In today’s fast-paced and demanding job market, pursuing an online Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a tremendously flexible and convenient way to boost your credentials. Even with the improved ease and accessibility of an online format, juggling an MBA program with work and family commitments can still be inherently stressful. As an aspiring business leader, it’s crucial to recognize the detrimental effects of stress on focus and productivity. This potential for reduced cognitive abilities requires effective stress management techniques to get the most out of the online MBA journey (while handily maintaining your sanity). It’s entirely possible you’ve already come to this realization – you found this article, after all. So, keep reading to explore some proven strategies and practical tips for reducing stress and enhancing concentration so you can be empowered to make the most of your online MBA experience.
The Importance of Managing Stress in College
As we briefly mentioned already, learning how to manage stress effectively in college is paramount to how successful you are in said academic venture. The college experience can be overwhelming, with pressure to succeed academically, adapt to new environments and knowledge, and make important life decisions. That pressure only increases for those pursuing an MBA.
Most MBA students are working adults; some programs even require years of work experience for admission. That means most MBA program participants are working adults, often with family responsibilities and other obligations that come with adulthood. If an MBA student fails to manage the rigors of balancing work, school, and family, it isn’t just them that suffers – their partner, kids, or other dependents might also be impacted. Such a degree of responsibility can weigh heavily on a person’s mind. Unmanaged stress can lead to many negative consequences, including burnout, anxiety, depression, and physical health issues, not to mention decreased performance in your classes.
The Benefits of Stress Management for Online MBA Students
Learning how to effectively manage your stress while earning an online MBA will reap benefits both during your program and long after you’ve graduated. Stress management activities equip you with the necessary tools to navigate the challenges of life, promoting holistic growth and fostering a positive and fulfilling academic journey.
Learning to manage stress can have a profound impact on your academic performance. When you allow your stress levels to get too high, it becomes increasingly difficult to concentrate, retain information, or creatively problem-solve. By implementing stress management techniques, you can reduce anxiety and create a conducive learning environment, promote mental clarity, enhance memory retention, and improve your overall cognitive function. If you maintain a healthy stress level, you’ll be able to process information more efficiently and better understand and retain materials covered, leading to better grades on exams and assignments and improved focus and productivity.
The benefits of learning techniques for managing stress extend beyond the practical classroom considerations, however. Learning how to manage stress reduces your risk of burnout and improves your ability to maintain a balance between school, work, and life. You’ll develop valuable skills that will help ensure future career success, all while also improving your physical and mental health.
Five Stress Management Techniques for Students
1. Set Realistic Expectations
Setting realistic expectations is crucial to stress management and can significantly alleviate your academic pressure. Those who pursue an MBA are driven and hard-working, both excellent traits. But the flip side of that coin can be lofty self-imposed expectations for perfection and comparing yourself to others, leading to undue stress and anxiety. Instead, you should focus on setting realistic goals and expectations for yourself based on your capacity and circumstances. Embrace a growth mindset, wherein you can recognize your strengths and limitations and understand that mistakes and setbacks are merely a part of the learning process. By setting realistic expectations and goals for yourself, you can more effectively prioritize tasks, allocate time more wisely, and better maintain a healthy work-life balance. You’ll also be less likely to get overwhelmed and will more frequently get to experience a sense of accomplishment when you reach your more realistic milestones.
2. Develop Coping Strategies
Coping mechanisms can range from effective to ineffective and healthy to unhealthy, so it’s essential to be mindful when developing them. Left unexamined, coping mechanisms can include drinking in excess, overeating, and other harmful habits meant to numb and distract from the stress. Not only are they harmful, but they are also ineffective.
On the other hand, healthy coping strategies are invaluable stress management techniques that can equip you with tools to help regulate your emotions, reduce anxiety, and promote resilience. What coping mechanisms work best will vary from person to person but may include practices like journaling, engaging in hobbies, seeking social support, and physical activity.
By developing and implementing coping mechanisms, you’ll be able to better manage stress triggers and respond to challenging circumstances in a healthier and more constructive manner. Both of these abilities will serve you well during your online MBA program and beyond.
3. Relaxation Techniques
Taking the time to unwind and allowing your mind to wander are vital to helping manage stress levels. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing can promote a sense of calm and overall well-being. Deep breathing involves focusing on taking slow, deep breaths while inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. This practice activates the body’s relaxation response, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. You can also try progressive muscle relaxation, which involves systematically tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups to release physical tension. Guided imagery uses visualization to create mental images of peaceful and serene settings, helping to shift your focus away from stressors. Additionally, practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and yoga cultivate present-moment awareness, allowing you to detach from stressful thoughts and cultivate a state of inner calm. Relaxation Techniques
4. Practice Mindfulness
In fact, mindfulness is an effective enough stress management technique to warrant its own point on our list. Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally focusing your attention on the present moment without judgment, thereby cultivating a heightened awareness of thoughts, sensations, and emotions as they arise. The relaxation technique mentioned in the last section, deep breathing, can be majorly beneficial in promoting mindfulness. You could also try body scan meditation, which involves mentally scanning your body from head to toe, observing physical sensations without judgment. But mindfulness doesn’t need to be this all-consuming. Simply engaging in everyday activities while staying in the present moment, such as mindful eating or walking, can be considered a form of mindfulness practice. The whole point is to stay in the present moment rather than ruminating over the past or worrying about the future.
5. Time Management
Few things are more stressful than a poorly managed schedule, and that will become increasingly true when you’re juggling a job and a family with your MBA program. That’s why time management is so crucial in overall stress management. Taking a structured approach to tasks, responsibilities, and obligations by organizing and prioritizing activities can help create a sense of control and prevent feeling overwhelmed. You’ll waste less time on unimportant or non-essential activities and maximize your productivity, resulting in a greater sense of accomplishment and reduced stress levels. Establishing and adhering to a well-defined schedule will help you allocate your time effectively, ensuring important tasks are addressed in a timely manner and reducing the likelihood of procrastination. You’ll also be able to plan adequate breaks for self-care and fun, preventing burnout and promoting work-life balance.
Start by creating a prioritized to-do list, ranking tasks based on importance and urgency. Focus your efforts on high-priority items first and foremost to ensure you meet deadlines. Breaking down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable bites using strategies like the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working in focused bursts followed by short breaks. Set realistic timelines for tasks without set deadlines and allow for buffer time in case of unexpected delays or challenges. Another technique is time-blocking, where you dedicate specific periods of time to different activities to help you stay on track and maintain balance in your schedule. And don’t be afraid to utilize technology tools like the calendar app on your phone, reminders, and productivity aids to help you organize and track your tasks.
UTC Sets You Up for Online Success
Through the implementation of these five techniques, you should be more than capable of balancing the rigors of your career and business school – all while maintaining a healthy social life and spending adequate time with your family. Should you choose to earn your Master of Business Administration online at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, you’ll also be backed by our Center for Academic Support and Advisement (CASA) to help set you up for online learning success. We understand that online college students require just as much support as on-campus students, and that’s why we’re committed to providing academic advising, career services, and additional programs that promote self-directed learning and exploration. Contact the UTC Gary W. Rollins College of Business today to learn more about our online graduate programs.