Make time for yourself
Often, we get so caught up in the things we have to do that we forget to schedule any time for ourselves. It’s strange that we schedule our meetings and assignments and appointments, but we don’t schedule any Me Days. Making time for yourself early in the morning – a dreaded time for most of us – is often productive and can help declutter your mind so that you start your day off right. Here’s a really great article from Cathryn Lavery on a morning routine that sounds lovely.
Let out whatever’s bothering you! Whether it’s to a friend, written in a journal, doodled on a napkin, made into a song, etc. find a creative outlet to relay what’s going on in your mind. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself to be particularly creative or not, or how the final product turns out. Let yourself relax, enjoy the activity, and (hopefully) enjoy the clarity that results.
Despite all of the academic research and the common sense notion that physical activity IS in fact good for you, it’s often one of the first things cut if we find ourselves in a stressful situation like exam/assignment-time.
The research is so robust in this area that it really doesn’t appear that a specific type of physical activity – be it running, yoga, swimming, playing a sport, rock climbing – produces a significantly greater benefit to your mental health than another. Instead, it’s the fact that you’re doing a physical activity that you enjoy, on a consistent (i.e.: weekly) basis, that matters for your well-being.
With exercise (and anything, really), it’s important that you set realistic goals. Start simple by finding an activity that you enjoy and can do on a regular basis, and push yourself to improve each and every session.
You’ll have a better idea of specific fitness goals that YOU can achieve, given what you can put into the activity. Remember, you are succeeding just by getting up and getting active.
Quality, not quantity. Also known as “study smarter, not harder.”
Sometimes, it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed by the task in front of you. Whether it’s studying for your first University midterm, starting that reading that you were supposed to do three weeks ago, or trying to figure out how you can somehow clone yourself in order to catch up on six weeks of online lectures… for three classes.
Instead of trying to get yourself out of the situation, the best thing you can do is to learn to prevent such a thing from happening in the future, and listen to this advice on how to tackle the situation at hand: do work in intervals.
Although attention spans differ from person-to-person, on average, we can pay attention relatively well for about 15-30 minutes. After that, our brain goes to mush and you start to think about what you’re going to eat next.
Setting realistic goals for what you can accomplish today, and breaking that up into a couple of hourly segments with 15-25 minute breaks in-between is a good thing for your productivity.
You never thought that you could find a scientific reason for watching a 22-minute episode of your favourite show in-between study sessions, did you. You’re welcome! What’s important though, is to STOP at the end of that episode and get back to studying, and often, if you feel like you were productive in the hourly study session, your brain will let you go back to it.
Another technique used by one of our MMM team members is called the Pomodoro technique, wherein you break your work down into 25-minute segments, separated by short breaks, all recorded with a timer (or an app).
Try out a bunch of different intervals and see what works for you, but at least you’ll be getting stuff done instead of trying to wrap your head around an otherwise massive task. What works for some people is to tackle the smaller tasks first, as they’re easier to get done. Once they’re completed, you’ll feel that happy boost of feeling accomplished, and then hopefully use that positive energy to keep on chugging along.
When you feel overwhelmed, remember that climbing a mountain takes one step at a time. Ask yourself, “What is one productive thing that I can do right now?” Start with that.
Know your limits, and don’t feel down for taking breaks.
This ties into the ‘make time for yourself’ tip, but important enough to touch on in a separate paragraph. Questions like “what have you done today?” have become so commonplace that we always feel like we have to do. What’s important to note is that listening to your body counts as doing something – it doesn’t always have to be a task like studying, cleaning, working, or whatever else will please the person who asked you the question. When the world feels like it’s caving in, get out for a bit. Ask yourself if it’ll matter if 5 years. Often times, it really won’t.
Everything will be okay.
Don’t push yourself past the breaking point.
Your limit is your limit for a reason.
Listen to your body.
In this break, you can just relax with something that you enjoy, take a nap, go for a walk, or maybe even try something new. Even if it’s as little as trying a new donut, it can be interesting and refreshing! It can be good to give yourself a “float” day – keep one day of every week free (i.e. no external commitments) and do with it what you want: catch up on readings, work on your personal goals, or, preferably, sleep.
Find your passion.
An amazing way to de-stress is to, well, minimize the amount of stress that you face overall. Generally, that comes from doing things that you love and enjoy. Finding your passion isn’t like finding love at first sight, it takes time. Like with anything, passion requires commitment. Often we think of passion like a chaotic fire that fuels our motives but the way it works is more like kindling, slow and burning that you have to feed regularly.
What does this mean practically? Don’t be afraid to explore topics of interest outside your program with your electives! A fan of karate? Look at the Athletic programming on campus to see if you can find something for you. Really into video games? There are campus groups centered around it.
Not sure about what you like? It’s okay to not have an answer to the “What do I want to do with my life?” question!
Explore your interests, do things you enjoy, take the time to see if you like something, and find other people who share those feelings. University is more than just an academic institution, it’s a time for you to develop personally as well.
Tips by: Minds Matter Magazine Staff
Compiled and edited by: Ary Maharaj and Allyssa Fernandez
Image by: Adley Lobo