Learning new skills is always exciting as you challenge yourself, broaden your mind and raise the bar.
Even though it's something you have always wanted to do, it's still hard for your mind to come to terms with new changes in lifestyle, for instance, rather than spending an hour watching your favourite TV show - watch a lecture instead. How much criticism and introspection you'll have to endure! Especially if you accidentally fail the test, don't understand the new material, or aren't able to meet the deadlines. Additionally, passing the course brings a flurry of new information, and in massive amounts. How do you make sure that study gives you only knowledge, and not fatigue or a reason to hate your new field of activity?
There are several signs that your stress levels are hitting the floor, and you need to change your approach to learning immediately:
- Constant fatigue. You sleep for at least 7-8 hours, but you still get up in the morning feeling like you have not slept and your head is muddled accidentally throwing a teaspoon in the bin instead of a tea bag.
- Anxiety insomnia. You fall asleep for an hour, tossing from side to side, wake up in the middle of the night, or you cannot turn off worrying thoughts in your mind even in your sleep, which makes your sleep restless and superficial.
- Frequent colds. With mental and psychological stress, the immune system always suffers first, so a stuffy nose, coughs, and even allergic reactions become your eternal companions.
- Difficulty concentrating. You can read the same paragraph several times and still not understand its meaning. You find it hard to keep the information, and the solution to the problem doesn't go away.
Even if you don't have any of these signs yet, it's still useful to know how to avoid overloading your mind, and at the same time your computer, where you probably spend 90% of your time.
Tip # 1. Turn studying into a habit
The most important thing is to fit your studies into a daily routine and stick to it. Do this for a month, until study turns into a ritual and a natural part of your life, not unlike brushing your teeth. Make a promise to yourself that you'll never deviate from the established rules. So for instance, if you decide to get up at 6 am and devote an hour to lectures before work, then don't make allowances for yourself. No "five more minutes!" A schedule is a schedule.
If possible, attempt to have your classes at the same time - so your brain will automatically focus on learning at certain hours. You don't have to spend time on proper preparation and "search for inspiration".
Tip # 2. Set your priorities
When you have a lot to do, every action needs to be carefully weighed against its effectiveness. Not everyone understands that for productive learning, you'll have to give up some old habits and, perhaps, even say " no " to certain people. However, not everybody has things that they're ready to exclude from their life, even at gunpoint. Make a list of these things, short of which you could not live a week without. These issues usually pop up when you don't have time for them, like, "what about my movie trips every Thursday now?"
Every one of us has our area of acceptable discomfort and the degree of sacrifice we are willing to make for our goal. You'll have to negotiate with yourself and find compromises. Try to do this in the form of dialogue with yourself, providing a convincing argument: "I'd rather give up going to the pub with friends on Fridays and devote this time to training, but I'll set aside two hours for a movie on Thursday."
Tip # 3. Eliminate all irritants
Our primary irritation is a messy workplace. Even if you call it "creative," it's worth giving it up at least for the duration of your studies. The more mess on your desk, the more it's in your head - try to clean up where you usually study and see the difference for yourself.
Other things that aggravate us are things we suffer daily, but consciously don't realise it. It could be, for instance, bad habits, circumstances, and the environment that we've come to terms with. For example, our noisy children, who we must deal with whilst doing our best to watch an online lecture. When we try not to be distracted by extraneous things, but they're always present, it drains our mental energy. However, we could spend it much more effectively, for instance, on mastering an additional lesson or on faster learning.
Make a list of all the irritants that you would love to throw away if you had the chance. If children are on the list, find someone to leave them with when you study. For example, call a childminder, or ask your husband or your parents to help. If you must put up with a neighbour who's always drilling something, find a quiet cafe or buy earplugs. Irritations can be exceedingly small, even insignificant at first sight - slow computer lagging, a clogged mailbox, stuffy room, and a lot more. All of this is also toxic and poisonous to you too, depriving you of the lion's share of strength.
Tip # 4. Don't try to do everything at once - learn consistently
If you've missed a few of your lessons recently due to a lack of time, don't burn the midnight oil staying up into the wee small hours and end up burning the candle at both ends. Make sure you get enough rest!
David Rock, the founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, recommends that you first study all the related topics because homogeneous information is far better absorbed than heterogeneous subject matter, so never jump from topic to topic! Learning should be completed sequentially. It's like building a house: it starts with a foundation, not a roof. Even if you think you don't have time, learn everything in linearly:
- I'll listen to the lecture.
- I'll master additional materials.
- I'll complete the next assignment.
- I'll move on to the next block.
And so on, in circles, until you finish the course and realise that you've mastered all the materials.
Tip # 5. Think of learning as a game, not as a threat to your authority
Anxiety and rejection are often the first reactions to new materials, tasks, and subjects. After all, nearly everyone is afraid to understand that they don't understand everything and can become completely confused. Although, with this mindset, you begin to cut off any activity at the root, until in the end, your desire to move forward stops and your potential creativity curls up into a ball of panic. Do you need this? Unlikely.
Neurologist Amy Arnsten had discovered that we could control the chemical reactions of our body ourselves. In psychology, this technique is called "reassessment": if you can't change the situation, you have to change your attitude towards it. This also works on the biological level. Thus, a state of excitement activates the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for motivation, determination and all that you need to learn. Including your state of fun, which is easy to evoke with humour and jokes, which stimulates the limbic system, that's, our "emotional brain", responsible for psychological stability.
In order not to treat learning as a race to survive while at the same time not to fear new discoveries, try to activate the prefrontal cortex as often as possible. Specifically, treat the course as a game where you can take first place (but what you do is optional).
Tip # 6. Prevent information overload
Perhaps, controlling incoming information is a challenging task when learning a new skill or area. It's usually the leading cause of stress. You open the door to a completely unknown world, and from there, an avalanche of terms, sites, trends, blogs, experts, books, and communities descend upon you. To avoid the desire to lock the door against it immediately, you just need to close it a little, leaving a small opening through which the information will come to you in small quantities.
Remember: if there's too much information, our brain will stop perceiving it. That's why you cannot go through all the blocks at once in only one day. Working this way means that knowledge will not be integrated into our thinking system but will be dismissed as an excess of information. Or even worse- overloads the brain so that it starts to slow down, like Windows XP.
To avoid this, write out the key points during the lessons. When recording the main points, be sure to mark next to what minutes the lecturer talked about them because that way you can always go back to the exact moment in the video and listen to everything again if something remains unclear. Also, close all unnecessary links, and those that you may need, just add them to your bookmarks.
Tip # 7. Don't forget to eat on time
Under stress, the brain can consume up to half the body's energy, so any intellectual activity consumes a lot of resources. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman revealed the relationship between motivation and blood glucose levels. During experiments, tired individuals who drank a glass of sweet lemonade energy levels recovered much faster and demonstrated endurance in solving complex problems. To restock your supply of glucose, you could eat fruit or a couple of pieces of chocolate. Moreover, it has the added benefit of being very tasty and gives you a boost!
Also, don't forget about drinking lots of liquid: on average, you will have to consume 2-3 litres of water a day. Even mild dehydration can lead to fatigue and headaches. If you are a coffee lover, then there's good news for you: 1-2 cups of cappuccino a day increase your metabolism and stimulate mental activity, but if you drink more, you could deplete your energy supply. Spices, especially cinnamon or chilli, will also be helpful - they activate the production of endorphins that cause joy.
Remember that snacking should be frequent, but not too satisfying. A three-course meal will only be harmful: digestion will cause a rush of blood to the stomach, and that, in turn, will make you feel sleepy and unfocused, making the mind feel sluggish.
Tip # 8. Give up multitasking
Surprisingly, multitasking is almost the first requirement in every job advertisement, but it wreaks havoc with productivity. It's better to concentrate on bite-sized chunks, from the English chunk, which means "piece". This cognitive technique is frequently used to teach Alzheimer's patients. It's nothing new: the information must be divided into chunks for better assimilation.
According to an AIS study, the main source of stress is the feeling of hopelessness from a huge number of cases, especially if they're displayed in the format of an endless list that could drive a person to extreme stress by its very appearance. It's best to abandon these lists altogether and divide cases into categories. For example, "work issues," "personal life," "health," and so on. Firstly, in this way, all the cases from the same category are perceived to be a single whole, and it's no longer possible to implement them with fear. Secondly, psychologically, categories inspire because they're smaller steps to achieve your goals. In other words, bite-sized chunks shift the focus from small trivial tasks to large-scale results in the future.
Let's say you need three teeth treated at the dentist, undergo a routine check-up, take health tests, and finally sign up for a fitness regime. By combining this into the category of "health", you'll turn these small steps and not very enjoyable activities in the hospital into your dream "to live for 100 years". In the same way, you can divide cases into the categories "home - away", "online - offline" or "weekdays - weekends".
David Rock went even further. He suggested dividing work by the nature of brain activity. For example, you could combine all project tasks into one category, and routine tasks like "buy printer paper "into another. This means that you can always switch from a difficult task to a simple one if you feel tired, and thus give your brain a well-deserved rest.
Tip # 9. Allow yourself to procrastinate sometimes
Individuals who are trying to learn new things and finish a course as soon as possible; it's hard to admit that laziness is another key to productivity. According to research by neuropsychiatrist Theo Compernolle, to be able to use all the abilities of our brain, you need to balance prefrontal cortex excitement. Yes, excitement stimulation will give you drive and purpose in solving problems, but after that, it has to be immediately eased down. Why do we have to do this?
Enabling the memory function of the brain is impossible without completely disconnecting from the outside world and absorbing information. That is, if you do not calm the prefrontal cortex after solving the problem, the knowledge and experience that you've gained in the process will not be assimilated or will replace the previous information. That's why you need to rest after any study.
There are several ways to calm the prefrontal cortex. The first of them is, so to speak, to pass the baton to other parts of the brain. For example, take a walk in the fresh air: in this case, the oxygen will saturate the motor area, and it will become the leading one. Or you can meditate, then the areas responsible for the perception of sensory information are activated. Whatever activity you choose, your brain will have time to process and archive the information that you extracted using the active prefrontal cortex.
You can feel for yourself when it's time to turn it off. For example, if after studying material, you're constantly distracted by something and cannot bring yourself to start the next block, it doesn't mean that you have problems with discipline. All it means is that it's time for your brain to shut down. Consider this a cycle of memorisation that must not be broken if you want to complete the course to bring you maximum and long-term results.
Sticking to these 9 tips is enough to forget about any emotional burnout from education permanently and doesn't take a substantial psychological effort to study the courses. If you still feel that stress is slowly creeping over you, and our recommendations shall not be enough, then say to yourself: "Clearly, it's all in your mind!" After all, the next obstacle is just another level in the exciting game of life! The simpler you feel about yourself and the world, the easier it is to achieve goals and overcome obstacles.