Ask a Fifth Year: A List of Do’s and Don’ts

Dear Will,

It’s only first week, and I feel like there’s no way I’m going to be able to handle the academics at Lawrence. Reading the syllabuses alone made me feel like vomiting. What can I do to be successful here?

-Overloaded in Ormsby


Dear Overloaded,

If you think there’s anyone at Lawrence who hasn’t or isn’t currently feeling the same way that you are, you’d be dead wrong. According to a 2011 ranking by The Daily Beast, Lawrence outranks schools such as Princeton as the 18th most rigorous college in America. We’re proud of it, and busyness has inevitably become a part of campus culture.

I have bad news for you: It gets worse. Much worse. Wait until you have midterms, finals, recitals, auditions and, God forbid, an illness. The good news is that you get that much better at handling it all, and I’ve made a list of Do’s and Don’ts that can help you adjust more quickly.

DO: Take a moment to breathe. Take several, in fact. In a way, I see stress as the result of an overworked and tired mind and soul, and you must give yourself time to reset, so you can approach your tasks with a fresh mind.

Sleeping is 50 percent of this, but as silly as it sounds, force yourself to not be productive and to not think about the things you have to do. Watch Netflix. Order Toppers with friends. Go to the mall. You’ll be able to jump back into your work later with a lot more energy and efficiency.

DO: Make lists! I would never consider myself an organized person, but if one method of organization helps me, it’s making lists. This helps get your mental clutter out onto paper and provides a great visual tool for managing tasks ahead. And as you complete the things on your list, you get to visualize your productivity and plan your schedule more effectively.

DO: Forgive yourself for not being able to complete something. There will definitely be times in your college experience where there just aren’t enough hours in the day to complete everything you have to do.

This is when it’s important to have the courage to let something go. Thinking constantly about something that you physically cannot do is a terrible way to contribute to your stress and anxiety levels. It’s best if you are honest with yourself and your professors, who may even be inclined to give you extensions if you ask.

DON’T: Feel like stress is something to be proud of. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an inevitable and natural part of life—but at Lawrence, we unfortunately seem to wear it as a badge of pride. I’ve heard conversations where a simple “How’s it going?” turns into a competition of sorts, where one is always trying to prove their worthiness based on the millions of things they have to do. It’s silly, counterproductive and prideful. Focus more on getting rid of it—people will respect you much more if they see you handling things calmly and with poise.

DON’T: Let stress affect your relationships. As I mentioned in last week’s article, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of your friendships, and I’ve seen so many of those lost because of bad communication.

Of course you may have to cut back on the time you use to socialize; but neglecting your relationships by failing to communicate is only going to stress you out even more in the future.

Managing your stress is all about keeping your mind clear and focused. It’s so easy to dwell on all the things you have to do, but changing the way you think about and approach stress can help you be a much happier person at Lawrence.

You will get better at managing your thoughts and time. Just keep thinking of yourself as a successful person and soon you’ll make that a reality.