College survival guide: overcoming academic stress

Almost all students report stress associated with going to college the first time or returning for continued education at a later stage of life. If you relate to one or more of the following stressors, you can transform learning into a less stressful and more successful experience.

Fear of failing (self-confidence issues)

Juggling multiple responsibilities (time management issues)

Unknown territory (adjustment issues)

Comforting neuroscience facts will put your mind at ease about stress and your ability to learn. The true cause of stress lies within your brain. It's about what you think about, and how you interpret and react to information. It's an inside game. The stress factor comes from your emotional reactions to your thoughts. Detach from the emotions that come from the negative thoughts and stress will disappear. Recognize that your negative emotions are not real, but manufactured. Also, your brain cannot distinguish between thoughts you imagine or from those you experience from external world phenomena. To your brain, "thoughts are thoughts." Emotions cannot hurt you unless you let them shut down your higher thinking brain (neocortex). You can access and trust your thinking brain to learn, implement time management strategies and adjust to unknown territory when detaching from negative emotions.

Your brain is naturally curious and hard wired to be a "lean, mean, learning machine." You have sensory and cognitive thinking hardware and software to take in information, retain knowledge, make decisions, solve problems and build life skills. Your brain has about 100 billion neurons, the building blocks for memory. Your potential is virtually infinite. Your brain acknowledges successful learning experiences by manufacturing feelings of victory, fulfillment and achievement. This is where endorphins are working for you rather than against you. This reward system further locks in knowledge retention and helps you maintain a cycle of continuous learning. Positive thoughts and emotions are the gateway to your higher thinking brain. You have the choice to think about positive or negative things; the decision should be obvious.

You can replace negative thinking about your academic journey by visualizing, writing and talking about the beneficial and positive outcomes you want to experience. Repetitive positive thoughts, images and affirmations create new and deep neuron pathways. When you think positively about positive outcomes, you will experience positive emotions and feelings. They perform as an internal GPS navigation system, guiding decisive and intelligent actions that create your desired outcomes. These new pathways displace imaginary stress-filled thoughts. Negative thoughts, feelings and emotions can fool you into thinking a threat is real when it isn't. These principles and methods are an expanded and practical expression of the Law of Attraction.

Understanding how your brain is wired and what makes you tick is priceless knowledge for academic and life success.

By Stephen Hager,

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