6 ways to harness your introvert advantage

Reading Time: 7 minutes How your inner introvert can help you through these six common college scenarios

School vs. life: Expert tips on setting (and defending) your boundaries

Reading Time: 4 minutes Juggling full-time school and full-time life? Here’s what to do when you’ve got a little too much on your plate.

8 strategies to get you out of a studying rut

Reading Time: 6 minutes How to develop a study plan that involves techniques best suited to individual learning styles.

How to help students manage their friendships

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College friendships aren’t confined to students’ lives on the weekends—they’re a key part of ensuring student health and success on campus. “Healthy friendships are important at every age,” says Dr. Marjorie Hogan, a board-certified pediatrician in adolescent medicine in Minnesota. “Strong friendships lead to positive mental and emotional health, providing acceptance, mutual affection, trust, respect, and fun.”

Social bonds can have a profound effect on students’ health and longevity. A 2010 review of studies found that those who have few friends or low-quality friendships are more likely to die early or develop serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and even cancer. On the other hand, healthy social ties appear to boost the immune system, improve mental health, and lower stress.

Aside from the health benefits, fostering healthy social relationships helps promote student success beyond college. “People are going to be more successful in life if they’re developed emotionally and not just academically and professionally,” says Dr. Ellen Jacobs, an adolescent and adult psychologist in New York. “Universities should think of themselves as trying to develop a whole person—it’s not just about developing academics but also emotional intelligence.”

College can be a particularly challenging time period for developing healthy friendships. “There’s a lot of stress in college, and it can come out in relationships,” Dr. Jacobs says. Meanwhile, college students are still developing their definitions of healthy social bonds—and skills at building them. “It’s a developmental milestone in college to really fine-tune the kind of relationships you want to have in your life,” she says.

To help support healthy relationships among students:

  • Make relationships a topic included in campus health and wellness programming.
  • Have campus experts write blogs or share thought leadership about the importance of having personal relationships.
  • Focus on creating a positive community on campus.
  • Create explicit conflict-resolution guidelines and procedures for disputes on campus using peer mediators.
  • Make sure student counseling sessions are available to address a variety of interpersonal issues—not just anxiety and depression.
[school_resource sh101resources=’no’ category=’counselingservices,residentlife,studentlife,studentlife’]GET HELP OR FIND OUT MORE Article sources

Ian Connole, sport psychology consultant, Waynesburg University, Pennsylvania.

Marjorie Hogan, MD, pediatrician, University of Minnesota.

Ellen Jacobs, PhD, adolescent and adult psychologist, New York, New York.

Teresa Wallace, director of counseling and psychoeducational services, Casper College, Wyoming.

Hefner, J., & Eisenberg, D. (2009). Social support and mental health among college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79(4), 491–499.

Umberson, D., & Karas Montez, J. (2010). Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51, S54–S66. doi: 10.1177/0022146510383501

How to set your students up for studying success

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The majority of students retain information most effectively when blending a few different study methods. But setting students up for studying success begins before they get to the library.

Be up front

“Complete transparency about what it takes to study and retain the material is key,” says Amy Baldwin, director of the Department of Student Transitions at the University of Central Arkansas. “Letting students know that up front can be really impactful.”

  • When you announce tests or exams, consider including an estimate of how far in advance students should start studying to do well.
  • Have a successful former student talk to the class about how much time they dedicated to studying and what study tools they used.

Emphasize the “why”

Many students get a boost from knowing the “why,” or purpose, of material they’re being taught. “It’s very easy to dismiss something that doesn’t feel interesting or relevant,” Baldwin says. When material might not be directly relevant for their major, emphasize how the problem-solving or creative thinking skills they’re developing will help them later in life. “Learning to learn is a useful skill everyone can walk away with,” says Baldwin.

Champion study resources

Finally, do your part to normalize the use of outside help such as tutors and campus study centers. “Smart students go to tutoring—it’s not just for students who are struggling,” says Baldwin.

Here are some helpful tips

  • Provide practice tests: These are a tangible way to help students stay on track.
  • Encourage students to color-code materials to aid memorization.
  • Come up with acronyms for lists students need to memorize.
  • Create a concept sheet with key words, diagrams, and charts to summarize the material for each unit.
  • Assign/encourage study groups.
  • Record lectures and post them online for students to review.
  • Break any study materials down into small sections to help students space out their studying.
  • Encourage students to review lecture notes and add their own reflections or questions after class.

With some creativity, your students’ studying can be more effective and even enjoyable.

[school_resource sh101resources=’no’ category=’studentservices,academicsupport’]Get help or find out more [survey_plugin] Article sources

Amy Baldwin, director of the Department of Student Transitions, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas.

Dr. Damien Clement, assistant professor of sport and exercise psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Carlson, S. (2005). The net generation goes to college. Chronicle of Higher Education, 52(1), 1–7. Retrieved from https://chronicle.com/article/The-Net-Generation-Goes-to/12307

Gurung, R. A. (2005). How do students really study (and does it matter)? Education, 39, 323–340. Retrieved from https://02c44f4.netsolhost.com/ebooks/tips2011/I-05-04Gurung2005.pdf

Komarraju, M., Karau, S. J., Schmeck, R. R., & Avdic, A. (2011). The big five personality traits, learning styles, and academic achievement. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(4), 472–477. Retrieved from https://ac.els-cdn.com/S0191886911002194/1-s2.0-S0191886911002194-main.pdf?_tid=1cc52fea-0920-11e3-8138-00000aab0f01&acdnat=1376952107_d8d9f6534a777cd4b523196c3175c933

Karpicke, J. D. (2012). Retrieval-based learning: Active retrieval promotes meaningful learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(3), 157–163. Retrieved from https://learninglab.psych.purdue.edu/downloads/2012_Karpicke_CDPS.pdf

Kornell, N. (2009). Optimising learning using flashcards: Spacing is more effective than cramming. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1297–1317. Retrieved from https://web.williams.edu/Psychology/Faculty/Kornell/Publications/Kornell.2009b.pdf

Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. Random House: New York.

How to remember what you learn

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Anyone who has taken an exam has likely reached into their memory for that moment when the professor explained a crucial point, and found…nothing. That stuff isn’t necessarily there when we need it. But a recent study offers a simple way to avoid this. Briefly replaying a memory in our heads or describing it out loud can fix it in our minds and enable us to recall it later, researchers showed.

Memories can be lost unless they are consolidated, or “fixed,” in the mind. In the study, participants watched 26 video clips, each lasting 40 seconds. For 20 of the clips, participants replayed it in their minds or put it into their own words (again, for 40 seconds). Two weeks later, their ability to recall details in those clips was impressive. But the six videos they did not “rehearse” were largely forgotten, according to the Journal of Neuroscience (2015).

Light Bulb

What this means for students

The technique is a valuable learning strategy for students, say the researchers. “The bottom line is that you can’t just assume that you will remember something because you were attending to it,” says Dr. Chris Bird, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex, who led the study. “A period of quiet rehearsal by yourself, or alternatively talking through the content with another person, will help ‘fix’ the memory.” Writing it down is also effective. This strategy can be useful in any situation that requires accurate recall; for example, after witnessing an accident or crime.

Exclaimation Point

Caution

Don’t expect 40 seconds of mental review to consolidate your memory of a full lecture. “There was nothing special about 40 seconds of rehearsal. This was simply how long the clips we showed lasted, so we wanted people to have long enough to ‘replay’ the clips to themselves,” says Dr. Bird. “If your lecture lasted an hour, you are going to need a lot longer to rehearse the content.” Or pick out the most salient points and review them as you walk to the dining hall or take a shower.

This type of rehearsing has additional benefits. “In the context of a lecture, it will also help you identify the things you didn’t quite understand first time around, so that you can look them up,” says Dr. Bird.

Brain

What’s going on in the brain

When our brain lays down a new memory, a region called the posterior cingulate is active. When we revisit that memory, the same brain region activates again. In this study, researchers scanned the participants’ brains. The more their brain activity synced when watching the videos and rehearsing the memories, the more they were able to recall later.

The study was a collaboration between the University of Sussex and University College London, UK.

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Are we best friends for life (BFFLs) or frenemies?

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All relationships have their ups and downs, and it’s normal to have disagreements with friends on occasion. But if someone demands a lot of your energy or leaves you feeling bad about yourself, consider whether or not the friendship is worth it.

In a recent CampusWell survey, 60 percent of respondents said they’d experienced at least one toxic relationship. Twelve percent said they had been the toxic friend.

“When I was the instigator, it wasn’t intentional. I often wouldn’t realize how controlling I was being. I try to stay more aware of my choices now,” says a third-year undergraduate from the University of Wyoming, Laramie.

If you run into conflict, try talking to your friend honestly and openly about what’s bothering you. Use “I” statements, as in, “I’ve been feeling I need a little bit of space.”

“It’s amazing how often the conflict or disagreement means less. The friendship means more,” says Ian Connole, director of sports psychology at Kansas State University.

Is your friendship healthy? Take this quiz. Answer yes or no to the following questions.

  1. Does my friend get angry if I don’t call/text back right away?
  2. Do I feel guilty if I don’t include this person in every activity?
  3. Does my friend make negative comments about my busy schedule?
  4. Does my friend make his/her schedule around my free time?
  5. Do I worry about this friend to the point of distraction?
  6. Do I find myself developing excuses to avoid my friend?
  7. Do I lie to my friend about what I’m doing?
  8. Is my friend jealous of other people/things in my life?
  9. Do I get annoyed whenever this friend contacts me?
  10. Do I dread running into this friend?
  11. Does my friend try to get involved in everything I’m doing?
  12. Does this relationship make me feel exhausted or bad about myself?
  • If you answered No to most questions, your friendship sounds OK. Talk about the rough spots.
  • If you had about the same number of Yes and No, some aspects of your connection aren’t working for you. Sounds like you’re overdue for a friendship intervention (an inter-friend-tion).
  • If you answered Yes to most questions, talk to a neutral third party (someone you trust). It might be time to end the relationship.
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Capture your calm: 8 small steps to stress less

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The semester is coming to an end, and that usually means finals, projects, and papers. Feeling under pressure? For most of us, dodging our responsibilities is not an option, but we can make a conscious decision to manage our stress. Quick, simple actions can have valuable benefits. Aim to incorporate at least one of these into your day, every day. Try out the options to find what works for you.

1. Spend time outdoors

Combine exercise with time outdoors and what do you get? “Green exercise.” Practice yoga in the quad or jog around the reservoir and reap double rewards—and potentially double stress reduction.

  • Evidence Exercising in natural environments is associated with lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, and improved mood, according to a 2005 study in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research.
  • Expert view “Being outside can serve as a distraction and pleasant escape from the stresses of life.”
    —Dr. Sofia Anagnos, The Jackson Clinics in Fairfax, Virginia
  • Student story “Going outdoors and sitting in nature, at the creek near our campus, really helped me alleviate stress.”
    —Andy K., second-year student at the University of Delaware in Newark.
  • Considerations Dress for the elements. Don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray. Or maybe snowshoes.

2. Massage the stress away

Back rubs and shoulder massages are big hits with students. If this delightful service is not available on your campus, improvise with roommates or an intimate partner. Here’s how.

  • Program Some schools offer massage through the health or fitness center. Also check out your campus for Stressbusters, a program that trains students to give free five-minute back rubs and provides wellness resources. Learn more.
  • Improvise “Gently rolling your feet on a small hard ball or frozen water bottle can help relax tense muscles and soothe those sore feet.”
    —Dr. Sofia Anagnos, Jackson Clinics, Fairfax, Virginia.
  • Other tools Use a tennis or lacrosse ball to roll over tight muscles, or look for foam rollers at your school’s fitness center. Need a demonstration?
  • Student story Students who participated in the Stressbusters program reported a 39 percent reduction in overall stress scores, according to an internal study (2012).

3. Practice mindful relaxation

Mindful meditation involves only one thing—being in the moment. You can do it in most places.

  • Technique Focus on your breathing. Breathe in for three seconds, then release the breath for three seconds. This can help reduce hard-hitting stress almost instantly. When your mind drifts, gently bring it back to the present.
  • Student story “I do yoga when I’m stressed out. It’s so calming. I don’t bring my phone, and I try not to think about school or anything else while I’m doing it.”
    —Melissa S., third-year student at Ohio University in Athens.
  • Considerations Listen to a guided relaxation. Find a 5—10 minute audio online—perfect for study breaks during finals.

Free apps

  • Headspace Guided relaxation to help focus, relieve stress, and improve sleep
  • Omvana Customizable relaxation sessions with sounds, noises, and even quotes that calm and inspire you
  • Take a Break! Reminds you to take breaks in your busy day: two meditation sessions of 7—13 minutes

Low-cost apps

  • Simply Being (~$.99) Guided relaxation and reduced mental distractions
  • The Mindfulness App (~$1.99) Includes guided meditation sessions of 3—30 minutes
  • Mindfulness Meditation (~$1.99) Welcomes beginners to basic meditation: An eight-week program of 5–40 minute sessions

4. Random acts of kindness

Did you know that random acts of kindness can not only make someone else’s day, but can make you happy, too? Try it, and see if it works for you.

  • Lasting good vibes: Community service in college is associated with increased well-being into adulthood, according to a 2010 study.
  • More evidence: Expressing gratitude and kindness toward others makes us happier, according to the Journal of Happiness Studies (2006).
  • Student story: “Although I work two jobs, go to school, and take care of my three-year-old, volunteering actually does leave a really good vibe. Even doing something once a month makes a difference.”
    —Jasmin M., Ashford University
  • Expert view: “Almost any acts of kindness boost happiness.”
    —Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project (Harper Collins, 2011.)
  • Considerations: Hold the door open, carry groceries, offer directions, give a genuine compliment, or provide free tutoring. Try using a charitable search engine—pick a charity, and each time you search, money goes to the charity of your choice.

The student guide to quick-and-easy random acts of kindness

  • “I like to make a healthy dinner for someone who is having a hard time or a stressful day.”
    —Alissa K., North Idaho College, Coeur d’Alene
  • “I have walked up to a number of people [tourists] to help them find where they are and where they need to go.”
    —Kevin C., California State University, Channel Islands
  • “I’ve paid $5 in tolls for however many people behind me. It’s a blast if they catch up to me and wave. Even if they don’t, I have a happy secret because they don’t know it was me.”  
    —Jane B., Cape Cod Community College, West Barnstable, Massachusetts
  • “Simply letting people know you are there, or texting people you don’t normally talk to, or strangers, and letting them know you care about them. The littlest things can mean the most”.
    —Johnathan J., Fitchburg State University, Massachusetts
  • “My favorite act of kindness is creating and sending cards to children with cancer.”
    —Vanessa P., Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, New York

Students Outdoors Playing Chess

5. If-then planning

When you schedule a task, treating it as an important part of your day, you’re more likely to accomplish your goal. Simply insert a time and action on your to-do list (e.g., If it’s Tuesday at 6 p.m., then I’ll be studying at the library for my exam).

  • Evidence To-do lists can sometimes seem insurmountable. They become far more useful when you add an if-then statement that anticipates when and where you’ll address a task, according to multiple studies.
  • Examples
    If I haven’t finished my paper by noon, then I will make it my top priority after lunch.
    If it is 3 p.m., then I’ll go pick up my prescription.
    If it is Wednesday evening, then I’ll go out for a run.
    If it’s Sunday at 6 p.m., then I’ll check in with my parents.
  • Tools  Sticky notes, planners, whiteboards, and multiple calendars for daily, weekly, and long-term goals and deadlines.

6. Write it down

You’ve probably heard that writing can help relieve stress. The specific approach matters.

  • Expert view “Focus on the process of achieving a desired outcome or the causes of a stressful event.”
    —Dr. Timothy D. Wilson, author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change (Little, Brown & Company, 2011).
  • Student story  “Don’t think; just let the pen guide itself. You will be amazed at what comes out. Problems are solved; issues and burdens are lifted.”
    —Jane B., Cape Cod Community College, West Barnstable, Massachusetts
  • Exercises
    • Pennebaker Writing: (Time: 15+ minutes, 3—4 consecutive days.) Write about a problem you’re experiencing.
    • Best Possible Selves: (Time: Four consecutive nights.)
      Pretend to be Future You, and write about your life—not the outcome (e.g., your dream job) but how you got there (e.g., doing an internship, going to graduate school).
    • George Bailey Technique: (Time: Indefinite.) Write about all the ways a good thing in your life might not have occurred (e.g., you wouldn’t have met your best friend if you went to a different college).

Writing techniques and prompts

7. Put on some beats

Music you love or that makes you get moving provides immediate stress relief. Don’t hold back from singing along.

  • Evidence Uplifting music can improve well-being and liveliness, reduce stress-related hormones, and alleviate feelings of depression, according to a 2003 study in the Journal of Music Therapy.
  • Student story  In a recent CampusWell survey, almost 70 percent of respondents identified listening to certain songs or music as a quick fix strategy for coping with stress.
  • Considerations Mix up your music with ideas from Pandora or Spotify, dig into iTunes, or ask some friends if you can take a look at their music library.

Do you have a favorite beat that lifts your mood?

Students’ recommendations:

Songs

  • “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves
  • “Roar” by Katy Perry
  • “Pocket of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield
  • “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles
  • “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
  • “You Make my Dreams come True” by Hall & Oates
  • “One for the Money” by Escape the Fate
  • “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire
  • “Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody) Lightsaber Duel” by The Piano Guys

Genres & artists

  • Chevelle
  • Buddy Holly
  • 50‘s rock, doo-wop
  • The Coasters
  • Frank Sinatra Pandora station
  • Gospel music

Thanks to our student contributors: Maureen S., Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey; Ilene H., Park University, Parkville, Missouri; Ryan S., University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Freeman C., Ridgewater College, Willmar, Minnesota; Sarah O., South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City; Jenna H., University of Wisconsin, Green Bay; Tammie G., Alverno College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Michael K., University of California, Los Angeles; Hannah S., Austin Community College, Texas; Monica S., Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford.

8. Fun and games

Not getting enough play time? Games alone or with friends can offer a break from stress or a task while keeping your mind sharp. Laughter helps ease the angst, too.

During finals and other intense times, quick games can help relieve stress and provide immediate entertainment. Try these alone or with friends. If you’re at risk of compulsive gaming, though, wait until the semester’s over.

  • Student story “Playing mind-stimulating games and puzzles that involve thinking and logic help me de-stress.”
    —Brooklyn N., Wake Technical Community College, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Try these
    • Apps such as Heads Up or Words With Friends
    • Game night: deck of cards, trivia, Apples to Apples, Boggle, or Bananagrams
    • Sudoku or crossword puzzles
    • Funny story games like Consequences or Mad Libs
    • Classic board games

Card games War, Speed, Go Fish, bridge, Rummy, poker, Black Jack
“Speed is a card game that can provide a lot of excitement in less than a minute. And you can play it with a friend so two people lose stress!”
—Emily D., University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire

Do-it-yourself toys
Assemble a small hoop and shoot balled-up paper for instant mini-basketball

“My roommate and I love to empty our ice trays by throwing the cubes in the sink from a distance. Bonus points for trick shots (landing in a glass, hitting potted plants, etc.). Just make sure to refill them when you’re done or you might
ruin other people’s beverage plans!”
—Thomas W., Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, Canada

Active video games
Games for Nintendo Wii including Zumba Fitness and Wii Sports

“I play Wii Sports like boxing and bowling. Both are a great way to have fun and reduce stress. I plan on trying Wii Fit Plus very soon.”
—Stacy Z., Wake Technical Community College, Raleigh, North Carolina

Creative building computer games Roller Coaster Tycoon, The Sims, or Minecraft.
“Designing a world, house, cave, etc. [in Minecraft] lowers my stress stemming from the very rigid schedule
of my coursework.”
—Jason S., Suffolk University Law School, Boston, Massachusetts

Smart phone/tablet quick games Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and Quiz Up
“I like playing Words With Friends and What’s That Phrase.”
—Vanessa J., Ashford University

Other ways you can ease stress

Capture your calm


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