Balancing School and Self-Care (Part One)

The most difficult part of my university experience so far has been learning how to balance. Every September, I am thrown off my feet by my new schedule, and just when I feel like I have a routine set up, midterms hit. As the type of person who insists on combing through every single reading, I often find myself overwhelmed by schoolwork and unsure how to fit in any much-needed self-care activities.

However, spending 8-hour blocks on studying or writing has never worked for me either. I lose focus after a few hours at most, and often end the day cranky and tense from so much studying at once. Last winter semester, during a particularly difficult academic period, I went to see my college’s learning strategist for help. Here are some memorable tips that I learned from her, as well as some personal ones that work for me.

"Midterms" carved into pumpkin
Source: Rusaba Alam

Finding Your Way Back After “Failures”

Even though everyone experiences failure, nobody wants to broadcast them. And it’s definitely hard to talk about them at a competitive school such as U of T. When you’ve experienced academic setbacks at a high-achieving school it’s hard to convince yourself that you can bounce back from it. At least that was the case for me. I saw the ‘failures’ as now-permanent features of my character and less like ‘stumbles’ or ‘setbacks’ (which, in the grand scheme of things, they actually were).

So what’s important when you’re trying to bounce back from setbacks?

Robarts Library
Coming back from setbacks can all be rather intimidating, just like Robarts.
(c) University of Toronto

The Bran Muffin of Classes

Some classes are like meringues: light and simple. Some are more like chocolate cake: dense and rich, but very satisfying. Some are like sweet and refreshing ice cream that goes down oh-so-smoothly. Like custard, some classes are heavy and decadent. Others are like chocolate chip cookies, appreciated for their classic appeal. Classes that are like toffee are a lot to chew on, but still very pleasant.

Pictured: cartoons of desserts
Can you tell I’m hungry? Picture Credit: 4-designer.com

Some classes, however, are like the bran muffin. The bran muffin is an affront to delicious things everywhere; it is utterly dull and a waste of time and calories. To make matters worse, it sometimes has nasty little shrivelled-up raisins lurking inside. No one likes a bran muffin.

Sometimes, you have to eat bran muffins though, don’t you? Perhaps when your sweet old Granny makes them for you, or when your local Timmies runs out of everything else, or when you feel like inflicting pain on those nasty little raisins. Sometimes, you just don’t have a choice when it comes to bran muffins.

The same goes for bran muffin classes. You will have at least one over the course of your university career; everybody does. Maybe you’ll need it as a breadth requirement, it will be a prerequisite for something else you want to take, or it will be the only thing that fits into your schedule. There will be no escaping it. That’s how you’ll end up in a bran muffin class, in spite of its snooze-worthy subject matter, never-ending readings, miserable locale—OISE auditorium anyone?—and its professor’s annoying goat-like voice. March 13th is the last day to drop an S section course, so it’s high time to decide if you want to stick it out or not. If you want or need to persevere, stick with me! I’ll try to show you how to turn a yucky bran muffin into a beautiful cupcake.

Pictured: Bran muffin
Yuck. Picture Credit: sini.co.uk

Okay, maybe not a cupcake, but at least a slightly-less-terrible bran muffin:


Emma’s Slightly-Less-Terrible Bran Muffin Recipe

Sick in the 6ix

My alarm goes off. I sit up and my head is spinning. I reach for my alarm and miss it the first two times. I finally get it to switch off, lie back down, and assess the situation. I’m drenched in sweat. My head is pounding. My throat is really sore; it hurts to swallow. I feel too cold and too hot at the same time. Memories of my dreams start to trickle back: flying donuts, green skies, canoeing on a chocolate river. I start to put the pieces together.

Pictured: The chocolate river from the good film version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
This fever dream is brought to you by Wonka’s Chocolate Factory™ and Pure Imagination™ Picture courtesy of  http://www.frenchtoastsunday.com

Yep. I’m sick. Now what?