Anxiety surrounding hand-ins

Deadlines are hard for everyone.

Okay. So I’ve finished my essay…all written, referenced and ready to be sent in! But wait, you should probably check it again. There’s probably a spelling mistake in there somewhere. Or a paragraph that needs moving around because it doesn’t make sense where it is now. Or what if you got a fact wrong? You will fail because all of those things add up. You need to check it again, it’s not really ready is it? You need to check it again.

That, my friends, is my thought process every time I come to hand in a piece of work. Every single time. After weeks of researching, writing and editing, I still manage to convince myself that it isn’t finished and that I will fail. My negative self-talk takes over, and I convince myself that I have already failed before I have even tried.

Over time, I have found certain things that help my anxiety and stress during deadlines, and keep me semi-sane:

  • Be kind to yourself and acknowledge the fact that you are a person too! I find that when I am struggling with hand-ins, I tend to beat myself up about it, and it’s almost as though I am bullying myself into working. Some of the best advice I ever received was to treat yourself the way you would treat a loved one. So for me, I think about my best friend, my sister or my goddaughter. What advice would I give them? What would I tell them to do? Then take that advice for yourself because you are no different to them. Framing it in this way helps to illustrate that the problem you have built up in your head isn’t actually as big as you think it is. 

  • Structuring my edits is something that also helps to ease my stress when it comes to hand-ins. In my first year I made the mistake of ‘over-editing’ my assignments. It may seem impossible to over-edit because surely, the more you edit your work, the better it becomes. But this is a mistake I fell prey to, editing it so much that I ended up altering the entire point of my essay. If you structure your edits, you ensure you are covering all bases:

  1. Spelling, punctuation and grammar.

  2. Actual content of the essay.

  3. Structure.

After this, you don’t need to touch it again! Trust yourself enough to know that it is finished and that you have done a good job!

  • Make sure that you are eating a healthy, balanced diet. Trust me, I know how easy it is to just eat pizza and live off energy drinks and coffee, but that isn’t going to help you write your best essay! What you eat will fuel your brain, so while coffee and sugar will give you a short boost of energy, they won’t sustain you. It is also a good idea to make sure that you are keeping active. No, this doesn’t have to be 3 hours in the gym doing a full-on work out, but could be as simple as going for a walk. I find a stroll around the park with the dog always does the trick. Just getting out of your work environment for as little as half an hour can massively increase your productivity and will help alleviate any stress. It gives you time and space to think about other things and will allow you to forget about the assignment for a short period of time.

    (While we are on the subject of dogs… go have a cuddle with one. They will thank you for it and you earn yourself a lovely, well earned study break. It is also massively therapeutic so will help ease any anxiety or stress and hanging out with dogs for a little while puts everything into perspective.)

  • A final thing that helps me is challenging the negative thought and flipping the way you think. This is something I massively struggle with, but is also something that’s so effective! I convince myself that my assignment is not finished and not good enough. This leads to a downward spiral of over-editing, unnecessary stress and anxiety. Instead of thinking about how much you have to do, think about how much you have done so far. Instead of writing a ‘to do’ list, write a ‘have done’ list. Instead of thinking about all the problems that could potentially arise, flip it to thinking about all the problems that you have overcome so far and how you dealt with those. If you challenge the anxious and negative thoughts by flipping how you think about things, it will generate a positive energy allowing you to be much more productive.

Deadline time is a stressful period for everyone, tutors and students alike. Be kind to one another, talk about your worries and anxieties- and never let them bury you, as there are always people there to help!

by Amy Hardman