Don’t panic! A hackers guide to self care as a library student

I am really excited to be finally starting my MLIS as it’s something I’ve wanted to do for several years, but at the same time I’m experiencing feelings of stress, being overwhelmed by the amount of work, worrying about time management, and self doubt. I wanted to share my thoughts about this and about some self care that we can all practice to make our time studying as fun and productive as possible.

First of all, don’t beat yourself up over it. I think this is really, really important to remember. It’s normal to feel stressed. This is a major, new event in your life and it is going to make an impact on things. Don’t feel bad about being stressed, nervous, worried or having second thoughts.

Be organised, and prioritise. One of my major issues is worry over whether I’ll have enough time to fit in study with work and my other responsibilities. It’s OK to spend a bit of time setting up a good system for time management, just don’t get hung up on it and spend too much time on it! Lauren’s earlier post has some great tips for being, and more importantly staying organised. Once I’d been accepted on my course I spent the next few weeks just reading study skills books and thinking about my time constraints and planning out ways to fit it all in. I’ve also found that I need to prioritise. There just isn’t going to be enough time to do everything that I used to plus study so I need to decide what is most important – if I have to let the gardening go a little for a couple of years while I’m getting my MLIS I think this is an OK compromise to make. Figure out what’s really important to you, what you can’t drop and what you can.

Be honest to yourself about how you’re feeling and talk about it. Talk to other students on your course and to your tutors – often they can be invaluable sources of advice for dealing with the issues causing you stress and many will be or have been going through the same kinds of things. Talk to your friends and your family and reach out when you need help – you know you’d do it for them so don’t feel bad if you need it now.

Imposter syndrome and self doubt can creep in and was something I found particularly hard during my undergraduate philosophy studies. I felt that I didn’t know as much as my classmates and most of the time found it impossible to ask questions or enter into discussions for fear of being ‘found out’ as, basically, an idiot. As the course was one which relies a lot on debate and dialogue I really don’t know how I got through it. I still have some of these feelings but I’ve tried to overcome it by being aware that firstly, I probably know more than I think, secondly there will probably always be someone who seems to know more, and thirdly the best way to learn is by asking questions and so I shouldn’t be afraid to do it even if it might show that that I don’t know something. I’ve often found that once I’ve asked a question which I thought was totally obvious to everyone else in the room, a surprising number of other people felt able to chip in and admit that they didn’t know the answer either.

Have a contingency plan. If all else fails and it really becomes too much there are alternatives. Be aware of the options open to you – changing from full time to part time, taking a break, asking for extensions on your work, or re-sitting exams or assignments. There are a lot of other options apart from struggling on when things are really bad or dropping out because it gets too much, although even this can sometimes be the right option. Again, talk. Your tutors are there to help you and want the course to work for you.

Look after yourself physically – have a healthy diet and take time to exercise and rest. Meet your social needs – connect with friends, have time out doing something totally different, have fun. Reflect on what pushes your buttons and be aware of when you’re likely to feel stressed. Find what works for you to de-stress be it meditation, going for a run, meeting up with friends or going out dancing – whatever.

Finally, keep things in perspective. This isn’t forever. The course will last a finite length of time and then it’ll be over. Make the most of it and enjoy the time and unique experience of it.

What causes you the most stress as a library student? How do you deal with it? Do you have any self care tips you can share?

Photo “First Aid Kit” by mwichary licensed by CC BY 2.0

9 replies

  1. What an excellent post! Having also just started my LIS degree I’m thinking about these things often. At the moment, the most stress I’m having is caused by an incomprehensible textbook for my Info Organization & Access class. I’ve dealt with it by snarking about it (the book only, not the class or the professor, which are both great) on social media & with friends, and going to my professor’s office hours to get clarification & context whenever I feel lost. Because I’m returning to school after 14 years of working in a different field, I feel like I’m a little better at self care now than when I was younger. I can’t pull all-nighters, I have to be organized and get my sleep.


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