3 Tips for Reducing Feelings of Worry and Fear

It’s surprising how many hours we spend in a day worrying about concerns trivial in nature. These concerns range from getting to work on time when the roads are under construction, to failing to choose between soup and salad, to dying cold and alone, with no one around to hold your hand as you depart from this earth. If you’re anyone like me, your worries are of existential proportions: what if I’m still living with my parents when I’m forty years old? What if I never find true love? What if I’m diagnosed with a terminal disease tomorrow, and how will I cope with it? While such worries may or may not come true, ruminating on them certainly doesn’t help. Therefore, I have devised three tips in order of their importance that I believe are instrumental in reducing feelings of worry and fear, especially for those of us who are constantly apprehensive about an uncertain future.

Tip #1: Refrain from thinking in the subjunctive too much.

The subjunctive is a mood tense we use in language to describe doubts, demands, wishes, uncertainties, and desires. Two examples of subjunctive thoughts are “I don’t think I will ever be happy” and “I doubt that I will do well on this exam“. The first tip I would offer for reducing worry is to omit these types of thoughts from your mind by a considerable degree, as they are neither an accurate depiction nor reflection of reality and, like the fears and worries they precipitate, can be quite insidious if left unchecked. If you happen to notice a subjunctive thought passing through your mind, try to convert it into something more objective and less emotional. For example, you might be tempted to convert the thought, “I don’t think I will ever be happy” into “Everyone is equally capable of achieving happiness, and I am by no means an exception to this rule.”

Tip #2: Convince yourself that you have nothing to lose.

A couple of months ago, I conducted a little thought experiment by applying to Disc Replay and seeing if I would get called in for an interview. I had no intention of leaving my current job to work at a place where I would get paid $4 fewer, but I wanted to see if my 5+ years of experience in working retail and one-year-long experience of running a personal blog would increase my chances of landing a job interview, regardless of the institution I applied to. Not surprisingly, Disc Replay called and asked if I could come in to answer a few questions. There were nine candidates up for a position—only one would get the job.

Once there, I was instructed to fill out a form while waiting my turn to be interviewed. On the form was a series of questions testing my proficiency in alphabetization and solving basic math problems. One question in particular asked me to calculate the difference left over from a transaction with a customer and add to it a 20 percent sales tax. Under normal circumstances, this question would have thrown me completely off guard, but in that moment I couldn’t care less about getting the answer right because I wasn’t going to accept the job anyway. I therefore guessed incorrectly on the question, turned in the form, and stepped up to the interview with total confidence. By virtue of that, it went smoothly.

The point I’m trying to make here is that you can function a lot more effectively in life when the stakes in the game aren’t just lowered, but nonexistent. If I had any semblance of emotional investment in landing the job, I would have worried about answering that math question incorrectly so much that I compromised the interview process, and projected auroras of inadequacy and ineptitude to the manager and guaranteed that he wouldn’t hire me. Think of this tip along the lines of approaching an attractive girl at a bar with hopes of getting rejected by her to win a bet that you made with your best friend: if she says no, you just won $100. If she says yes, you walk away with a phone number. It’s a win-win.

It turns out that faking it until you make it works.

Tip #3: Live by the mantra, “You are not your thoughts. Only your actions.”

Part of why people see suicide as a viable option is because they’ve listened to that little voice inside their heads that constantly tells them they’re no good, and heeded its criticisms. Understand that all that voice consists of is transient and relatively insignificant thoughts—some conducive to survival and others not so much—and that the only way those thoughts will ever have any basis in reality is by acting upon them. Of course, you can tell yourself that you’re no good all you want, but so long as you strive to be any good, those thoughts of worthlessness, dejection, and self-hate will remain but a fictional story you tell yourself congruent with negative past experiences and attuned to your biases.

And there you have it—three tips for reducing fear and worry. Do you think any of them will prove useful in cleaning up the anxious mess that you are?

7 Study Habits That Guarantee Perfect Grades

Who else is familiar with that feeling of skimming through the first few questions on a daunting exam, and having no idea what any of the answers are?

That feeling is marked by a great deal of stress. And the practice of test-taking is, in itself, a great source of stress in the lives of myself and so many other college students right now. Therefore, I have outlined 7 study habits (in order of importance) with the aim of achieving perfect grades and ultimately reducing stress levels. Where to begin?

Habit 1: Write a to-do list every day.

The first habit that you need to start getting into if you want to succeed in school is prioritization. Write down everything that you need to do for the day on a sticky note or whiteboard. This helps to provide you with a sense of focus and structure.

Habit 2: Don’t cram.

That’s right, don’t cram. It’s futile and never works, so always begin studying days and weeks in advance.

Habit 3: Remove distractions.

If I failed a test, I’d be lying to myself if I said that I studied “as much as I could.” Really, that’s a simple rationalization for how much I didn’t study.

99 times out of 100, the reason you perform poorly on an exam has nothing to do with the difficulty level of the class, the professor who teaches the class, or even your own work ethic. The main culprit in this scenario is the level of distractibility at the time you were attempting to study for the recently-failed exam.

Distractions are the biggest problems you face in school because they consume large portions of time that could otherwise be spent growing your knowledge. For instance, you could be intensely focused on rereading a chapter in your Anthropology textbook, but all of a sudden you’re notified of a new video in your subscription feed on YouTube. And there goes 15 precious minutes of your day.

To maximize your chances of academic success, you need to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Avoid social media and TURN OFF your phone. If you feel the need to take breaks, do so intermittently.

Habit 4: Don’t study passively. Study ACTIVELY.

This habit is essential if you want to achieve perfect grades. While studying, you need to extract meaning from the material, utilizing as many brain areas as possible that are involved in both memory and cognition. You cannot, for example, passively flip a few flashcards and expect to fully memorize all of the terminology. Real memorization requires a key understanding of the terminology rather than just a familiarity with it. Recall, don’t recognize.

Habit 5: Compose your own exam questions WITH examples.

So how do you “study actively” if you can’t just sit back and flip flashcards? In this college student’s humble opinion, the best method of active studying is to compose test questions that you believe are the most likely to appear on an exam, answer each of them in your own words, and provide them with examples. Rather than just copy definitions straight from the textbook, put your own spin on the terminology while also gathering information from alternative resources such as YouTube, a tutor, and your professor.

Habit 6: Take it one step at a time.

The RAM of a computer is not without its limits. When it’s trying to run too many programs at once, the CPU starts slowing down and sometimes stops working altogether. Your brain functions in the same way.

When you have five upcoming exams in the same week, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. However, if you spend too much time worrying about everything that you need to get done, you risk getting absolutely nothing done. I know firsthand what that’s like. I would look at my to-do list for the day and think there was no conceivable chance that I could get everything done in time. I would become stressed about not studying enough, and as a result not study at all.

The main takeaway from this habit is not to fall prey to ‘analysis paralysis,’ a state-of-mind characterized by the persistent need to overthink. Sufferers of analysis paralysis fixate on what ostensibly can and cannot go wrong, and they’ll think about a problem so much that they miss the opportunity solve it. By now you can probably understand why this manner of thinking isn’t conducive to academic success: if you try to do too much at once, you won’t get nearly enough done in the long run. So take it one step at a time.

Habit 7: Believe in yourself.

This seventh habit might sound cliché, but it’s so very true: have faith in yourself. Research indicates that when students believe they are going to fail their upcoming exams, they do exactly that. They fail. It all comes back to the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy in that our expectations of future events are what cause them to manifest in reality. For example, if Sandra believes that her upcoming chemistry exam will be impossible to pass, she might not even bother studying for it. Why should she? She’s going to fail it anyway.

So what does Sandra do? She doesn’t study, and thus she fails the exam. However, if she convinced herself that she was more than capable of passing the exam, she might have been motivated to make an effort, brushing up on old material, reviewing concepts, and increasing her chances of getting a better grade. Therefore, 99.99% of the battle ISN’T studying to get the A, but rather BELIEVING that you’ve already got the A. Furthermore, even if you study vigorously and don’t receive the grade that you wanted, you can at least take comfort in knowing that you didn’t just give up on the off chance that you might have failed.

Side notes:

– Refrain from using Adderall or other high-powered stimulants to study. As much of an added boost that stimulant drugs can provide, the risks for dependency and addiction aren’t worth it.

– Get a good night’s rest after a long study session, as it helps your brain sort through newly learned material and facilitates the formation of long-term memories. In addition, avoid drinking booze before bed. Alcohol decreases the quality of deep sleep and thus disrupts the learning process.

– Failed a test? Too bad… try again next time!

– Understand that your test-taking abilities do not reflect who you are as a person. You have much more to show for yourself than a few letter grades.

And that’s it—the 7 habits for academic success. Do you practice any of these habits?