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Staying positive as you strive for success

Life can be challenging as a student. How do you adjust your perspective?

Papers, exams, group projects, readings, midterms, finals — the life of a college student can be full of responsibilities and stressors. Being a non-traditional college student can add additional layers — children to raise, jobs to keep, aging parents to assist. That’s a lot of pressure.

So how can a busy adult student keep the right perspective through it all, particularly during stressful periods?

Steven Starks, senior manager of career counseling programs & operations for University of Phoenix, has some suggestions — and they do not start with the imperative of staying “positive.” The key is to arm yourself with the tools necessary to make it through challenges.

He suggests students ask themselves this question – Is this a worthy struggle?

“If the answer is yes, then remember that it’s OK not to be OK at moments in time. Instead, you need to focus on building resilience through the challenge,” said Starks, who has master’s degrees in psychology and mental health counseling. “It’s more important to stay committed to your intentions than to constantly stay positive.”

Here are a few suggestions to help adjust your perspective and stay positive throughout your academic journey.

First things first: Self-care

Among the tools necessary for keeping things in perspective is compartmentalization, said Alice Rush, a certified career counselor in the University’s Department of Career Services.

Set aside time regularly, preferably every day, for taking care of yourself. Put on your calendar to embed the commitment and make it less likely that you’ll put it on the back burner. Exercise, dance, yoga, meditation, tai chi, rock climbing, reading, or simply resting quietly all qualify as self-care. It’s a very personal choice.

“It should be something that consumes both your mind and body for relief of fatigue,” Rush said.

Without this respite, our minds and bodies become overwhelmed, which can lead to burnout. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not allowing for time to decompress. In the end, if you don’t practice self-care, you’ll have a lack of energy to complete your tasks.

Bring along your support network

Support from family and friends is a very powerful tool, Starks said. Enlist them in understanding your goal. Your educational commitment impacts every aspect of your life, including your relationships.

Talk with your family about your “Why,” and tell them that they are a big part of your reason for pursuing a degree. Make it a team effort. Then, be proactive in asking them for help when you need it. Let them know you’ll be leaning on them from time to time when you need support.