Academic Self Awareness: How to Build Resilience
Imagine spending hours crafting the perfect essay for your latest assignment. But when you finally get it back, it’s a way lower grade than you expected.
And then your mind jumps to how this is going to jeopardize not only your GPA but your chances at the scholarship you’ve been aiming for. Instead of thinking through the problem, you find yourself in a full-blown panic.
No matter where you are in your academic career, you need to develop awareness so you can deal with the inevitable hurdles that will arise.
Whether it’s the stress of working with difficult partners on a group project or struggling to raise your grades, it’s vital to cultivate resilience and self-management skills. Ready to learn how? Keep reading to learn more.
Develop Emotional Awareness
One of the first self-management skills you need to learn for academic resilience is to develop emotional awareness.
This means that you become more aware of the emotions you’re feeling at a given moment. When you are able to identify these emotions, you’ll have more control over how you express them.
For example, let’s say you are dealing with a frustrating classmate during a group project. This classmate never shows up to project meetings and expects everyone else to do all the work.
Since this project is worth 25% of your grade, your first response is to get angry and to yell at your classmate. But since you have to stay in the same group, starting an argument likely won’t change anything.
Instead, in this type of situation, you first want to identify what emotions you’re feeling. It’s okay to feel anger and frustration towards this classmate—but you want to make sure these feelings aren’t so intense that they cause hurt to you or anyone around you.
When you’re aware of your emotions, you also make better decisions because you look at the emotion for what it is, rather than feeling something out of proportion to the situation.
Being more aware of your emotions can help you reduce anxiety, raise your self-esteem, lower depression, and help build better relationships with your friends, family, and classmates or co-workers.
Set SMART Goals
We’ve all heard of goal setting, but have you ever tried setting SMART goals? This acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant.
The reason you want to set SMART goals is so that you can have a more realistic idea of what goals you can achieve, and in what time frame.
Let’s say you are a science student but have to take one course of first-year English to meet your university’s requirements. You’re currently getting a C, but you want an A so your GPA doesn’t go down.
It wouldn’t be a SMART goal to aim for an A on your next essay when your last one was a C. While this goal is specific and relevant, for most people, it’s not achievable in such a short time frame.
If you set this difficult goal for yourself and didn’t achieve it right away, how would you feel? Chances are, you’d be angry and disappointed in yourself for failing yet again. But you weren’t being fair to yourself with this goal, to begin with.
Instead, a more achievable goal would be to aim for a B-level grade on your next essay.
As part of your goal-setting process, you also need to think about how you can put in the right kind of effort to achieve this goal. You may work with your professor or TA to explain in more detail where your essay had some problem areas.
You can also arrange to see an English tutor, practice your essay writing, and look for helpful resources online or at your school’s library.
Learn To Manage Worry
Everyone deals with worry when they’re afraid something bad will happen. The good type of worry helps you to take the action you need.
For example, you might be worried about your mid-term exam next week. Since you don’t feel as prepared as you’d like, you take the time to study for the exam the entire week before.
But when worry starts to get out of control, you need to learn the right coping mechanisms so that your emotions don’t start to overwhelm you.
Let’s say that you’re so worried about next week’s exam that you can’t sleep at all. You’re having trouble eating, and all you can think about is how you’re going to fail this exam.
There are a few things you can do to manage this type of disruptive worry. First of all, become more mindful and learn to identify when you’re worrying. Then put some perspective on the worry. Is what you’re worried about as bad as it seems?
Finally, see if you can take action to solve your worry. In the case of an exam, you can start studying, partner up with a friend, or get help from a tutor. You can also get help from friends and family members to help support you through the problem.
Name Difficult Emotions
One of the best ways to improve emotional intelligence is to learn how to identify and name difficult emotions. While this might sound silly at first, naming your emotions can help you deal with them and decrease their intensity.
In fact, a study done at the University of California found that people who acknowledged their fear of spiders had less of a physical reaction to touching a spider than the other test participants.
Think about the difference between saying you “are” an emotion versus you “feel” an emotion.
Let’s say you failed your chemistry mid-term. If you say, “I’m a failure,” then you’re likely going to feel terrible about yourself. But if you say, “I feel like a failure,” you’re acknowledging that you feel bad, but recognize that you aren’t the emotion.
This type of thinking recognizes that the emotion is temporary and that you are separate from the emotion. It also helps you lower the intensity of your emotions and make more rational decisions.
Always Have Perspective
Perspective is one of the best ways to develop strategies for resilience during your academic career.
Perspective refers to when someone has a sensible outlook on what happens in their life.
Let’s go back to our failed chemistry mid-term example. If you don’t have perspective, you might think that this failure means the end of the world. You might also believe that all your future chances at scholarships and a good job are over.
But if you have perspective, you’ll be able to look at the situation in a rational way. You can accept that you didn’t do well on the exam, but you can also accept that the situation can be solved.
For example, maybe the mid-term was only 15% of your final grade. This means that you have the chance to make up for it on future assignments and exams.
When building perspective, you first need to become aware of the perspectives you already hold.
Did you learn some negative perspectives from family members? Are these perspectives giving you a negative outlook on life that’s out of proportion to what’s happening to you?
Once you identify your perspective and see what kind of outlook you have on life, the easier it will be to work towards a more realistic and proactive outlook.
Use Positive Reinforcement
As a survival mechanism, our brains tend to focus on the negative while ignoring the positive. Not only can this add more stress to your life, but it can destroy any sense of personal accomplishment you might have.
When you get a bad grade on a test or an assignment, it’s healthy, to be honest with yourself. You may acknowledge that you could have done better and decide where to improve next time.
But when you’re only being negative towards yourself, you won’t end up cultivating any resilience. Instead, you’ll end up teaching your brain to never give yourself praise or encouragement.
Positive reinforcement is when you praise yourself for a job well done. This shouldn’t only come from your teachers or parents, either.
For example, let’s say you got an essay back that received a B- grade. While this is lower than you thought, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Instead, understand that you could have done better, but praise yourself for parts you did well on.
Of course, you want to keep your positive reinforcement realistic. Otherwise, you’ll praise yourself for everything and then might be shocked if an essay you thought was great comes back with a lower grade than you thought.
With both negative feedback and positive reinforcement, remember to keep it realistic and balanced. One good strategy is to pick two things you liked about your latest assignment and one thing you would like to improve upon for next time.
Harmful Risks vs Smart Risks
Another benefit of developing resilience is that you become confident enough to take smart risks.
Of course, smart risks are different from risks that could harm you.
One way to tell the difference is to weigh the potential risk with the potential reward. For example, let’s say your friends invite you to go to a party with them the night before a huge exam.
The potential reward is low, as you’ll only get one fun night out.
On the other hand, the potential risk is high because this exam determines 40% of your final grade and you need to get a scholarship to pay for next year. This would qualify as a harmful risk.
Take Smart Risks
Smart risks are where there is more risk to taking no action than to taking action. For example, a smart risk might be applying for a job you’re not sure you’re qualified for but that you know would help you grow.
Taking smart risks also involves planning, learning, good communication, and understanding that small failures don’t have to stop you.
In the case of applying for a job, you can make sure you’re well prepared for the interview, research the company, and make sure your resume is top-notch.
When you’re more aware of your emotions and have more perspective, you can decide which risks can help you grow and move forward.
Learning to take smart risks is also a huge leadership skill. For more about this, check out this resource on academic leadership.
The Perks of Perseverance
Perseverance keeps you going even when you can’t see a way out. And if you think of some of the most successful people in the world, many of them only got their success because of their grit and perseverance.
For example, you may be so frustrated with one of the courses that you want to give up. But if you remember how much your degree will be worth it, perseverance keeps you going.
Another way to cultivate perseverance is to learn from your mistakes. Instead of being super hard on yourself and thinking you’re a failure because you made a mistake, you can learn from it.
And just as you give yourself positive reinforcement for a job well done on an assignment, you can do so with perseverance too.
Any time you pushed through a difficult task and didn’t give up even when you weren’t seeing any results, make sure to praise yourself and celebrate your perseverance.
Use These Tips To Build Academic Resilience
Getting a degree can be one of the best investments you make in your personal, academic, and professional life. But to get to the end of this long journey, you need to cultivate resilience.
Awareness is the key to getting started in building resilience. And once you’re aware of your emotions, you’ll get more control over them and be better equipped to handle the ups and downs of academic life.
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Biswajit Rakshit is a professional blogger and writer. He loves to write on various topics.