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What to do when you hit a wall

by Amanda Collins

It can turn your mind into mush, have you staring at the same paragraph of information for hours without absorbing any of it, and suck the life out of you at the mere thought of a looming assignment: yep, we’re talking about the study wall.

No student can avoid the study wall. Sometimes you can see it coming; other times it will suddenly loom out at you without warning.

So the question is, how do you drive through it and get back on track?

The good news is there are a number of ways to dismantle the wall. We’ve laid out the top 12 for you below to use whenever you feel yourself running out of steam.

There are ways to get around the study wall.

Top 12 things to do when you hit a wall

1. Take time out for you

If you’ve been run off your feet balancing study, work and life in general, and are now finding it hard to focus or concentrate, it’s likely that you’ve hit the wall due to burnout.

Your brain needs a break, because it’s been working in overdrive.

The simplest solution here is to take a day or two off from study. You need to unwind, so do something fun: go to the movies or plan a dinner with friends. Perhaps you could even treat yourself with a hot, relaxing bath or book in for a massage.

Once you’ve had a break you’ll find that the symptoms of the wall diminish and that you’re back to full study capacity.

2. Practice mindfulness

The things we focus our attention on can heavily influence our thoughts, actions and, ultimately, the direction of our lives.

Making the choice to focus on what you are learning (rather than your stress levels, the dirty dishes, what to eat for lunch, or whatever pops up to distract you) will make a huge difference to your study journey.

But learning to focus is not something that happens overnight – it takes time and practice. But it can be learned.

Practicing mindfulness will help you find your focus zone. Whenever you find your mind wandering, try to reign it back into the task at hand. Try not to do too many things at once and instead focus on doing just one task well. With practice you’ll find that you’re more focused and can remain so for longer. This is a lifelong skill.

3. Find the fun

How can you make studying more fun?

  • Make an awesome study playlist you can put on whenever you hit the books.
  • Find a study buddy to liven things up.
  • Set up an Insta-worthy study space that makes you feel motivated.
  • Go somewhere different to study, like your local library or a café .
  • Try to make your study into a game (think puzzles, quizzes and flashcards).
  • Create fun study notes, like a comic strip instead of a long list of dot points.
  • Record your study notes so you can take them with you on the go, like to the gym or a bike around the park.
  • Break up your study with activities you enjoy.
  • Try and transform your study notes into a song or a rhyme.
  • Reward yourself when you hit a milestone (like with a piece of chocolate or another yummy snack). Try not to reward yourself with things like scrolling through social media, because these can become a distracting time suck.

Some of OC’s courses include learning materials that are delivered via audio, so you can listen on the go.

4. Do what you can

There’s a famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” And that is especially true for study.

Study shouldn’t feel overwhelming. If you can’t commit to a two-hour study session, then just commit to one hour, or even half an hour. If you can’t get motivated to tackle writing an assignment, then find something easier to do, like going over your study notes.

You don’t have to do it all at once. You just have to do something.

5. Take short breaks

Your mind and your body need short breaks every hour or so to stay in top condition. So if you’re planning on having a long study session it’s a good idea to set an alarm so you remember to have a short break.

Set an alarm to go off every 50 minutes, and when the alarm goes off get up, have a ten-minute break (stretch, make a cup of tea, go for a short walk around the block) and then get back to it.

6. Focus on your goals

It’s easy to lose track of the big picture when you’re frantically trying to balance study and life, and keep a handle on your stress levels.

To avoid hitting the wall, take time to remember why you decided to enrol in a course in the first place.

When you focus on the outcome, the finish line won’t seem so far away. You’ve got this!

7. Switch it up

Changing up what you’re doing every hour or so will help to keep you stimulated and engaged in your study.

If you’ve been reading for an hour, you could change things up by testing yourself on what you’ve just studied; walk around your house or around the block and repeat out loud what you’ve learned; or get started on another task that you need to complete.

By mixing things up like this you’ll notice that your energy levels will stay relatively stable as opposed to drastically rising or falling.

Tired of looking at the same four walls of your house? Take your study session outside or head to your local cafe.

8. Breathe

Yes, sometimes you’ve got to remember to breathe!

There are plenty of benefits to doing breathing exercises. Deep breathing helps your muscles to relax, delivers a big shot of energy-giving oxygen into your blood, lowers blood pressure, assists blood flow, helps to relieve stress and also boosts mental clarity.

So when it’s all getting a bit much, lie down on the floor or get into a comfortable chair and breathe deep for a few minutes.

You can start with this simple breathing exercise from Headspace.

9. Don’t focus on negative thoughts

Sometimes your mind will try to convince you of things that simply aren’t true. You may find yourself thinking “I can’t do this” or “This is too hard” or “I’ll never be able to do this”.

When your mind starts working against you and whispering negative thoughts, it’s important to recognise what’s happening. Because some of the things we tell ourselves simply aren’t true.

At OC, we believe that everything is possible. All you need to do is tap into your potential, which everyone has unlimited supplies of, and get started.

When you start to hear yourself saying negative things, counter it with a positive response like “I can” and “I will find a way to make this work” and “I’ve done hard things before, I can do this”. This is the best way to combat negative thoughts and put your mind back onto a more positive path.

10. Get out in nature

The effects of nature on our mental health have been well documented. Even spending just 15 minutes surrounded by greenery can lower stress hormones.

If you find that you’re struggling, head out to your local park or find a picturesque bushwalking trail you can follow.

If there are no green spaces close by, try growing your own potted plants or even swapping your desktop background to a lush, green vista.

Getting out in nature has huge benefits for your mental health. Even adding some potted plants to your study space can help.

11. Don’t aim for perfect

Have you hit the wall because you’re too focused on being ‘perfect’?

If this is the case, then you need to take a step back and realise that the idea of ‘perfect’ is only in the eye of the beholder. The more you reach for it, the harder things become.

A much more realistic goal to aim for is to do the best that you can do. If you know that you’ve put the time in and done the work to the best of your ability, then that’s more than enough. Who wants to be perfect, anyway?

12. Get a health check

Sometimes the wall comes up because of a physical health problem that you may not be aware of. You may be low on iron, or you may have a virus.

If you’ve hit the wall and are struggling to break through, make an appointment with your local GP for a check-up. It could make the world of difference.

Have these tips helped you get past the wall?

Are you ready to start making things happen?

Check out Open Colleges’ huge range of online VET courses across a range of areas or begin a 7 day free course trial to find out what it’s like to study online with us.

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