Global Business School for Health


Conquering Overwhelm: Tips from a Busy Postgrad in London

12 March 2024

Our Social Media Ambassador, Andria, shares strategies for managing overwhelm as a postgrad juggling studies, a job, and life in London. From setting realistic goals to finding your optimal work time, these insights offer a fresh perspective on productivity and self-care.

Tips on what to do when feeling overwhelmed

We all cope with pressure differently, considering the myriad reasons and ways one can feel overwhelmed.

This blog will highlight some of the ways I personally deal with pressure as a postgraduate student at UCL with a part-time job, living alone in London.

Initially, I must acknowledge that I tend to be a "last-minute" student and person in general. This tendency has persisted despite my efforts to change it.

I find work much more stressful when I feel pressured to do it. Typically, when the term starts after a break, I'm already a few weeks behind on lectures. I often find myself forcing to sit at my desk and complete those lectures, which ironically makes me the least productive and the most stressed about my workload. While some might say, "Well, when DO we actually want to study?" I'm certain that all of us have those productive moments when we come home or wake up feeling ready to tackle our work and be the academic machines we aspire to be.

1. Set realistic goals when doing your work.

This week I was abroad taking care of a family member in Germany. As I was behind on lectures and was unable to attend seminars in person, this did boost my stress levels more than normal. However, I decided to set realistic goals for my day to ensure I was not falling behind or feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis. I decided to complete one week of lectures for each course, every day. As I worked every morning and completed a week of lectures, I felt motivated the next day to continue my work. I was being a lot more productive than being crammed in a library and completng 2-3 weeks of lectures per day. Instead, I was able to comprehend the material I was being taught whilst working on getting back on track once reading week was over.

2. Make a list of all the responsibilities that make you anxious

I know students can be very hard on themselves when it comes to studying and staying on top of work, especially when they feel like they are falling behind and it is entirely their fault. I used to think that lists were usless, but once I started creating them they changed my perspective on completing my work. I purchased a lovely Agenzio notebook on sale and started writing down all the work that had to be done, such as completing weeks of lectures, creating blogs/reels and anything else that I could think of. That feeling of crossing lectures off the list gave me so much more pleasure than actually completing my task.

Tip: Reward yourself after crossing off each task. For me, it's usually watching one episode of my favourite show, doing some online browsing or anything else that excites me. 

3. Prioritise tasks you enjoy to make the list seem smaller

When I was younger, I believed in starting with the difficult tasks first, leaving the enjoyable ones for later when I might be feeling tired. However, as I've grown older and taken on more responsibilities such as studying, working, and managing life alone, each task can feel like a challenge. Now, I've shifted my approach. I tackle the most challenging tasks when my energy levels are highest, ensuring I can complete them without feeling completely drained or in a sour mood. This approach also leaves the lighter tasks for later, making it seem like I've accomplished more than I actually have. As a result, a weight is lifted off my shoulders, and I feel more productive. This automatically reduces my stress and anxiety, preventing me from becoming overwhelmed.

4. Complete a smaller task first

If you don’t have the energy to complete your work but you are feeling overwhelmed/stressed, try to complete a smaller task to calm yourself down. I often catch myself chilling on the sofa after dinner, watching my favourite show or a movie, when a wave of stress hits me, making me feel uneasy. In times where I cannot shake that feeling off, I grab my laptop and try to organise my work for the next day. I update the list of things I have to do or I complete any task from my checklist. This way, I feel a sense of accomplishment or productivity, which helps to reduce the overwhelming feelings I get at times when working is not possible. In very rare occasions, I attempt to do some heavier work and it goes two ways, I either stop a few minutes later or go all night.

On a finishing note, spend some time figuring out what works best for you. I like working at night when it is dark while some people prefer working in the morning or afternoon. The point is, things will get done one way or another. It's just a matter of finding out your preferences and how you operate best to complete the work as best as you can.