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Don't short-change your university success by succumbing to stress

Published:Sunday | June 10, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Among the many responses I received from my May 20 article, 'Don't let stress kill your career', was an email from Elizabeth Pigot-Dennis, an avid reader of the Careers column. Here's a part of what she wrote:

"I think your ideas (about dealing with stress at work) are applicable not only to employees on all levels, but to students as well. So many tertiary-level students short-change their accomplishments by succumbing to stress."

That's a very important connection Elizabeth has made - university and career success. If you don't learn to manage stress effectively at college and university, it will affect the quality of degree you earn. This will, in turn, affect the kind and quality of jobs you can attract and the income you can command for your work. That's one thing.

The other is that if you're unable to deal with the stressful demands of tertiary education, it's going to be even harder for you to effectively manage the increased stress levels you'll experience with a demanding job. Failure to manage stress effectively can mean poor job performance and evaluation, demotion, loss of income, being fired or asked to resign for failing to meet performance targets.

I know of this from personal experience. When I did my engineering diploma two decades ago, I did it full time. It was an extremely demanding programme, the stress levels at times felt overwhelming.

I returned to do the first degree, in a special accelerated programme, while working full time. I soon discovered that for people who work and study, life can feel especially unmanageable and out of control.

If you're working and studying, or you're a full-time student, there are some steps you can take to effectively manage stress. Master them and you can excel in your course of study. Fail to master them, and your results will be, at best, mediocre. Interestingly, these strategies are the same ones that will enable career excellence.

Master Your Time

You cannot afford to waste time. Indiscriminate television watching, partying, and even many normal activities, qualify as distractions when you're under pressure to perform at university. Disciplined focus on completing priority activities, scheduled beforehand, is the only way to consistently achieve your top goals at school and work.

Master Your Energy

Especially when you're under extreme stress, such as exam time or meeting an important work deadline while completing important school assignments, you need to take breaks to rest, relax and refresh yourself.

Don't give in to the dangerous temptation to forego sleep either. This will compromise your mental acuity as well as reduce your ability to manage emotional pressure effectively. Also, eat as healthy as possible, drink adequate water and get some exercise.


Don't go it alone. Study with a small group of focused, disciplined and hardworking high achievers at school.

At work too, dialogue with your superiors and colleagues to enlist their help in facilitating your studies in creative ways. Make sure, however, you're doing your fair share of work, no matter what. Remember, no man or woman is an island.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of a new book 'From Problems to Power: How to Win Over Worry and Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities'. Send feedback to

Don't short-change your university success by succumbing to stress