Flex Your Mental Muscles
It’s time to talk mental readiness – the secret ingredient for overall well-being academic success. Think of it as being in your mental gym, building up your mental muscles to tackle school challenges and navigate college life like a boss.
But what does that mean, exactly? Think of it like preparing for a big game or competition. You wouldn’t show up without any training or practice, right? Mental readiness is like the warm-up, it helps you get in the right mindset and be fully prepared to handle any challenge that comes your way.
It’s about building the mental muscle you need to stay focused, motivated, and resilient in the face of stress and uncertainty. Whether you’re tackling a tough assignment, facing a difficult exam, or dealing with the ups and downs of college life, being mentally ready is key. By developing positive habits and micro-routines, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in every area of your life.
Not sure how to do it? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here are 7 easy-peasy strategies we got from three students to help you increase your mental readiness on a daily basis. By following the tips of Cassie, James and Brittany, you can start boosting your academic performance, kicking stress and anxiety to the curb, and building the resilience and confidence you need to crush it as a student.
So, buckle up and get ready to flex those mental muscles!
7 Strategies For Higher Mental Readiness
The secret to leveling up your life may sound very simple, almost mundane. It’s all about those little, unsexy changes you make to your daily routine. We’re talking about setting a consistent sleep schedule, taking regular study breaks, and swapping out that second Red Bull for a glass of water (gasp!). Sure, it’s not as exciting as winning the lottery or becoming TikTok famous, but trust us, it’ll do wonders for your mental readiness and well-being.
Take it from folks who’ve been through the change and who’ve reaped the benefits. We’ve included real life examples and we’ll let Cassie, James and Brittany share their learnings in their own words.
1. Prioritize Sleep
Yep, we know – staying up all night to binge-watch your favorite show or cram for that exam might seem like a good idea, but it’ll only hurt you in the long run. Catching those Z’s is crucial for your brain to recharge and be ready to take on the day.
Example: Cassie, a college student at the University of Michigan, says “I used to stay up all night cramming for exams. And even when there were no exams, I would binge on TikTok or hang out with friends.” When Cassie started developing symptoms of chronic stress and insomnia, she quickly realized that her lack of sleep was not only impacting her academic performance, but also affecting her mental readiness and health.
“I started tracking my sleep routine and reading up on how to improve it. Now, I make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night to help me stay alert and focused during the day.” On weekends she still gets to occasionally stay up late with friends or dance away at parties until the wee hours, but on Sundays, Cassie is in bed before 10pm.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Take a breather and practice mindfulness. This can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, going for a walk, or even just closing your eyes for a few minutes. It’s a quick and easy way to ground yourself and reduce stress.
Example: As James, a senior at Montclair High School, New Jersey, says “I started practicing mindfulness during the pandemic, after overcoming my prejudice of it being kind of ‘woo-woo’. I wanted to get a grip on the anxiety that had started to creep into my life due to all the uncertainty and bad news of COVID-19.” With no school friends around to judge his initial attempts at breathing and meditation exercises, he quickly started reaping the benefits of his new routine:
“ It has made a huge difference in my mental readiness and mental health. My anxiety is at a healthy level and the breathing exercises help me stay calm and focused during exams.”
James also noticed that he’s able to concentrate for longer periods of time, and he also deals with criticism easier. Always curious to learn more, he has recently enrolled in a yoga class to explore somatic exercises.
3. Exercise Regularly
Get your body moving! Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and it releases endorphins that can boost your mood and energy. Also, you can build your mental and physical resilience while having fun.
Example: Brittany, a college student at UCLA, says “I like to start my day with a quick workout, whether it’s going for a run, hitting the gym or doing a short yoga routine. It helps me wake up and feel energized for the day ahead. Plus, I find that it clears my head and helps boost my self-confidence. I’m simply more productive and focused when I exercise regularly.”
She shares that in order to motivate herself, she got her best friend to join her: “A challenge shared is a challenge halved” she says with a big smile. Exercising with her friend not only gives her the feeling of making the best of her time, but it has also strengthened their relationship. “We laugh and cry together, we sweat and chill together. And it’s so much fun to have someone to chat with while jogging my rounds”.
4. Plan Ahead
Don’t let procrastination get the best of you. Plan ahead and break big tasks into smaller ones so that they’re more manageable. You’ll feel more in control and less overwhelmed.
Example: As Cassie says, “I like to make a to-do list each morning for my daily tasks and assignments. It helps me stay on track and focused throughout the day, and I feel less stressed knowing that I have a plan in place”. To keep herself accountable, she gets her roommate to do the same. What’s more, they both make sure to also plan for enough off-time, keeping a balance and avoiding unhealthy types of perfectionism.
“We’re both what you would call messy perfectionists. Structure, accountability and planning ahead has made all the difference in our mental readiness. And whenever one of us starts to get scattered or involved in too many projects, we remind each other of the roadmap we agreed on” Cassie says laughing.
5. Take Breaks
It’s important to give your brain a break every now and then. Taking short breaks can help you recharge and come back ready to tackle your work. You’ll catch up in no time and even get ahead of the curve, if you do it regularly.
Example: James found out that taking short breaks helped him stay productive and focused during long study sessions. “I’m a pretty competitive guy and I used to try to power through my studying without taking any breaks. Then, during the pandemic, I hit a wall. Everything was happening online! I sat in my room non-stop and it felt like having no life.”
He started seeing a therapist who made him realise that he would get burnt out and lose focus if he continued that way. “Now I take a 10 minute break every hour or so to recharge and refocus, and it makes a big difference in my mental readiness and productivity.”
Thanks to his dog, going for a quick walk in nature is not only fun, but comes with multiple benefits. When there’s no time for a walk during school hours, James intentionally takes mini-breaks to stretch or take a few deep breaths. “Being competitive doesn’t have to come at the expense of health and happiness. I found out the hard way, but now I can have it all” says James as he leaves to play with his dog.
6. Stay Hydrated
Water is your friend. Staying hydrated helps keep your brain functioning at its best, and it can also help reduce headaches, fatigue, and the risk of developing anxiety or depression. The key is to not wait until you feel thirsty!
Example: “Funny how I used to think that drinking water doesn’t require intentional reminders “ Brittany says “It wasn’t until my headaches and tiredness got frequent and started to affect my daily functioning that the penny finally dropped.”
Her tutor taught her to always carry a water bottle with her throughout the day so that she can stay hydrated. He also encouraged her to track her progress and the impact of hydration on her symptoms. “I now use a free selfcare companion app for tracking and reminders. Nowadays I can say that when I’m hydrated, I feel more alert and focused, and I’m better able to retain information during class.” Her boyfriend recently even gifted her a beautiful water bottle to support her healthy routine and keep her mental readiness high.
7. Set Realistic Goals
Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. Instead, set goals that are specific and achievable. You’ll feel more motivated and confident in your ability to succeed.
Example: All three students agree that setting smart and achievable goals play a key role in their mental readiness journey. “For example, if I have a big project due in a few weeks, I’ll break it down into smaller tasks that I can work on each day. It helps me stay focused and motivated, and I feel like I’m making progress towards my overall goal” says Cassie. “I define each goal, write out the roadmap and check off the tasks when they’re accomplished. It’s important for me to have it in written.”
“My competitive nature drives me to set so-called stretch goals “ explains James. “Those goals are ambitious, but not unrealistic and I do not beat myself up if I do not fully reach them. My tutor helps me do a sanity check and establish milestones that make sense for my mental readiness.”
“For me it’s all about setting goals that include my friends. We plan together, we share our goals, our failures and our successes. And we celebrate together” says Brittany
“Unrealistic goals will eat away my time, my joy and my relationships. I believe in the old saying about going together if you want to go far.”
So there you have it – 7 simple strategies to help you increase your mental readiness and crush it as a student. Remember to prioritize your mental health and don’t be afraid to experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you.
Now go out there and flex those mental muscles – your future self will thank you for it!
Need a little helper that stays with you along the journey? Check out the free Earkick self-care companion. Tens of thousands of students use it every day to become their healthiest and happiest selves.