Two Self-Help Books to Prep and Destress
The days leading up to exams or deadlines for that paper or major project can be terrifying. I know for me, even though I know what to expect before going into an exam, I am still stressed before entering the exam room and excited for each test to be over.
One of the things that has helped me the most to mitigate exam stress is preparation. The only thing you are in complete control of is how much you prepare. You don’t get to control what is asked on the exam or how much time you get to complete it, but you can control how much time you give yourself to study, and your study methods. Or if you’re working on an art project, for example, you can control how much time you allow yourself to indulge in the creative process before your final work is due.
This summer, I read two books that have helped me change my mindset, goals, and methods of preparation. Here are their key takeaways.
One of my favorite books by far. This book emphasizes how it is possible for anyone to build a habit with four simple laws of behavior change: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying. These laws can easily be translated to how you construct your day, work in study methods, and take time to make sure that you are preparing for whatever exam/project/paper you have coming up in your classes.
Calendar reminders for upcoming tasks are good for making your work obvious. Reminding yourself and reflecting on what you want to accomplish in both the short-term and the long-term will help you understand why you are putting in so much work now and will help make your work seem more attractive. Intentionally scheduling specific times to work on projects or study will help make starting the task easier. After putting in all of the work, no matter how exciting, grueling, comforting, or stressful it is, finishing with a good result will make all of your work that much more satisfying. I recommend this book to anyone. It is an easy read and provides loads of invaluable and thought-provoking information. If you’re interested, you can find it here.
This book does a great job giving significant meaning to any work you are doing. It emphasizes the importance of spending uninterrupted time with whatever task you have at hand – studying for a biology exam, writing a history paper, working on a ceramics project, etc., and how valuable the time you have with your craft really is. Anyone is able to build a connection and greater meaning with their work when they put in uninterrupted and intentional time.
That being said, it is important to ensure you never feel guilty for not spending time trying to improve yourself, your goals, or your projects. In other words, it is important to be okay with taking a break. I know I have struggled with this in the past but this book has helped shift my mindset by providing evidence that supports taking frequent and intentional breaks throughout your day. Check it out here.
Starting is the hardest part. Once you start, momentum and positive results keep you rolling. That being said, you cannot just rely on motivation, you must also exercise discipline. Academia is a marathon, not a sprint, so you will have days where motivation is lacking and energy is low. For many of us, graduate school extends our time in a world full of tasks. For those who do not desire graduate school, everything you get to do now sets you up for the life you want to have when you graduate. Doing well in a sustainable and fulfilling way takes determination, dedication, and discipline – and, yes, guidance from some self-help books can boost your chance for success and maybe aim you in the right direction.