Vince Botto Jr
Tips and Tricks that transmit to school and life.
For millions of college students around the nation and nearly 200,000 in NJ alone, the Fall Semester has begun. The tips and strategies we are going to discuss don’t just apply to them either. They work just as well for working professionals and individuals who are trying to build a healthier lifestyle. Many people struggle with getting into a routine or setting themselves up for success. Many of us just go through our day-to-day motions without much change and that makes it difficult to grow as an individual.
No matter which semester or year of college you are in or even if you have been working at the same job for a few years, we all can deal with something like imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is when we feel as if we don’t hold the credibility or belong in the situation we are, thus we feel as if we are being imposters. For myself, as somebody entering my first year of graduate school and working around many highly intelligent professionals, it becomes difficult to remember that in certain conversations I do have some authority in my opinions or knowledge on subjects. This type of awareness is difficult to have as we all can battle with imposter syndrome, considering that even though we might have been accepted to a college program, get good grades, or be at our job and perform well we can struggle with thinking we don’t belong or don’t have the authority. Something like mindfulness can help combat that type of issue or self-doubt.
Here at NJ Recovery & Wellness, we put health and wellness at the forefront of our mission. We discuss these topics extensively in our blog and social media (If you don’t follow us click here to see the links!). If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the two-part series on sleep to get an in-depth view of how sleep works and six tips and tricks exclusively around better sleep. We also have a document on our website for sleep tracking and a review of useful tools we consider to enable a healthier mindfulness routine under the Mindfulness Apps. Other pieces for preparing for the semester or a new routine to begin will be based around the science of routines and how to handle not falling into the perfectionist trap.
We all have different tips and tricks we recommend to individuals that work for ourselves and a lot of times those things are very individualized. But just like we covered inside the “Sleep Matters More Than We Realize” series, we all have friends who believe that they are unique individuals compared to science. The example I like to use is we all know somebody who claims they function “great” on four hours of sleep and they are part of that “unique” section of humanity to be able to do this. Well, less than 5% of the human population on Earth can do this, which 5% of Earth’s population is equivalent to 1 in 100 United States citizens (as in it’s HIGHLY unlikely that an individual has that genetic trait). Hopefully, these scientifically-backed strategies and tips for improving your health and wellness appeal to you.
Sleep, one-third of our lives. The place in which our brain grows, heals, and cleans itself. Sleep, the place in which memories, what we learned, and hopefully our aspirations are solidified. To understand more on the why and how sleep is important make sure to check out our previous Series “Why Sleep Matters More Than We Realize.” Part 1 deals with the more scientific understanding of why and how sleep functions whereas Part 2 will include tips and tricks on sleep.
Starting with the most important aspect is regularity. Without sleep regularity, it is nearly impossible to have healthy sleep hygiene. The reason why is something called our circadian rhythm in which dictates when our brain secretes melatonin (to put it simply). The second would be the length since most individuals don’t realize how important it is to get your daily 7 to 9 hours, and how quickly sleep deprivation can happen without them!
Prominent Sleep Scientist and academic Matthew Walker is one of the most distinguished scientists in the field of sleep in the world. In 2011, Walker did an experiment that demonstrated how one night of poor sleep or lack of sleep can greatly affect our ability to learn, recall, and be productive the following day. Most individuals do not realize the effects of sleep deprivation can happen nearly instantly and more importantly that there is no “making up” the sleep that we don’t get. Inside the experiment, Walker demonstrated that students who would study all day for an exam and get 8 hours of sleep compared to individuals who would stay up all night and study showed over a 25% decrease in scores.
Not only does this affect young adults, but this type of study has also been replicated with older adults. Do you trust the surgical doctor or truck driver who has been working for 16 hours straight? After digging deeper into sleep deprivation and with how much it affects any kind of intensive task, you may think twice about that question.
Finding your study method or place
Ironically, as I write this piece I am sitting in my local coffee shop which helps me focus. Isn’t it a contradiction that for most of our lives we get told to study in places that are dead silent and have minimal distractions? Of course, there is ample evidence showing that you should yield the greatest reward from a quiet secluded area, But new research is showing that people are affected differently by our environments and the ways that they might affect our productivity.
Dr. Adam Wang, a social psychologist and senior lecturer at James Cook University (JCU) in Singapore conducted studies in the past few years showing that for some individuals being in noisy environments helps them focus and feel less lonely. Which, research conducted around loneliness has shown that it can make it harder to focus, be productive, and accomplish our task. With that in mind, it is even more important that when we say finding your “study place” this does not mean around your friends who are distracting you. But it could mean with a TV, podcast, or places in which you sense others around you could help. For many, the Covid-19 pandemic might have taught them that these types of locations enable them to be more productive, while for others they discovered that they excel in secluded quiet areas.
The study also discussed how for some individuals who grow up in places like cities, near busy roads, apartment complexes, and other places that typically will have background noise that those individuals are more likely to find background noise as a sense of relief. But this isn’t true for everyone, or every situation. It is important to remember that if you break your concentration consistently and aren’t retaining your focus on your reading or writing it can be detrimental since we know that our mental bandwidth can be limited and every time we break away from our focus it does take some time for us to catch back up on what we were doing.
Conquering Imposter Syndrome
Whether you are a college student or a professional, we all have moments in life that we think we aren’t qualified or don’t deserve to have a seat at the table. Moments like this can be described as “Imposter Syndrome” referring to “an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.” Typically, imposter syndrome affects people who are successful even when they feel like a phoney. An example would be the fresh college student at an Ivy League university. They might feel as if they don’t belong, but in reality, they are there, they were accepted, thus they belong! Due to self-doubt, social anxiety, and a little thing called being human anyone can struggle with imposter syndrome during their life. There are a few strategies to combat it and approach it head-on.
The first strategy to counter imposter syndrome would be to use mindfulness. Mindfulness is described as “the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going around us.” There are many ways to practice mindfulness each day so in situations where imposter syndrome is happening, we can center ourselves and be fully present. One example would be a daily meditation practice, just like with any exercise over time we will become better at it and able to do it longer, you can check out on our Resources page here where we break down all different applications. The second mindfulness tactic would be to do journaling in the morning or at night, preferable both. The reason being we can keep track of our feelings which makes us more self-aware in times when we might be affected by adverse feelings.
The second strategy for conquering imposter syndrome would be the old metaphor of “fake it till you make it.” The reason this is a positive strategy when you are dealing with imposter syndrome is that you do have the skills or knowledge to be where you are at! That is why you are in the position you are, not because you “faked it to make it.” One aspect of imposter syndrome is that it makes us compare ourselves to others, which is why we end up feeling like an imposter. Think of the metaphor of the first days of freshman year in high school. For the most part, we all have been there, and we all have experienced the jitters of being the new kid in school with loads of people we never have met or haven’t seen in a few years. Compared to the senior year where we walk into school knowing who our friend group is, where we are going for class, and have a sense of confidence we lack initially entering freshman year. Every person in that school deserves to be there and the only reason there is that difference is due to the idea of thinking we don’t belong. Which, with time and exposure we realize we do belong and imposter syndrome slowly goes away.
Have you ever spoken with somebody who has served in the military, who talked about how they were never more functional than when they were in their routine? Science shows routines are highly effective in creating an environment of productivity and mental wellness. Everybody will experience bad days or as I like to call them, “low energy” days. When we have established routines, these days are not as difficult due to the expectations that we have entering the day. Without those expectations, we will battle so many other behaviors that make it even more difficult to successfully navigate the day. One example would be “decision fatigue,” which can affect anybody when they have too many options to decide from.
Avoiding the perfectionist trap
We grow up in a society where we are criticized when we don’t follow the perfectionist way. This makes it difficult to avoid perfectionism, our culture ranging from work to school does not aid in our development of that. The idea of getting 100% on a test or any activity is typically a very lofty goal. Even inside sports or our jobs, the corrosive nature of perfectionism is a problem. One example of how perfectionism affects us all is that when we mess up at work, school, or in general a lot of individuals deal with destructive criticism over creative criticism. An example of destructive criticism which contributes to perfectionism is “How did you mess that up?” Compared to creative criticism which would be “We all make mistakes sometimes; I believe this will be a learning experience.”
Not only does perfectionism affect our work or academic lives, but it also plays a role in our social lives. We all have a friend, family member, or partner who can’t decide on an activity without somebody else confirming it. Gaining somebody else’s opinion about an activity you would both partake in is okay. But when somebody who looks for an opinion so they can avoid making the decision is dealing in the perfectionist trap of fearing failure. “What if no one else agrees with what I want to do or if it turns out horribly?” This type of social perfectionism may be common, however can understandably take away from enjoying a good time.
With the school year beginning, these tips and tricks are essential for students, teachers, and even professionals. There are different situations in which we will experience similar issues across our lives. It doesn’t matter if you just got your first job or are retiring, sleep and routine are crucial to your health and success in each aspect of life. With the rise in telework and teleschool, the idea of being able to find places that you can study and be productive is essential in the future.
Sleep hygiene is a standard for your health. Sleep should account for nearly one-third of your life. Learning and using the skills we document and others have documented is essential to succeeding at every stage of your life. As for Perfectionism and imposter syndrome, it is important to be able to recognize these behaviors as they will interact with each other. For those entering a new scholastic year or even job, these traits will have a large impact on your performance. It is important to remember that if you are in the situation that you are experiencing this, you deserve to be there!
Lastly, don’t discount the beneficial ways routines can help enhance our lives. Not only do some of the most successful individuals in the world discuss the importance of routines, just look at the most successful organizations and how they set up the culture and work of their employees. It is crucial to recognize that we all can build a healthy, functioning lifestyle that will benefit us and instill habits that only will further make us want to enhance our lifestyles.