Advice Productivity Stress

10 Tips to Get You Back on Track

The Cambridge term is so short and relentless that the smallest set-back threatens to mess up the rest of the term. However, it is possible to get back on track - hopefully Kitty's tips will help!

Sometimes the week doesn’t go to plan, we encounter set-backs or unexpected problems and we feel like we’ve lost control. Here are 10 tips to help you regain confidence and focus when you feel overwhelmed.


Firstly, accept and acknowledge your situation. It is ok to be struggling and to not be where you want to be. Take time to process this and come to terms with what has held you back this week. Recognise the reasons why you have found things challenging. After this, clear your mind and mentally detach from these worries in order to move forward into a fresh new week

Make a list

You may be feeling behind, like work has got on top of you. This could include overwhelming thoughts, doubts and fears. Sit down somewhere that feels safe and calm and set a timer, even for just 10 minutes. During this time, on a blank piece of paper, scribble down every thought that comes to mind: deadlines, books to read, lectures you’ve missed, supervisions to prepare for. The messier the better. Then stop. Take a look at the paper and on another piece, re-write these thoughts in a list. Questions to ask yourself here: Which of these things do I need to prioritise? Which of these things can I let go at this point? By creating a list of everything you need to do, you can move forward with renewed focus.

Tidy up

Sometimes when our environment is cluttered, our minds can feel cluttered too. For us to work productively, the spaces we work in need to be calming, focusing and free of distraction. Take a look at your room and ask yourself if it is a space that you are happy and comfortable to work in. If not, perhaps it is time to clear away any messy papers, make the bed or do the washing up. But most importantly, make your desk a place where you feel focused and content to work at.

Chat to a friend

When we feel like we’ve lost control, even just for a week, it is easy to think we are alone. When was the last time you knocked on your neighbour’s door or stopped to chat in a gyp? If your friends ask you how things are going, remember it is important to let the people around you know if you are struggling. Even just a quick conversation on the way to lectures can lift your mood and ease your mind as the more people know, the more people can help. However, do not feel you have to tell your friends everything – sometimes it is ok to create boundaries as we all deal with things in our own way.

Get some support from your College

Remember, there is a support network available to you all the time in your College and, even though it takes confidence to reach out and access it, all you have to do is ask. It is your Tutor’s job to help you with any struggles you are having with your health and wellbeing, be it mentally or physically, as this is key to your ability to work successfully.  Drop them an email or arrange an appointment. Alternatively, if the problem is more academic, get in contact with your Director of Studies and arrange a meeting. Let them know how you are doing. Also, the Chaplain at your college has a pastoral duty of care and will often offer a listening ear if you ever need to talk.

Look into wider support networks

The University Counselling Service offers one-to-one support sessions, workshops and groups and can be reached through their website . Alternatively, Student Minds Cambridge has a website that allows you to search for and access support appropriate to your situation and it can be found here:

Rethink your work habits

When everything gets too much and you fall behind, it is useful to reassess how you work. Ask yourself if you are working too hard. Do you constantly feel tired? Are you always in the library late? Do you struggle to find time to socialise in the working week? If so, take a step back and consider where you can afford to work less. It is as important to allow your mind to rest as it is to be constantly filling it with information. On the other hand, it may be useful to be honest with yourself and recognise where you may have been cutting corners in your work and address these areas.

Make sleep a priority

At university, it can be hard to balance a social life with academic work and often our sleep patterns can suffer as a result. Too many late nights can leave you feeling exhausted and it is essential that you give your body the time it needs to recuperate, especially after a challenging week. So sometimes, closing your bedroom door and having an early night can be exactly what you need.

Have a meal

Often, it is tempting to skip or rush meals when we feel there is not time enough in the day to sit down and eat. It is easy to grab something quick and not think about the value of the food you are eating. It is a cliché, but your body’s engine cannot run efficiently if you do not fuel it correctly. Take time out to eat well, visit the canteen or eat lunch with friends. Remember: food and hydration is important.

Get moving

Feeling behind or out of control can be frustrating and energy is often best released through exercise. It doesn’t have to be a marathon, in fact, sometimes even gentle yoga or a walk is enough to change our mind-sets and reinvigorate our bodies. Find the type of exercise that best suits you and give it a try when you need a break.

Finally, remember you are only human and everyone struggles sometimes. What you may be experiencing now will soon pass. Keep a positive mind-set and, above all, look after yourself.

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