms? Please
contact me to plan an introductory meeting. This 30 minute meeting is without obligations and free of charge. It will give you an impression how we could work on your questions or goals. After this meeting you can decide if you start coaching sessions with me or not.
On my English page you can read more about career coaching and burnout coaching and my way of working.

I’m looking forward to meeting you!

Photo: Alex Block via Unsplash