College is a time of “Self-Discovery”…..

“College is a time of self-discovery and growth, but it can also be an intense four years of stress.”  My first two years in college were especially hard on me; both emotionally draining and mentally demanding. I found myself in a new state across the country where I did not know a single person. My consequent stress seemed like a natural reaction, but stress has negative consequences, and for individuals with epilepsy, such as myself, the stakes of a high stress environment tend to be higher. I found it challenging to effectively manage my time, and I initially found myself forgoing sleep and socialization in order to complete multitudes of assignments.  As a result, my emotional state became one of constant anxiety, and as we all know, stress plus sleep deprivation in an epileptic individual is a dangerous combination. Thankfully I was able to develop some healthier habits that not only helped me to manage my time more efficiently, but also relieved my stress. I hope you find them as helpful as I have.

     1.  Know when to call it quits

As important as studying is, it is also equally imperative to get a decent amount of sleep. Trust me when I say no assignment is worth an impromptu trip to the hospital. One technique I developed over the years was establishing a cut-off point. I typically prefer to do my studying in the evenings, so when I begin my work, I set a deadline for myself. For example, if I begin homework around six, then I’ll set a stopping time around eleven. This ensured I received a decent night’s sleep before my classes the following day. Additionally, the five hour block not only gave me plenty of time to study, but also allowed for intermittent breaks throughout, making for much more effective learning.  

     2.  Don’t isolate yourself, get out often!

Another thing I struggled with those first two years was feeling cooped up and isolated on campus, especially when I lived in the dorms. I felt listless, unmotivated, and was generally apathetic about everything. Eventually it got to the point where I did not feel the need to leave my dorm unless absolutely necessary. Isolating yourself is never healthy, and one simple way to combat this is to just leave the room. I started meeting friends for lunch, I took walks across campus, and even simple things like sitting outside in the sunlight was enough to regalvanize me. Getting outside of your dorm is a great way to revitalize yourself and shake off those lingering feelings of remoteness. Since depression is common among people with epilepsy, these tips should also combat despondency, and will hopefully go a long way in improving your mood.

     3.  Give yourself at least one day to relax

Having an ideal schedule isn’t always a realistic one, between early classes, evening clubs, and late night homework; it is dangerously easy to fall into a busybody schedule. Juggling classes along with the drive to be perpetually productive, can make it difficult to justify leisure time with the weight of deadlines looming overhead. My freshman year, I made a common mistake, and immersed myself in numerous clubs in an effort to get involved. It was quickly made apparent that not only was my enthusiasm unrealistic, it was also exhausting. I had stretched myself too thin. While it is assuredly beneficial to be involved in extracurricular activities, I have found it equally beneficial to give yourself a day completely devoid of commitment. By allowing yourself a day of relaxation, you provide your body with a much needed repose that allows you to gather yourself for the upcoming week.

I hope these provide women with epilepsy tried and true methods on how to effectively manage time and stress in college, and I offer one final piece of advice. Do not stress over the little things! While this is easier said than done, (I know this better than anyone), I hope to save you countless hours of anxiety that can easily be avoided. College may be a stressful time, but it is also one of the most rewarding times of your life. Don’t let a little thing like epilepsy hold you back!

Ashley Garcia is a recent graduate from The Ohio State University and young woman living with Epilepsy.  Ashley is joining My Epilepsy Story in her new featured section called Ashley’s Advice.  Ashley has a passion for helping other girls and women living with epilepsy especially young women that are starting college.