Switching modes and diluting cognitive overload

As students, we are in the midst of finals season and this can be a very stressful moment. 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 effects 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 by 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 to other priorities. Come to think of it, it’s not that daunting doing a maximum of 1 hour every day studying each subject. Try it!

Take time for yourself including:

  • Finding a space that is completely quiet and where you’re alone is a great solution. Solitude can be a useful tool in terms of keeping composure when you’re switching into your various roles in life. This can be taking time away from social media for an hour or two a day.
  • 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!

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.

For many, spirituality is a strong component in order to maintain 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 who are religious, prayer is also a powerful approach for mitigating stress.

Finding the time to have a cathartic moment and release any emotional build up can also do wonders.

You can find more helpful resources here.

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