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How To Focus Now: End of the Semester and Post-Election

Protesters clash at Trump Rally at San Diego Convention Ctr 5.27.16 - image courtesy of iStock

It’s the last few weeks before the end of the semester, but many campuses feel like it may be the end of the world – or at least the country. With scalding hot language spewing from classmates, some professors, email, television, radio and our tech devices it seems nearly impossible to get away from politics. Regardless to your views, DO NOT ALLOW these distractions (important as they may be) to distort your focus.

This moment in history is unique, no question about it. Fighting for freedoms is what America was founded upon. In fact, you may define your path using a line from the play Hamilton, “Just like my country/I’m young scrappy and hungry/I’m not throwing away my shot.”

Campus discord is not only active in the realm of protests, but is impacting their counseling centers. Hate speech was prevalent prior to the election and in some areas it is becoming more rampant. Robby Soave reported in of multiple campuses postponing tests and midterms to acknowledge the widespread dismay, outrage and grief.

What can you do if you find yourself distracted or even weighing academic obligations and political/social activism?

Prioritize! Your education is one battle that most of you have waged for well-over 12 years (less, if you are the rare child prodigy). If you are on campus, as a student or an instructor, you really have one core job. The extras such as social activities, group participation, the media and the like are supplements. Once you've defeated the semester (papers, projects, presentations and tests), the rest of the world awaits your unbridled passion.

Unplug. If you’re unable to focus, chances are that you are over-stimulated. Between online pop-ups, online and broadcast commercials at twice the volume of the actual programming or even offers in our email, it is so easy to get thrown off our path. Streamline your day by pulling the cord if you can or limiting the unnecessary static.

Talk it out. You are not alone. While the national and international issues can seem more bizarre than a B-movie, merely managing the workload of an academic year can be a war! Make use of your teaching advisors, instructors, resident assistants, campus counselors, spiritual counselors, friends or family.

Write it out. Journaling is not only a therapeutic means of unpacking mental baggage, it can be a powerful testament of a period of your life. Considering our unique times, this may be a window worth reviewing how you saw the world in the not so distant future.

Exercise. Stress in the mind also corrupts the body. If you find yourself in the feedback loop of anger, panic or despair – shake it out! Take a walk, jog, run, swim, stretch, do yoga, hit the racquetball. Freeing the energy consuming your muscles, organs and mind are lifesaving.

Meditate. No need to have a formal practice to see the benefits of meditation. Silence is golden. By providing yourself a few minutes of intentional silence, you are reclaiming mental and even physical space that your stress may be consuming.

Honor your ethical core. If you witness an act of hostility in the form of bullying, vandalism or violence, report it!

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