We’ve all been there. You finally sit down to study for that big test, but you can barely think. Your head gets fuzzy and your shoulders tighten up. You’re looking over your notes and course materials, but once you get to the end of the page, you realize you don’t remember what you just read. Study stress and anxiety are two very real things. At times, they can seem impossible to overcome.
But fear not! To help you put your worries to bed, we at The University Network (TUN) reached out to some study and education influencers on Instagram. Their advice, listed below, can help you, once and for all, get rid of these crippling feelings.
- Instagram handle: @studyquill
- Location: USA
Jasmine, a graduating high school senior, is heading to UCLA in the fall to kick off her college career. Despite being an incoming freshman, Jasmine already has studying down to a science, which is clear if you check out her Instagram and YouTube, both called studyquill. On Instagram, her images, which are neat and aesthetically pleasing, highlight her skillful and organized bullet journaling and note-taking techniques. Underneath those images are bright, engaging and informative captions.
Jasmine alleviates some of the stress and anxiety attached to studying by altering the way she views assignments. If she has 100 math problems to do, for example, she thinks of it in terms of the time it will take her, rather than the total number of problems she has to complete.
“Telling myself I only have to work on this assignment for the next hour, it feels a lot less stressful,” says Jasmine. “A math problem set usually takes me an hour to complete. So it feels more manageable when I put it in terms of the hours required for the work rather than the literal, I have 100 questions to do.”
Another thing Jasmine likes to do is play relaxing music in the background while she’s studying. She typically sticks to low-fi hip hop. Classical music, she says, is a little too intense for her.
- Instagram handle: @kuroristudies
- Location: USA
By the looks of her Instagram posts, Kuro, an aspiring medical researcher and current college student in the United States, could seemingly teach a course in calligraphy. Making her notes pretty, she says, is her way to make studying a bit more entertaining. If you look next to those notes, you’ll likely see the pens she wrote them with. Through her captions, which are typically only one or two sentences long, she often gives you a brief glimpse into her personality and interests.
Kuro is an expert studier, but even she admits to struggling with study stress on a daily basis. Her best piece of advice, she says, is to do anything you can to make studying seem like less of a chore. Kuro, personally, does that by spending time to make her notes bright and enjoyable to look at.
She also notes that it is important to take a positive, not competitive, approach to school.
“The less you view being a student as a competition and the more you see it as a way to learn and grow, the less stressed you will be. It’s truly about being the best you, not being the best in your class,” Kuro says.
- Instagram handle: @unjadedjade
- Location: USA
Jade, a self-described UK gal attending college in San Francisco, takes a refreshing, positive approach to life, which is evident through the photos, typically selfies, she posts to Instagram. Her captions, which are often paragraphs-long, exhibit her true personality. She’ll regularly offer a glimpse into her own life and thoughts, along with some reassuring advice and the occasional engaging question.
Like most college students, Jade admits to still getting stressed out or anxious about her studies from time to time.
“When studying is attached to grades, and those grades determine opportunities in life, it’s natural to feel stressed,” says Jade. “It just means we care.”
But she’s developed effective ways to manage those feelings.
“Some things that have helped me are meditation, yoga and mindfulness,” says Jade. “If I’m studying and begin to feel that gut-feeling anxiety, I’ll take a break and put on a guided meditation, focusing on my breathing. This clears my head, reminds me what is important in life and allows me to focus better.”
- Instagram handle: @megansstudies
- Location: USA
Megan, a pre-med student at the University of Texas at Austin, takes a positive, uplifting approach to studying. Next to the laptop and notebooks that she often features on her Instagram images sits the occasional drink, snack or even stuffed animal. Her captions, which are often long enough to be considered blog posts, are engaging, encouraging and informative.
From Megan’s perspective, the biggest way to minimize the stress and anxiety attached to studying is to start early!
“Don’t cram the night before, because if you run into something that you don’t understand, then you will not be able to get the help that you need,” says Megan.
And when you start early, she says, take some type of diagnostic test or try to answer a few questions that may be on the test. That way, you’ll get an idea of what you need to improve on for your exam.
From there, she says, you can write down the questions that you have about the concept or topic and ask your professor, TA or teacher to clarify for you.
“This method has helped me a lot, especially during COVID-19,” says Megan. “I usually forget the questions I have, so I have to type it up or write it down.”
Lastly, Megan says it’s important to figure out what type of learner you are, so you can improve your efficiency and make studying a less demanding process.
“You can be a kinesthetic, auditory, or visual learner, and there are lots of different study methods for each learning style,” says Megan. “For example, I am a visual learner so watching videos or drawing/looking at diagrams helps me the most.”
- Instagram handle: @esteebeestudies
- Location: UK
Esther, a pharmacy student in Norwich, UK, takes a formulaic approach to studying. The images she posts to Instagram often include four things: her laptops, a tablet, some paper to write on and her study partner, a little orange toy. Her captions are engaging and often pose questions like “What was your dream career when you were young?”
In order to feel confident and stress-free, Esther suggests taking a gradual approach to studying. Esther doesn’t wait until the last minute or even a week before an exam to start studying. Instead, she opts to review the material she’s learned every day after class. That way, her workload is light when exam time comes.
“I do the same for assignments, and it has always helped me to reduce the stress,” says Esther.
- Instagram handle: @yunnastudies
- Location: Canada
Yunna, a first-year university student, has seemingly found a home for herself in college. Her Instagram images, consisting of sideways notebooks and the occasional Starbucks coffee, are a refreshing reminder that effective, stress-and anxiety-free studying takes many shapes and forms.
In terms of minimizing the stress and anxiety attached to studying, Yunna is big on taking breaks.
- Instagram handle: @study.sarah
- Location: Australia
Sarah, a law and science student in Sydney, Australia, takes a calm, organized approach to studying. Her Instagram images are, quite literally, full of life. They often feature plants, both on her desk and through her window view to the outside. Occasionally, her study partner, a friendly black cat named Luna, will make an appearance. While her captions nearly always relate to studying, she tries to keep things light by posing engaging questions like “What’s your go-to brain food?”
For Sarah, the best way to eradicate stress and anxiety is by creating a dedicated and inviting workspace.
“I achieve this by having items on my desk that either make me feel happy or inspire me, and also by burning scented candles,” says Sarah. “It’s a place I want to be, and reminds me that whatever is stressing me about uni is really just a blip in my life.”
Sarah also says if you’re worried about an exam, it’s important to remember that your stress will only hinder your ability to take in and retain information.
“By stressing about it, you’re living the stress of the exam before the exam is even here,” she says. “Maintaining perspective also helps. Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve can always be reached through alternative pathways. Therefore failing this exam is not the end of the world, despite what you may think.”
- Instagram handle: @intellectys
- Location: Spain
Grace, a third-year college student studying history and Spanish, makes the most out of studying. By the looks of her Instagram, she turns what, for some, is a miserable process into something fun and bright. The images she posts are full of color and often feature a houseplant, one of which she recently named Milo. The captions she writes are personable and light. Occasionally, she’ll even include a book recommendation.
For Grace, the first key to minimizing the stress and anxiety attached to studying comes through organization.
“Breaking all my work down into more manageable chunks that I can plan on a calendar, add to my to-do list and then cross off makes it so much easier to tackle a task, like writing a major essay or studying for an exam, that looks daunting at first glance,” says Grace.
She also preaches the importance of taking breaks.
“I need to plan breaks into my study schedule or I get too involved in what I’m doing and forget to take a breather,” says Grace. “But keeping a healthy balance between studying and relaxing is really important to make sure you have time to destress and decompress.”
“A lot of people think that studying means sitting there for hours staring at a textbook, your notes or practice questions,” Grace says. “But that’s not how studying works. You have to take breaks in between. During these breaks you can do productive things like cleaning your room, going for a walk, exercise, etc.”
Study stress and anxiety are two very natural things. And to say you’ll never have to deal with them again would be a lie. But managing the stress and anxiety you feel while studying or preparing to study is completely realistic. Take the advice offered throughout this article, and you may not have to spend another night in the library with a stuffy head or tight shoulders.