I feel like being a young adult these days requires a re-evaluation of how you are supposed to spend your time. I remember as a kid my weekend routines (perhaps stereotypically) consisted of waking up super early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons and eat leftover pizza from the night before, and then sitting down the next day to the obligatory Sunday brunch of either pancakes and sausages or bacon and eggs. It was a much simpler time.
My weekend mornings now are drastically different. As a 4th year university student who doesn’t really have a set career goal in mind at this particular time in my life, I feel like I’m in a constant state of restlessness and alertness. Every waking moment of my life must be spent in a somewhat efficient manner that will hopefully contribute to my future endeavors. In other words, no lazy sleep ins for me–the majority of the time. This Sunday morning was no different: I woke up, checked the Twitter feed on my iPhone–my version of a newspaper–then made a quick trip to Starbucks with the roommate before sitting down to study for my midterm tomorrow, as well as get ahead on another paper due later this week. Also looked into some journalism opportunities as that has become a fixation lately in my quest to determine a career path.
As much as it may seem that I have alot on my plate, this midterm season I’ve actually managed to keep relatively calm. I can’t, however, say the same for some of my friends. This past Friday night we decided to switch it up and stay in, save some money (it was of course in part due to the snow storm which ravaged Toronto…) and we made some homemade pizza, reminiscent of fun childhood memories. I asked my friend how his midterms were going, knowing that he’s pretty bombarded. “Well, I haven’t exactly been taking care of myself…too much caffeine, and most of isn’t even from coffee!” He throws a bag a chocolates at me. “They’re from France, you’ll like them, just don’t let me eat anymore!”
We kind of got into a discussion of taking care of yourself during particularly stressful periods in life like exam time for instance, and that’s when I realized that as a fourth year student, I think I am pretty well qualified to give advice on the sometimes complicated, yet simultaneously common sense, strategies for de-stressing during midterm and essay season. I admit it’s often more or less trial and error to figure out what works for you but here’s some stuff that’s worked for me and safeguards my sanity.
Limiting your caffeine intake: I know I’m one to talk about this but I find that after that 2nd cup of coffee your brain, whether you consciously realize it or not, slowly turns to mush. Even if you’re slightly more alert you can still feel the heavy drain on your body and not only that but it will typically hurt your sleeping patterns when you finally do decide that you’re done for the day. Solution? Treat yourself. Head on over to your favorite coffee shop (cough cough Starbucks :D) and order a medium sized specialty drink. You’ll want to savor it so it will last longer, not to mention you’ll drink slower knowing that it cost you more money.
Get out and do something. It doesn’t have to be a crazy night at a club downtown or even a night out drinking, it could be as simple as calling up a friend and going for a walk for an hour or two…I always find that I’m ten times more refreshed if I’ve gone somewhere and done something, it’s something about a novel experience no matter how simple that motivates you to study better. We all need a physical and mental break.
Get a good night’s sleep..no really! If there’s anything I believe in for a successful study session it’s a sufficient amount of sleep. I hate it when people make excuses about why they can’t have a night out or even just a short outing away from the books but then they complain about how exhausted they are because they don’t even have the time to sleep. It’ll take you ten times longer to finish up that reading and it will be ten times less enjoyable when you could have just taken an extra few hours to sleep.
Take appropriate breaks: Facebook and Twitter is not a break. When I went to the Academic Success center at U of T one of the pieces of advice I found most helpful was knowing what kinds of study breaks to take and when. They said the most effective breaks are ones that are at hour intervals for 15 minutes each, and those 15 minutes should be spent doing something mindless. Stare out the window and let your thoughts flow. Take a walk around the block. The point is to mentally and physically de-stress and blank out so you are optimally rested yet alert when you start your studies again.
Exercise: I know this sounds cliche but physical rejuvenation leads to mental alertness. If I had more time I probably would be able to give actual sources of information however from personal experience this is one of the best strategies. If you have a gym close by get on the treadmill and speedwalk on an incline while reading over your study notes. Don’t have access or time for that? Stand up and stretch for a good few minutes and do some simple exercises like jumping jacks or burpees to refresh. It’ll get the blood flowing to your brain.
Temporarily stressful periods in life require you to be especially kind to yourself. Excessive amounts of smoking, drinking, caffeine, physical inactivity and sleep deprivation will throw off your A game, trust me on that. Take care of yourself and your mind will take care of you grades-wise! These are just a few of the things that I find work for me but there are definitely more and if anyone can think of any I would love to hear them in the comments!