COUNSELLING BLOG

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Do you have a wandering mind?

1. Research shows that our mind wanders about 30% of the time. It occurs regardless of what we are doing – sitting in a lecture, driving the car, cooking dinner, or talking to a friend.

2. Everybody’s mind wanders regularly. It takes concentrated effort to stay on task.

3. Having a wandering mind is different from daydreaming. Day dreaming involves having stray thoughts, random fantasies, or briefly indulges in wishes and “what if” scenarios. In contrast, a wandering mind is where we allow our mind to think about something specific, which is different from the task in front of us right now.

3. A wandering mind can actually be a good thing. It allows part of our brain to focus on one thing while freeing other parts to also think through other goals, responsibilities and tasks.

4. However, a wandering mind can be a bad thing, too. It can cause us to miss important facts and details, and to zone out when something really needs our full, and undivided, attention.

5. Research conducted by the UC, Santa Barbara shows that people whose minds tend to wander more are often more creative and better problem solvers.

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Why do we Procrastinate?

1. Poor work habits. There are some who procrastinate on everything. They are always way behind and never schedule anything. They say they work well under pressure – but they are bad organizers who wait to the last minute before starting on a task. For them it’s only important when it’s due RIGHT NOW.

2. Feeling overwhelmed. When we don’t know where to start, and we don’t know what to do, it’s tempting to do nothing – as that’s so much easier! Also, sometimes work piles up, and we feel it’s all too much. So procrastinating here is a quick form of relief.

3. Aiming for perfection. There are some individuals who are sticklers for details. They can’t miss a thing and all their work has to be perfect. They’re under so much pressure to achieve an ideal standard that it takes them forever to complete a simple task.

4. Wanting to do something else instead. We all have projects that we just don’t want to do. It may be writing a report, or filing in a “stupid” form. We’re avoiding what’s unpleasant as it’s really not much fun. But delaying getting started won’t make it disappear.

Some advice for those who tend to be procrastinators …

· Acknowledge what you are doing; don’t pretend it’s not a problem
· Tell yourself that you don’t have to do it all at once. Make a start on something – that will help to change your feelings.
· Make your focus “getting started”, instead of finishing.
· Break those large assignments down and make a start on something small.
· Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a very common problem. You’re not the only one, and you can change your behaviour!

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How to work smart

1. Make the most of those little slots of time – a free fifteen minutes here and there. You can accomplish a lot in those extra lost minutes.

2. Make your work place comfortable and inviting. For example, have an inspiring bookshelf, light a scented candle, put up a few crazy, fun photographs.

3. Don’t be afraid of criticism as it can help you to learn and grow. Dreading it too much creates anxiety which them prevents you from producing your best.

4. Recognise that we rarely feel happy when we’re working as we often struggle with incompetence, frustration and feeling that we don’t know what to do.

5. Remember all the reasons why it’s worth persevering, and how you’re going to feel when you finally “get there.”

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Developing Effective Study Habits

Below are some tips to help you develop the attitudes and habits which lead to success:

1. Take responsibility for yourself, and your failure or success.

2. Understand that you’ll need to priorities the way you use your time and your energy. Make your own decisions, and don’t let your friends dictate what’s important, and how much you should work.

3. Figure out when your most productive work times are, and the types of environments where you work best.

4. Try to understand the material well – don’t just memorize what the textbook says. If possible, try to explain it to a friend.

5. Try something else if revision doesn’t help. Don’t just keep reading the same things again.

6. Then, if you still don’t understand then ask for some help. It’s not going to magically fall into place.

7. Study with a friend, and share ideas, and test each other on what you’re meant to know.

8. Keep working and revising throughout the term so the material stays fresh and is easy to retrieve.

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How to Develop Willpower

1. Make a list of those situations where you find it really hard to have willpower.

2. Brainstorm for ways that you can start to feel more positive about demonstrating will power. For example, plan to reward yourself every time you do something you really didn’t want to do.

3. Break bigger, more challenging, tasks down into much smaller, and more achievable, tasks. Acknowledge each step in the right direction. Recognise that you’re making progress.

4. Decide to challenge any tendency towards procrastination. Decide that you can change if you take it slowly. Set daily, realistic goals for yourself. Decide to follow through with them – no matter what! If it helps, have someone you can be accountable to at the end of each day (or week).

5. Push yourself to keep taking the small steps. In time, making an effort will become a habit. Hang in there until it does.

6. Focus on the long term benefits of achieving your goal. Imagine what it will be like – how your life will be, and how you will feel when you reach your goal. Try to visualise it in detail.

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Starting College or University

1. Money will likely be in short supply. You’ll find a student loan doesn’t stretch very far.

2. It’s likely that you’ll feel a bit homesick at first, but for most individuals that doesn’t last too long. Just throw yourself into the activities around you and try to avoid any visits home.

3. Your first week of classes will be a huge let down. They’re usually uninspiring – but get better with time. Expect to do a lot of work on your own as you don’t get taught at university. (They just spew out information and facts).

4. When you first meet your room-mates or the others in your class, expect long pauses and awkward silences. You will still be total strangers with no knowledge of each other – but that will pass in a day or two.

5. Your old friends will change as you’re all on different paths - so you’re bound to have fewer things in common now.

6. Romantic relationships will need a lot more work if one of you moves when you start studying. Also, distance relationships can be hard to maintain so think about whether the relationship should end.

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Successful Interview Tips

1. Before applying for a job, find out as much as you can about it – and make sure it’s something you want to do!

2. Also, find out what you can about the interviewers. For example, what are their names and job titles? What other jobs have they done in the past? You can often uncover a lot of information by simply googling peoples’ names and positions.

3. Try and find out about the company’s normal interviewing style. For example, is it likely to be one-on-one interview, or will you be interviewed by a couple of people, or will there be an interview panel? Also, will you be required to sit any kinds of test (general knowledge, case studies, IQ tests etc.)?

4. If possible, connect with others who have undergone a similar interview. Ask them for tips and ideas – or things to watch out for, or how best to prepare.

5. Research the company. It’s important to know as much as possible about the company’s history, what is does now, it’s plans for the future – and the expectations associated with the job.

6. Be clear about what you have to offer the company. It’s important that you match their needs to your experience, abilities and personality. Practise selling yourself to them!

7. If possible, rehearse the interview with a friend.

8. Pay attention to your appearance. Dress appropriately (err on the side of dressing conservatively); make sure you look tidy and smart; brush your hair and teeth; wear perfume or aftershave (but not so much that it’s overpowering).

9. Check out the direction is advance (if necessary drive there the day before to ensure you don’t get lost). Arrive 5 minutes early for the interview.

10. Be confident, respectful, polite, truthful, positive and enthusiastic. Think carefully before you respond – use proper grammar, and don’t speak too quickly.

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How to Cope with Test Anxiety

Although it’s normal to feel some anxiety when you’re preparing for, or taking, a test - too much can hamper you from doing well. Below are some tips to help you to cope with this:

1. Learn and apply proven studying techniques so you feel you really know the test material. This should help to improve your confidence and reduce excessive anxiety.

2. Work on staying positive while you’re studying. Think about doing really well, not always struggling, or even failing.

3. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before a test.

4. Don’t forget to eat right before a test either. You need protein to have enough energy to concentrate fully for the length of the test. Avoid junk food as that tends to lead to a high and then a low.

5. Try to calm and relax yourself as you enter the test room. Take a few slow, deep breaths. In your head repeat positive self-statements like “I am well prepared. I’m going to do a good job on this test.”

6. Don’t start to panic if the questions seem too hard. Just skip over the ones you can’t do, and keep reading until you find something you CAN do.

7. Ignore the fact that other students seem to be finishing before you. Take all the time you need and focus on doing your best.

8. Once the test is over, try and forget about it. There’s nothing you can do until your mark is returned to you … and maybe you’ve aced it, or done really well!

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How to Deal with Different Types of Roommate

Roommates can be divided into the following types:

1. The thoughtless roommates: This is the person who leaves their stuff scattered around the room and never cleans or tidies up after themselves. First, remember that he or she is not deliberately trying to annoy you. However, you need to discuss this or nothing will change. When you do that, don’t come across as being angry and accusatory. Instead, stay casual, warm and friendly. Also, ask if there’s anything you can do to make life easier for them.

2. The “borrower”: This is the person who takes your stuff, and treats your belongings as if they’re also theirs. This can range from something small like a few slices of bread to something more important like your clothes or bike. Clearly, this is NOT OK and needs an open discussion so that everyone is clear as to what the boundaries are.

3. The explosive flatmate: Often, this type of person seems calm and tolerant – then suddenly blows up over fairly minor things. Yet, we come from different backgrounds – and each person is unique – so different stuff annoys us or becomes an irritant. Here, a frank honest, discussion will often do the trick so that tension doesn’t build, and spoil a good relationship.

4. The irresponsible flatmate: This individual is unreliable and doesn’t seem to care about the impact of their actions. For example, they break stuff and just leave it, or forget to pay the bills … They never see it as their problem, and they just don’t seem to care. This person needs confronting in a firm, respectful way. And if things stay the same – don’t ever share with them again!

5. The ghost roommate: This is the person who is rarely around. They often have a busy life or else they travel with their job. They’re rarely problematic – so be glad that they’re so easy – and enjoy your time together when they happen to be there.

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What should I choose for a job or career?

1. Ask yourself the question: “What would I do if money were no object?” What if you won the lottery and could do whatever you chose? What would you do to be truly happy (after just realxing and spending some cash)?

2. Break your dream job down into its most basic components: If you were explaining the job to an 8-year-old, how would you describe it? If the child asked you what was fun about it or how it made you feel, what would you say? These basic components make up what you should be looking for in a career.

3. Think about what attracts you to this job or career: For example, of you want to work in the theatre are you more attracted to the art of acting or to the process of creating?

4. Look into the kinds of jobs which provide similar feelings and experiences. For example, if your passion is travelling, think of jobs which would make use of that experience in some way (such as being a tour guide, or teaching overseas.)

5. Consider the downside of that career (As over time they could leave you feeling miserable!)

6. Factor in your financial needs. If you have obligations that your dream job can’t meet (for example, if your dream career can’t pay off your student loans) you might need to consider other options. However, you should always keep your focus on the kind of job that leaves you feeling happy and fulfilled.

7. Factor in the kinds of things you’re good at. Do you have an area where you really excel, something you do better than most other people? That is also something to consider in when you are thinking about a career.

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Some Brain Facts

1. The brain feels similar to tofu, and contains enough fluid to fill a 1.5-2 litre soda bottle.
2. Archaeological evidence suggests that human brains may have shrunk over time. However, there is nothing to show that humans are less intelligent today compared to previous times.
3. The brain alone consumes about 20% of the oxygen in our blood, and 25% of the glucose. Thus it is a major energy consumer.
4. The human brain has more pronounced wrinkles than the brains of other species. This is linked to more sophisticated neural pathways and higher intellectual functioning.
5. Neurons only make up 10% of our brain cells. The rest is glue holding the neurons together. These other cells also mop up excess neurotransmitters, provide immune protection, and regulate synapse growth and functioning.
6. The brain doesn’t fully mature until we’re in our late teens. Multitasking, empathy and good decision-making are some of the last skills to develop.
7. The brain never stops changing. It can adapt to damaged nerves, grow new neurons, and form new neural connections.
8. Male and female hormones lead to differences in male and female brain development. For example, brain imaging has revealed general differences in the way both sexes experience, make social decisions and manage stress. However, nurture and environment play an important role as well.

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Effective Exam Writing Tips

1. Make sure you read and understand the Instructions: This is absolutely crucial. A lot of students are keen to rush ahead and so they quickly skim over the exam instructions. Then, later, they discover that they did it wrong! For example, do you have to do every question on the paper, or do you only have to select a certain number? Is there a penalty for guessing – so is it better not to guess? (For example, because you lose an extra point for each answer you get wrong).
2. Read through the exam and divide up your time accordingly: For example, make a note of the number of questions there are, and notice what the different questions are worth. This isn’t wasted time as reading through the questions will actually start to activate your memory. Then decide which questions will be easy, and which will take more time, and mentally allocate your time accordingly. Also, allow some time at the end to review what you have written, and do some corrections if you think you’ve made an error.
3. Work through each question systematically: Slowly read through the questions, and underline key words. Make sure you check to see if there’s more than one part. Make sure you’ve fully understood what you’re being asked to do then plan what you will do before you start to write things down.
4. Attempt every question: It’s better to do something than nothing at all. You might get a few marks for thinking along the right lines. If you’re running out of time, then resort to bullets points. You’ll cover more by doing that than writing complete sentences.
5. What if your mind goes blank? Take a few, slow deep breaths and try your best not to panic. It’s important not to let your anxiety take over. Take control of your thinking by reassuring yourself that will pass in a moment – and is natural in exams. Repeat true, positive thoughts like “you’ve worked hard and are ready” and listen for your breathing – as it starts to slow.
6. Review what you’ve written and make corrections if they’re needed: Leave some time to go over your answers at the end – but don’t change what you’ve written unless you’re sure it’s wrong. Also, look out for blank spaces, for question you have missed, and turn over the last page – in case there’s something at the end!

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