Today’s question: How do you focus on your studies when facing family problems at home?
Hi there. Good question. Studying in itself requires a lot of concentration and having the added burden of family problems at home can make it even more difficult to focus. But it is not an impossible task. Many people face similar situations and succeed and you have the ability to do so as well. With a positive and willing attitude, and a few practical measures, it is possible to focus on your studies and do well despite your family problems at home.
Here are some tips on how to do so:
- Tell a friend. Do not keep all your problems to yourself. Bottling it all up will add to your stress and feelings of frustration. Find someone you can trust and let them know your situation. When people are aware of your issues they will be better able to assist you. They can also serve as a source of comfort and motivation for you.
- Depending on the nature of your problem, you may need to take more drastic action. For example, if your problem is one of physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home, you may need to call the police and make a report of the abuse. You should. This is a serious situation and should not be ignored. Not only would such conduct perpetrated against you be criminal acts, but they would also affect you psychologically and make it even more difficult for you to study at home. The abusers must be stopped and punished.
- Move out. If your problems at home are too much to manage, I would advise that you move out if possible. I would strongly recommend this if you are facing abuse at home. Explain your situation to a trusted friend or other family member (outside of your household) and ask them to allow you to live with them during the academic year. If you cannot afford to pay rent, offer to do chores or use one of your skills to their benefit as compensation for your lodging. If this is not an option, certain religious organizations may also offer shelter to victims of abuse or persons in urgent need of shelter.
- Study elsewhere. Your main goal right now is most likely to pass your exams and obtain your qualifications. Therefore you need to stay focused on that goal and do what you need to do to accomplish it. Finding a place that is relatively quiet and conducive to studying is probably one of the best options. If your problems reside at your home, spend less time there with them. Alternative places to study include a friend’s house, the house of a neutral family member, an empty classroom on campus, your community centre, a church, and your campus library.
- Join a study group. Studying with your peers can be quite beneficial. Once you all are using the time effectively (not gossiping idly) you would likely be able to cover more material as a group as opposed to studying on your own. This would be most useful for persons who study best in groups. But even if you prefer your own company, you would benefit from the exchange of ideas within the group and the opportunity to socialize away from your home. Your study group can also serve as your support group as well if you feel comfortable enough to share your problems with them. You never know who may be facing the same or similar problems or who conquered them in the past and can give you further useful advice.
- See your guidance counselor. Your school/university should have counseling services and I would advise that you make an appointment to speak to a counselor. They are there to help you, whatever your problems. This service is usually free of charge so you would not have to worry about the cost and being able to afford it. A guidance counselor can also assist you with study tips and with connecting you to other students, tutors or other persons who can assist you.
- Get a part time job. If your problem is mainly financial, you should consider getting a part time job if you have not done so already. See if you can find a part time job that is simple and does not require much energy from you, as you need to conserve the majority of your energy for your studies. Also ensure that it does not take up too much of your studying time. If this is unavoidable you will have to develop strategies to juggle both. If you are not able to get a job, consider taking a loan from a lending institution; there are some banks and credit unions that offer small loans without the need for capital. If this is not suitable, consider borrowing money from a good friend.
- Study when no one else is awake or home. If you have to study at home, try to do so when everyone else is asleep or out. You should be able to focus better on your studies in the relative quiet and peace.
- Talk to your family about your situation. If you are unable to resolve the problems that you have at home right away, at least make your household members aware how the problems are affecting your ability to focus on your work. Illustrate as dramatically as possible the consequences should you fail to study effectively. Assuming that they have your best interest at heart, hopefully they will be moved enough to reduce the burdens you face at home.
- Take care of your body. Studying can be stressful and particularly so with problems at home. You need to ensure that you have enough energy to focus on your work. To do so, you need to eat healthy foods, drink lots of water, take daily multivitamins, exercise regularly and get proper sleep. It is also essential that you take breaks while studying and eat healthy snacks like fruits and nuts.
- Pray and meditate. If you are a spiritual person I would highly recommend praying on a daily basis for strength and guidance. You are never given burdens that you cannot bear but many times we need some assistance in bearing them. Pray. Meditate as well. I find this to be quite useful when feeling stressed and it is very effective in controlling one’s emotions and giving you a sense of peace.
- Find a role model to keep you motivated. Research a few persons who have faced similar problems like yours or even worse and have succeeded at school and in life despite their challenges. Let this motivate you. Additionally, think about your ancestors and all they endured to get you to where you are today. Do not let their efforts go in vain.
- Do something relaxing. Keep a journal and record your thoughts and feelings. Writing is often very therapeutic and can help you de-stress, especially if you have trouble expressing yourself verbally. You can also partake in one of your favourite hobbies every now and then to give you some enjoyment.
- Don’t give up. Do not let the problem determine your success at school. Keep your goal at the forefront of your mind and do what you need to do to achieve it. There is always someone in the world who is facing a worse situation than you; they may give everything to be in your position right now. Let this be motivation to you to persevere despite the difficulties, so that when you have graduated and achieved success, you may one day be able to help them through their challenges as well.
Above all, stay positive. I know it is hard but you can do it. I believe in you. You are not alone.
All the best.
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