How do I study while I’ve got so many things upsetting me?

I’ve got exams coming up and I’m trying to study, but it’s just not working. My ex has started dating someone else and I had a big fight with my best friend, so every time I try to do some work my mind wanders and I get upset. I watch T.V. and eat instead, but then I feel worse ‘cause I’m behind in study and I’m eating way too much. I want to try to deal with what’s going on but I can’t afford to do badly on my exams! How can I manage all of this at once?

That sounds like a lot of stuff going on for you at the moment. It’s great that you’ve asked as it’s a common problem for a lot of students – unfortunately life doesn’t stop when exam time starts!
Firstly, it’s very normal to start using food and T.V. as a comfort and distraction. When things get hard we often try to give ourselves a break by avoiding them, but this tends to make things worse in the long run. It’s still important to look after and comfort yourself, but it’s good to do this in a way that doesn’t compromise your study. Make sure you are scheduling regular short breaks into your study routine, and then try to do something that will really improve your mood. Try to recognise when you’re eating for comfort instead of hunger and instead go for a walk outside, listen to some music or catch up with a good friend. Check out our website for some tips on healthy ways to improve your wellbeing.

Maintaining concentration while studying can be a challenge at the best of times. Make sure you’re not just sitting and reading notes, as this makes it easier to lose focus. Instead, write out notes, test yourself, or do practice exams. These strategies will make it easier to recognise when your mind has started wandering and will help to re-direct your attention. Studying with others may be a good way to keep focused and motivated. Some useful tips from Academic Skills about revising for exams can be found here. Concentration can also be enhanced through regular mindfulness practice. Some further information about mindfulness can be found here.

Finally, relationship difficulties are always hard, and often seem harder when you’re stressed about study as well. Sometimes it’s just about giving yourself time, but if you continue to feel overwhelmed and feel like you’d benefit from talking to someone about this in more detail, individual counselling is available at CAPS.


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