Switching modes and diluting cognitive overload

As students we are approaching a very stressful time of the term; just finishing up midterm season and preparing for final exams. Not to mention, we have other priorities that occupy our lives outside of academia. Individually, our priorities will differ but we all must maintain a level of focus and composure in other areas of our lives in order to succeed. How do we mentally switch into those different priorities without experiencing cognitive overload and the common reaction to such demanding pressures-stress?

Cognitive overload is the situation when we are encountered with too many tasks simultaneously to the point where we cannot process information, making your working memory (short term memory) limited. So, here are a few solutions we brainstormed with students on campus in terms of diminishing the conditions of cognitive overload.

Compartmentalize your Work

· The adage ‘less is more’ can also apply to school. Cramming and constantly taking on a full work load on a daily basis is a common approach of many students in university. Studies have shown that doing review an hour a day for that specific lecture, helps retain information. As students, if we work in increments we can slowly concentrate on particular areas of our studies each day and still have time to dedicate ourselves to other priorities. It’s not that daunting doing a maximum of 1 hour every day dedicated to each subject. Try it!

Take time for yourself. This can take form in many ways including:

· Finding a space that is completely quiet and where you’re alone. Solitude can be a useful tool in terms of keeping composure when you’re switching into the various lanes in life. This can be taking time away from social media for an hour or two a day, depending how dependent you are.

· Take time to talk to a friend. This might be difficult due to the fact we may get carried away. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of time.

· Going for a walk or exercise also has beneficial returns in terms of maintaining focus and composure. Finding time each day to take in the fresh air can do wonders!

Spirituality is a strong component in maintaing composure.

· Meditation is a useful skill when trying to block out distractions before going into a difficult task. UBC offers many opportunities to practice meditation and learn mindfulness when encountered by the pressures of life: http://www.hr.ubc.ca/wellbeing-benefits/living-well/mental-health/mindfulness-meditation/

· For many of those, prayer is also a powerful approach to mitigating stress regardless of religious background.

· Finding the time to cry and release any emotional build up can also do wonders.

You can find more helpful resources here.

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