The semester has begun, and if you’re anything like me, you’re already drowning in assignments, due dates and deadlines. This time of year can be pretty stressful. Those of us who did summer semester are probably burned out; those of you who didn’t are probably shell-shocked at being back. But we’re here, and we have to do what we have to do to get by and get graduated.

I’ve come up with some guidelines for staying stress-free — or as close to stress-free as possible, anyway.

Rule 1: Learn to say no. 

Chances are, if you are a student, you’re not just a student. You may be a student and an employee, a business owner, a parent or a mentor. You may be stretched in all sorts of different directions, and it can be overwhelming.

On top of all of your responsibilities, someone may ask you to do a little extra. And maybe you say that yes, you’ll do it. Then, maybe someone else asks you to do a little extra. You say yes, that’s fine too. The cycle continues until you’re doing a lot of little extra tasks.

If you’re a people-pleaser like I am, it may be difficult to say no. You don’t want to let anyone down. You want to be helpful. But you have to know your limits, set them ahead of time, and then be confident and strong enough to say no when you are being stretched past your limits.

Rule 2: Set aside some time for yourself.  

Maybe you only have an extra hour per day, or maybe you only have an hour per week. Either way, take that hour and make it yours. Do something that takes your mind off of your responsibilities. Do something that you truly enjoy.

Maybe your time is best spent doing something that helps you relax. Research suggests that meditation is a good way to increase creativity, improve overall health and gain perspective.

A study conducted by a computer scientist at the University of Washington and a neuroscientist at the University of Arizona tested the effectiveness of mindful meditation to control stress in a distracting environment and found that those who participated in mindful meditation training reported less stress as they performed a multitasking test in comparison with those who had no training.

Maybe meditation is not your thing. Maybe you prefer something that will get your heart pumping. Go on a jog or do some exercise. The point is, you have to do something healthy that gets your mind off of the things that stress you out.

Don’t just say you’ll do one thing every day or every week for yourself; actually schedule it. Put it into your calendar and do not cancel on yourself! You deserve it.

Life is meant to be lived, not just survived. If you are so busy that you aren’t taking time to do the things you truly enjoy, you are going to stress yourself right into a pit of misery. At that point, it won’t matter that you passed your exam or that you got a good grade on a project, because you are miserable regardless.

Rule 3: Let it go. 

If you are a perfectionist like me, a large amount of your stress comes from not meeting your own expectations.

Getting 90 percent rather than 100 percent on an assignment isn’t going to ruin your life. Missing a deadline on an assignment shouldn’t be the difference between your happiness and your misery.

This rule goes for other areas of your life as well. You don’t have to be the best at everything you do. If you do your best, that should be enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never settle for mediocrity. I’ll always do everything in my power to make something work the way I want it to. But that doesn’t mean it will always go my way.

Accept your failures and celebrate your successes. If something doesn’t go your way, let it go.

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