Whether you’re heading off to college or university for the first time, or you’re a busy working parent who’s looking to change careers, embarking on a study program can be a life changing experience. It can also be a stressful one. Aside from learning skills which will have you set on a path to making your name, you’ll also make new friends, gain industry contacts and work on important life skills such as time management and productivity. With so much at stake, bumps in the road are inevitable. It’s vital, then, that you do all you can to keep stress low, so you can maximise this time and come out on the other side with the results you need. Here’s how; our 5 IDEAL tips for stress free study.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT COURSE CAREFULLY

It might sound like an obvious point, but you need to start off by choosing the right course. If you’re not sure entirely which career path you’re aiming for, you should start by looking into the career possibilities that are linked to the course you choose; subjects such as English Language and Literature, Social Sciences and Maths are all great options if you want to leave things open ended in terms of careers, as they can lead almost anywhere. But, if you already have a clear path to your dream job in mind, then it’s sensible to opt for something which will funnel you into that role accordingly; Psychology for aspiring psychologists, an Education degree for potential teachers…you get the picture. Check out the government’s prospects website for more detailed guidance on matching your chosen course with a career.

Alternatively, if you’re perhaps slightly older, already working and are thinking about switching careers, why not opt for online education? There are plenty of internet-based course providers that offer everything from a confidence-building Access Course, right up to an online masters in education from a reputable university for anyone wanting to retrain as a teacher

PROPERLY PLAN YOUR TIME

Time management, in terms of study and downtime, is one of the essential skills learnt and perfected at college and university. The key, of course, is finding that happy medium. Don’t fall into the trap of spending every minute of your day tied to your textbooks; work smarter, not harder, we think.

Great time management, in essence, comes down to advance planning and scheduling ahead, whether that means dedicating a set time every week to doing laundry or batch cooking to making sure you’ve got enough coffee in to see you through the week without several trips to Costa (other cafe merchants are available) – especially during those late night study sessions! There are some brilliant digital apps that make organising and planning your time a breeze; Asana is great for planning work and projects, scheduling tasks and is especially useful for groups and teams, while Evernote helps you prioritise your to-do lists and makes sure you don’t forget the most important things.

EAT A BALANCED DIET

If you’re not fuelling your body with the correct foods, you’re not going to function as well as you should, meaning a less efficient, time effective input into your study and ultimately, worse results. Although it can be tempting to reach for the convenient, at hand sugary snacks and fast food to keep you going at those busy times, it’s brain food you should really be eating. Make sure you eat a varied diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and consider oily fish for that improved brain function. Add in some of those wonderful superfoods such as avocados, berries, quinoa, chia seeds and dark, leafy greens for an extra boost, and consider adding supplements to your diet for a real power hit, and your body (and mind) will be a well primed, perfectly honed studying machine.

GET ENOUGH SLEEP

Late-night study sessions and early lectures are a regular part of life at university or college, but it goes without saying that you won’t be able to function if you’re not getting a nightly dose of those magic eight hours. It can be tempting to burn the candle at both ends, but a lack of sleep will ruin your concentration, impair your memory and deplete your confidence, meaning retaining information learnt in lectures will be tougher. Don’t make things difficult for yourself unnecessarily; to get the best quality sleep possible, avoid caffeine and other stimulants late in the day, give heavy boozing sessions a miss and try to limit any daytime naps. Of course, as with most things in life, an everything in moderation approach should do you fine.

Making sure your bedroom is comfortable and relaxing is also key. All too often, uni flats go south fast, but a dirty, anything goes environment isn’t conducive to a good sleep, and in turn, study. So, choose ultra-comfortable pillows and bedding, swap bright lights for gentle lamps and consider burning a lavender scented candle or an infuser. Your pre-bedtime routine is also important – try taking a relaxing bath or shower an hour before you want to nod off, indulge in some yoga or mindfulness meditation, read a good book and leave those electronic devices in another room.

MAKE YOUR DOWNTIME MEANINGFUL

Even at the busiest times, it’s incredibly important to fit in enough time to relax and unwind – battling stress is as common a part of studying as opening a textbook, and nothing helps to fight it more than allowing yourself time to switch off. Giving yourself some space from the books will allow your brain to recover and process information in the subconscious, meaning you’ll be able to perform far better when it comes to writing those essays and assignments. Exercise is a great way to unwind and relieves stress; join a dance class, play football with friends or even just head off into the woods to immerse yourself in nature – the key is to enjoy yourself and make sure you feel relaxed.

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