In which I do what I say…

We’re in the beginning stages of exams, and UofT has been zombified.
Everyone seems to be walking around in various ‘walking dead’ personas.

Last week I talked about taking time off to really enjoy how far you’ve come,  so this week I will do exactly that.

As an English student, exam season is really essay season for me, as I write papers that usually determine up to 40% of my overall grade, all in the last two-three weeks of school.

IMG_9211

i can never see my actual desk this time of the year.

Recently, as I was busy pumping out papers, I remembered two papers I wrote in first year:

The first one, my first ever history research paper, received a dismal 60ish%.
I admit, I had no idea what I was doing.
I also hated writing the paper.

The second one, my first ever, close-reading paper, received a whopping 90ish%.
I had thoroughly enjoyed writing the paper, and on it, my T.A. told me that if I continued writing papers this way, I’d do really well.

The catch is that both these papers are from the same class.
The expectations hadn’t changed, only, my selection of topic and approach to writing had.

Fast-forward to fifth year, and I’ve become extremely self-aware of what kind of essay topics I’ll respond to better. Regardless of the subject, I’ve developed a way to write essays that play to my strengths, and also tackle the content required of me.

There are always expectations asked of us this time of the year, but there are many ways to go about meeting them.

Whether you study till you look like an extra from the Walking Dead, or cram under pressure the night before the final, figure out what works for you.

If you study better sprawled on the floor in a mess, do it.
If you need multiple breaks, take them.
If you focus better alone, get a study cubicle.
If you work better with friends, book a study space at Gerstein.

In Chinese, we say 加油 as a form of encouragement.
This literally means “add oil”.
Add oil everyone.  : )

Just a little further, and it will all be merry again.

IMG_9212uh guys…we ran out of oil again.

 

Little Things Count Too

With the semester coming to an end, I find myself focused on reaching the big goals that I set for at the beginning of the school year. Just to recap, my ambition for this blog is to build the habit of making physical activity a part of my lifestyle. My secondary goals are to become physically fit, more energetic, and fearless when it comes to exercising in public. When I look at these goals, they can be a bit broad and, at times, I lose track of where I am going. Yet, it shouldn’t have to be all or nothing for me when it comes to exercising, because every moment of physical activity counts into my journey. Instead of focusing on the big picture, I’ve realized that I should pick out each pixel to work on instead. Each day is an opportunity to make smaller goals that can help me work up to the bigger ones, and motivate me to stay on track.

I’ve decided to start off with a minimum of three goals to accomplish each day. After all, I don’t want to bombard myself with too many tasks, I’m still getting into to this new lifestyle and change doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of getting overwhelmed with how much work I still have to do, I can change my perspective around and focus on what I have accomplished each day, and see how close I am to realizing my aspirations. Following through with these goals each day will also help me appreciate that even the littlest things that I do in terms of physical activity can contribute to becoming a healthier me.

1) Work On My Posture
Ever since I was sixteen, I’ve had the nasty habit of slouching whenever I am sitting down or standing up. And lately, this slouching has been causing a ton of back pain, especially when I’m hunched over my desk studying. The pain distracts me from my studies. Since having bad posture tends to lag me behind on my exercising, such as making it painful to do crunches, I’ve decided to tackle this problem head on.

Enough with the bad posture! – VIA GIFSOUP.COM

Even though through Pilates (thanks to the plank), I’ve managed to strengthen up my core a bit, I still forget to relax my chest and roll my shoulders back. I know that it’s impossible to have perfect posture 24/7, so I aiming to work on straightening my back for at least a half an hour each day. Then, I will build up to an hour or two, until having a straight posture becomes second nature to me. Correcting my posture can be a pain, even though it sounds simple, but it’s worth it. I get the confidence by shifting my appearance and standing tall, and running around campus becomes less of a task since I won’t have to work on keeping up with my slouching.

2) Start/End The Day By Stretching
Like so many students, I’m often in a rush to get to class in the morning so I jump out of bed and forget to warm up my body as a way to prepare for the day. And sometimes, after many hours of working, I collapse onto my bed, forgetting to loosen up my muscles and relax before passing out for the night. Either way, I start and end the day sore. Whenever I take the time to condition and stretch my body, I’m more energetic, focused, and, obviously flexible.

Even cats do the downward dog. -VIA AMEOWZINGOBSESSION.TUMBLR.COM

Since mornings can be hasty, I plan to do one full-body stretch, standing up on the balls of my feet, lifting my arms above my head, trying to reach for the ceiling. I will also add touching my toes and twisting my body from left to right. At night, I’ll devote more time stretching, and do yoga postures like downward dog (standing on all fours), child’s pose (lying face down, legs bents, and pressing my thighs to my chest while stretching my arms over my body), and tree pose (standing on one leg, while the other is bent with the foot inwards to the opposite leg and knee outwards). The best part about yoga is that it also frees me from whatever state of mind I am in. Was today a rough day? Am I excited about something that’s going to happen tomorrow that I can’t sleep? By stretching, all of that is forgotten, and I’m able to focus on the present. There’s no better way to go to sleep than on a positive note.

3) Do At Least One Physical Activity
Be it taking a walk, going to Pilates class, going to the gym, or dancing like crazy to a favourite song, it doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I manage to fit in some sort of activity into my day. I’ve come to the realization that being physically active doesn’t have to only be about running on the treadmill for 90 minutes, and if there’s no time for that, then nothing else will do. Instead, it’s about the minor changes I make in the way I live, such as taking time to stand up and move around after a long study session. Life can be busy, so why not get creative and fit in a workout in between the most crowded moments?

I mean, running away also counts as exercise, right? – VIA GIF-CENTRAL.BLOGSPOT.CA

What are your daily active goals that you plan to achieve?

-Amanda

Face The Music (and Mid-Terms)

On the school calendar, the first semester might as well highlight the months of October and November as not the months that belong to fall, but to midterms instead. Like I have mentioned before, midterms are notorious energy-drainers. It’s easy to lose momentum and plateau when the majority of your day-to-day schedule revolves around doing school work. So I like to keep an ever-growing playlist of songs to help keep me determined to not only survive, but ace mid-term season, and to remind me that yes, it is possible to slip in a little exercise in between working.  I like to match the music that I listen to according to how I feel, I also like to listen to songs that will help me to find the energy to exercise.

Here are three songs that keep me on track in between my sleep, eat, work, eat, exercise, work, sleep (well, not all in that order) schedule:

TV on The Radio – Wolf Like Me
The colder the weather, the sleepier I get, and the more I envision myself becoming best friends with the heater in my room. Lately, my body is trying to retreat into a three-month hibernation, so just waking up has been struggle —my brain is like an overheated computer that needs to take time to load. So while it’s in the “buffering” mode, I like to play an upbeat song such as Wolf Like Me as an alarm clock to help me wake up. Listening to a song about being an unstoppable force of energy inspires me to get out of bed and prepare myself to start the day in a not-so-sluggish manner.

Sky Ferreira – You’re Not The One
For those who know me personally, my favourite type of cardio is the “dancing like crazy in my bedroom”-type of cardio. Dancing (in my room) is cathartic, because I can jump up and down, do a twirl here and there, all while no one is watching me. Whenever I put on this song, I forget the fact that I’m exercising because I’m so immersed in moving along with the tempo.

One day I’ll make my dancing debut. VIA MICSGIFS.TUMBLR.COM

I’ve also been using this song as a motivating tool to complete my assignments, or readings, by creating “dance” breaks whenever I feel like I am running out of energy or losing focus. Most recently, I came across this song (via the recommendations of many music review blogs), and have used it as my go-to track when starting my ten-minute breaks to do cardio. I like to say that I don’t like pop, but I secretly do—and I must admit, this song does glam pop very well. It’s lively, and is also about moving on and not dwelling on the past, and I take heed by dancing away my worries. I’ve come to realize that I need to open up my options when creating a song list in order to get me on my feet and moving. And since I used this song during my break in between writing this post, I can tell you that opening up my options has been working so far.

King Krule – Out Getting Ribs
During mid-terms, I’ve still managed to go to my Pilates classes at the Athletic Centre, but I’ve fallen behind on going to the gym more than once a week this month. However, I’m still determined to not spiral back into my past sedentary lifestyle, so I’ve kept active when dancing in my room, or practicing my Pilates moves. One of the main motivators for me right now is that I can do a killer plank without slouching, and that I’ve moved on to practicing other positions and exercises, such as butterfly crunches, (I lie down on my back and lift my legs in a slanted positions, all while doing quick breaths and waving my arms just above and below my abdominal muscles).

Sometimes, when writing papers, I hit a roadblock and worry about whether the words that I have written on the page make sense. This kind of anxiety makes it easy to lose focus. So I use what I’ve learned in my Pilates class, take a break to do a few moves and refresh my mind—but not without the help of music playing in the background.

I like to stick to dreamy and calming music that sometimes have a rising tempo—and the beginning guitar riffs in Out Getting Ribs do just the thing. Also, the song isn’t’t too slow so that when I do pick up my pace in doing moves like butterfly crunches, I can at least keep my body in sync with the beats. As well, I like to end my night feeling relaxed, and this song helps to soothe me into resting mode.

Sleep, eat, work, eat, exercise, work, sleep schedule still intact.

What songs do you listen to when you feel like you need to calm down, or get up and going?

The Jolly Season of Midterms

Oh midterm season, that dreadful time of year when everyone hides in their rooms or at the library, with their heads buried in their textbooks, forgetting that they ever had a social life. As a second-year student, I know the drill now. But nonetheless, I’m still worried because each year, the work becomes harder. This time around I don’t have any exams, which I am glad about, but I have two papers and two presentations to complete. At U of T, no one escapes midterm season scot-free; there is always something to study for.

The thing is, I know that I won’t get anything done when I’m stressed out; I put things off until the eleventh hour. And even though I’m probably going to leave one of those assignments for the classic do-it-all-in-one-night style (hey, it’s a student tradition), I still want to be, and to feel, at the top of my game. So, at the start of the week, I made a list of goals to keep my head in check:

1. Go to the gym at least once alone and once with a friend (maybe this is how I can be social again).
2. Keep attending Pilates classes.
3. Between reading a chapter, or writing a paragraph, stop and stretch for relaxation.
4. Take time to do the much appreciated “treat yo’self.” Seriously.

Parks and Recreation had this right all along. –VIA SPIFFYPOP.TUMBLR.COM

When it came to actually completing my to-do list, I was running short on energy, but still managed to reach these goals.

1. Gym?
I was aiming to be one of those “I-wake-up-at-6:00AM-to-go-to-the-gym”-types of people, but this week was devoted to night time exercising. Also, it was easier to go with a friend at night since we both had an evening class together. Even though I wasn’t active during my planned time, I was still being active nonetheless. After all, the most important part was that after returning back to my room, I was calm enough to be able to sit down and focus on my readings.

2. + 3. Doing Pilates + Practicing my stretches
I attended my Pilates class, but it was a struggle. I fell behind on practicing my planking, which I’d made a pact to perfect since last week. The night before Pilates class, I stayed up until 4:00AM doing readings and editing a paper. I woke up early  all groggy and exhausted. In retrospect, staying up so late (or early, if you’re a grim thinker) wasn’t the best decision, but I didn’t want that mistake let me skip my Pilates class, and cause a chain reaction for the rest of the week. So I went!

And you know what? When I left the AC after class, I felt revived. I was still drained from the lack of sleep, but I was calmer, and had more patience to carry on with the rest of the day. Also, I did manage to slip in some time to practice the plank afterwards.

Don’t pull an all-nighter. Your eyes will punish you for it. —VIA GIFGARAGE.COM

4. Time off + Motivation
Also I did manage to take time to achieve number four on my list, that “treat yo’self” task that I promised I would do. After completing my first presentation, I decided to take a hike to a cute café in Kensington Market. There I lounged around while sipping some blueberry honey tea. It didn’t hurt that the café made a great place for me to study at the same time.

And another thing that’s helping me to get through midterms that didn’t make my list? Making plans to join in on fun events. I realized that I needed some extra motivation to push through my never-ending pile of assignments. Most of all, I need the balance that being social brings. There’s an upcoming MoveU event coming up, Scary Skate, on October 31st. Also, it’s free, as in free to attend, with free refreshments, and free skate rentals—as a university student, I am shameless to say that free is my favourite word. Although I guess in this case, free comes with a cost, since I have a fear of skating. But I’m curious to try it out. And if I can survive midterms, then I’m confident that I’ll survive giving ice-skating another chance.

Even this goat can skate better than me. –VIA 4GIFS.COM

So now, it’s your turn to tell me dear readers. What have you been doing to keep active (and survive) this midterm season?

Minding Our Minds: Unpacking Mental Health

Created with easel.ly

Created with easel.ly

Academic panels and conferences can often be dry, which is why I mainly go for the free food. If I happen to learn something interesting, great; if not, I’ll have made my case against the “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” crowd. But at Victoria College’s Minding Our Minds conference on mental health in universities last Friday, I happened to get both a free lunch and learn a few things.

  • Know what you can handle

As a naïve and arrogant second-year, I thought I could take on a six-course workload. And start a company. After a summer of working full-time and taking courses. And still be able to have all the fun I’d had as a care-free first year. Obviously you can see where this is headed…

I should have seen the second term burn-out coming because by then I was running on empty. At the pace I was going for first term, I had to take a reduced course load for winter term or face the pending implosion. I’m pretty sure all the bells and whistles were going off but I had just hit “dismiss” (it’s ill-advised).

Anyway, the point of the story is that it’s okay. Being honest about what you’re able to handle will make your life significantly easier in the long term. And that term with a reduced course load has had no significant bearing on my ability to graduate or otherwise do well in school. It probably helped, in fact.

  • Find your person

This is advice that was given at the conference by Vic’s Dean of Students, Kelley Castle. Finding your person doesn’t mean finding a psychologist or professional help, she said. It can refer to finding a mentor, parent or good friend to rely on.

When those bells and whistles do go off and you keep hitting “dismiss”, you’ll be sure to want to have surrounded yourself with people who can tell you that you should probably shift your priorities.

  • Get help early

Not just limited to mental illness but to issues of mental health and academic advising in general, it’s best to seek help early. Though there are services and staff who want to help and students who may need it, the two don’t often meet until the situation is dire. At that point, dropping courses can be the only option.

Dropping courses can be a difficult decision considering students often have to do so after they have paid tuition. More lenient policies, such as those of other universities, help take the financial burden off students by back-dating the course drop so that the student is not financially penalized for it.
Part of this delay in reaching out for help may stem from problems that begin before university does, said some conference presenters. Students in high school are often told to toughen up in preparation for university’s more rigorous workload, different teaching style and lack of one-on-one attention.

In fact, there are perhaps more supports at university, from academic advising to peer support to health services. In university, you don’t always have to ‘be tough’, as you may have been taught. But you do have to be willing to reach out.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that there are staff and faculty who are available to support you. And sometimes, they’ve had a very personal connection to issues of mental health. U of T’s own Chancellor, Michael Wilson, had begun the conference by talking about his son who had committed suicide and the impacts of mental illness on his family. Staff and faculty know that break ups, deaths and mental health crises happen and are likely more understanding than is often assumed. They are, after all, people too.

- Kay

Essay Writing Dos and Don’ts

Warning: Now entering Essay Alley, a two-month span of the academic year known for an increase in essay-related stress, anxiety, and all out no-good-not-niceness. Luckily, the unofficial U of T Essay Writing Dos and Don’ts is here to help. (Have essay advice? Share it #UofTessaytips).

In my second year I took the Innis College course, Writing English Essays. An intermediate, hands-on course, I learned many skills and techniques of persuasive writing. Most useful, however, was the T.A.’s suggestion that we all read The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White (the author of Charlotte’s Web). It’s a little guidebook to clear, concise, stylistic writing, and I would highly recommend it!

Now! The unofficial U of T Essay Writing Dos and Donts:

Do: Give it time.

http://buzzfeedanimals.tumblr.com/page/4

http://buzzfeedanimals.tumblr.com/page/4

I have written essays the night before they were due. And I’ve written essays weeks in advance. Which do you think resulted in a better essay? Allowing myself time to reconsider and re-contemplate my arguments has always proven beneficial. An essay is a presentation of our thinking in words, and our thinking is constantly changing and developing. We need time to get it clear.

Don’t: Summarize or list facts.

http://natgeo-gifs.tumblr.com/post/31358180042

http://natgeo-gifs.tumblr.com/post/31358180042

Sometimes a summary of events may feel necessary to situate your arguments. I always ask my T.A. or professor about this. Most say that summaries are a boring, unneeded waste of words. Listing facts may also seem beneficial because it fills space. But a list of facts is not a developed argument. To write a good essay we must try to show our thinking.

Do: Engage arguments.

http://olympo.tumblr.com/post/9053065525

http://olympo.tumblr.com/post/9053065525

This is easier than it sounds. Just about every subject has previously established arguments made by scholars and students in books, papers, and journals. Find these. Read them. Pick two or three that are pertinent to your thesis and discuss them. Agree or disagree. Explain why you think so-and-so’s point is invalid, and then argue for your own ideas!

Don’t: Plagiarize.

http://jalapenoandolive.tumblr.com/post/63381014971/monday-via

http://jalapenoandolive.tumblr.com/post/63381014971/monday-via

Obvious! But also very serious. For academic, argumentative, critical writing there is no greater offence. Just imagine doing it in person: Some guy next to you says something brilliant, and when it’s your turn to speak you simply copy what he said, but you claim it’s your own idea. I don’t think so.

Do: Analyze the particular.

http://littleanimalgifs.tumblr.com/page/6

http://littleanimalgifs.tumblr.com/page/6

What do I mean? Find something small and work outwards. When I write an essay on a novel, I try to focus and build my arguments from particular passages that extend to broader themes within the book. For a history paper, I would centre my analysis on a particular event, person, or act, and draw outwards. Small is big. The particular argument informs the general assumption. Try it!

Don’t: Bribe your professor or T.A.

http://televandalist.com/post/43606450500

http://televandalist.com/post/43606450500

It just doesn’t work. Money, chocolate, theatre-tickets, a bottle of 50-year-old scotch—it’s all been tried. Unfortunately, the most effective gesture to receive that longed for A+ is a well-written essay.

Do: Pick an exciting title.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/wildlife-photos-from-the-nat-geo-photo-contest

http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/wildlife-photos-from-the-nat-geo-photo-contest

A professor of a friend of mine said that until students become famous, our best form of marketing is an exciting essay title. Wise words. I always check with my professors about title etiquette. Some are traditionalists.

Don’t: Lose sleep.

http://cineraria.tumblr.com/post/55964955759/sleepy-kitten-frida-youtube

http://cineraria.tumblr.com/post/55964955759/sleepy-kitten-frida-youtube

Handing in a late paper is not the end of the world. Nor is getting a B, or a C, or even a D. Sometimes we just get stumped and can’t think anymore. During third year, Essay Alley hit me hard and I had to ask my professor for an extension. If it’s necessary, DO IT. But ask earlier than later.

Do: Try to enjoy it.

http://headlikeanorange.tumblr.com/post/58178637114

http://headlikeanorange.tumblr.com/post/58178637114

When I’m stumped and scattered, I close my books and get out. I go see a friend. I talk about my stupid essay! And it helps. An essay is best when it’s written positively, when the mood is right.

 So remember: we’re students, we’re trying, and we’re lucky to be here.

 

 

‘Til next time, U of T, stay diamond!

-Stephen

And So It Begins!

Well, the first week has been off to a good start, albeit a little bit hectic. (#firstdaystories How was your week?) It’s funny how things turn out, really.

Here’s what happened to me:

hotdayrun

I have one course this semester. I often feel reluctant to tell people this, because usually they scowl and say they hate me. But that is just how my university career has worked out, and I’ll be honest—it’s pretty sweet. I feel a little like this guy:

source:http://l-o-t-r.tumblr.com/post/44019175865/why-is-this-page-so-awesome-its-now-my-go-to-for-epic

source:http://l-o-t-r.tumblr.com/post/44019175865/why-is-this-page-so-awesome-its-now-my-go-to-for-epic

Or, at least, I want to feel like that guy. The class is one night a week, two hours, mostly reading—easy!

It was on Wednesday, which happened to be the same day as my Life @ U of T Community Crew meeting. The meeting was at 4 pm, and the class was at 6 pm, so it was fine.

I decided to use my morning wisely. I did laundry. Oh, the joys of living independently!

source: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/home-alone-gif

source: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/home-alone-gif

The laundromat is close to my house, so I can go home between cycles. It takes six trips altogether to finally clean my clothes. While I’m waiting around at home I usually read, or watch a bit of a movie, visit the internets, or, as I decided to do on this particular day, I work out.

Why did I choose the hottest day in September to start a healthy exercise routine?

source:http://a-gif-for-you.tumblr.com/post/25312355771/when-people-ask-you-what-day-it-is-during-summer

source:http://a-gif-for-you.tumblr.com/post/25312355771/when-people-ask-you-what-day-it-is-during-summer

But once I was good and exhausted and thoroughly drenched in sweat, I threw on a quick set of clothes, and ran out to grab my laundry. It was 3 pm. When I got home I was going to shower, change (into clean clothes), grab my books, my bag, and head off to my meeting, and then my class. I was feeling exactly like this guy:

source:http://www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/clintnod.gif

source:http://www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/clintnod.gif

And that’s when everything went ridiculously wrong! I had forgotten my keys!

There I was, stranded outside my apartment, burning up in the 40-degree heat, sweating buckets, underdressed, no books, no bag, holding a huge sack full of shirts, shorts, socks, and underwear, and time was ticking!

Luckily, I had my wallet and my cell-phone. But, of course, it was starting to thunderstorm! I really had no choice. It was almost 4 pm. I had to go!

I took the subway to St. George station (blessed TTC!). Along the way, I realized I had forgotten to find out where I my class was being held. Also, the room had been changed for my Life @ U of T meeting, so I really had no idea where I was going.

Find a computer, public access Internet! So where did I go—Robarts! I looked up the building code and room number for my class, and found the new location for my meeting. Then I hit the washroom, rinsed my face, and changed into a clean shirt. Turns out laundry is pretty useful to carry around.

source:http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/will-ferrell-gif

source:http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/will-ferrell-gif

Well, not that good, but I was feeling better. I went to my meeting, met some new people, ate a Timbit or two, and then hurried through the rain to my class.

And my class was great!

It was introductory, but the readings sounded new and intriguing, and the professor was very enthusiastic, which is of paramount importance for evening classes!

In the end, it was a good first day. Unexpectedly hectic, but good for just that reason. It was a jumpstart back into managing my university career. At times things can be chaotic and uncertain. There will certainly be surprises. But that’s life, really. Who knows what will happen? I’ll do what I have to do, and hopefully in April I’ll feel like this guy:

source:http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m039l83fru1qm135p.gif#i%20feel%20good%20gif%20500x275

source:http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m039l83fru1qm135p.gif#i%20feel%20good%20gif%20500×275

 

‘Til we meet again, U of T, stay diamond!

 

-Stephen.

The Juggling Act

The concept of “living a balanced life” has always been such an elusive one for me.

Growing up, I maintained a relatively erratic lifestyle, and I carried that into my first year of U of T. I’d sleep 3 hours one night, and crash for 15 hours another (no doubt after I had stayed up for at least 36 hours cramming for a paper).  I would go two days without a proper, substantial meal one week, or spend 4 hours in the cafeteria every meal, going back for fourths, and sometimes even fifths. One weekend I’d be out with my friends three nights in a row, but the next I’d neglect to do my laundry for fear that I’d waste precious “studying” time by having to fold clothes instead.

The worst of it was that I thought I had this lifestyle down to a carefully calculated system. To me, the “balance” I found was within two extremes, wrongfully thinking they’d somehow cancel each other out. Needless to say, everything started to take its toll on me – I started to get more severe mood swings, I started crashing for longer periods, and I frequently began to fall sick at least every two weeks.

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tabathaleggett/the-stages-of-pulling-an-all-nighter

How I ended up feeling most days.

Second year came around and many of my habits remained the same, but I noticed that subtle changes helped drastically improve certain aspects of my life.

I joined intramural volleyball again, but this time, I made it a point to attend practices and games weekly.  I hadn’t played competitively since my high school varsity team got cut back in junior year, but it didn’t matter – I still loved the game, and playing on a regular basis made me remember how good it felt to exercise. The endorphin rush was just what I needed to kickstart a day of studying after practice. I traded in going out every night of the weekend to give my body a chance to rest and recuperate from a hectic week of school.

Instead of listlessly doing mass sign ups for campus group memberships at the UTSU Clubs Fair (with my actual involvement going only so far as to just receiving the email updates), I decided to get more involved in Friends of MSF, a campus group that advocates for a cause I feel passionately about.

All these little changes began to make me feel better – as clichéd as it sounds, I felt more purpose day-to-day and it was refreshing to make friends with people who actually cared about the same things I cared about and who were actually excelling in school (not just getting by!).

The art of balancing life here at U of T often feels like a precision juggling act – we look to those who seem to have it all figured out as mythical creatures who have achieved the impossible and managed to maintain a life where “work hard, play hard” really does exist.

I’ll let you in on a secret – those people who seem to always get it right are not so different from you and I. They’re just doing everything they love with the right amount of time commitment to each endeavour.

I still struggle greatly with healthy eating habits, studying smart (not the same as studying hard!), and keeping an active lifestyle outside of intramural season, but my experiences have only taught me for the better (and I’ll definitely be keeping you guys updated on my progress along the way). Now that I’ve gotten a taste of a more balanced life, I’m determined not to let it slip away.

Source: www.tumblr.com/tagged/enough_sleep/

I’m still working on figuring out the magic formula to have all three.

P.S. If you have any advice to give incoming first-years on balancing academics with personal life, tweet us and don’t forget to hashtag #StartUofT!

The Mighty DIY

So I’ve never been all that handy of a person. Creative, yes, but handy? No. Case in point: I bought 5 simple wooden shelves from Ikea in January that are still merrily leaning against my bedroom wall. It’s (sigh) May.

Perhaps it was the home culture I grew up in – don’t get me wrong, my family is wonderful and have no qualms getting their hands dirty. But they work on things that need fixing or maintaining. Ask them to invent something new just for the sake of it? They would much rather “invent” another cup of chai. Extra strong, please.

Mmm Indian Chai

I was 13 when I sewed together some rather hideous scraps of corduroy together and created my very first wearable article. It was a simple corduroy purse, and I had made it from cutting up a pair of baggy, equally hideous pants that I had bought from Value Village (or, as we used to call it then, the VV Boutique).

I paraded my purse (might I add that it was this terrible brown colour) proudly to my parents and brother. Instead of the exclamations of wonder that my ear was ready to hear, I heard stifled laughter instead. My mom couldn’t stop laughing. And my brother? A lost cause. If I could see the purse now, I’m sure I would laugh too. I’m fairly certain that the stitching would be quite uneven, and the strap would be wider one side than another. Like the pants from which it came, it too would probably be, well, hideous.

The Treasures of VV Boutique

All the same, it was my creation, and I loved it for what it was. I told my mom the other day that if she had encouraged my spritely talent, I might have been a famous fashion designer by now. She dissolved into fits of laughter at the memory of the purse instead.

Is it any wonder that I can now make an amazing cup of chai?

Can't have chai without snacks

All this to say that I have chosen this summer to challenge my rather complacent attitude towards DIY projects. Carrying on with my commitment to do and not just think, I’ve decided to see what things I can create or reuse rather than buying everything new all the time.

To help myself along, I’ve been checking out resources on campus that promote DIY adventures. My findings so far: U of T has an impressive array of places to go to if you want to learn a new trade. For instance, want to learn how to repair your bike? U of T’s Bikechain is the place for you!

Stay tuned for next week’s post, as I delve into where to explore hands-on activities on campus, from cooking and gardening, to creating interactive displays and even android apps.

As for keeping my commitment, I suppose I should begin with those Ikea shelves…

-Aziza

On Zen Frogs and Creating Happiness

It’s 10 minutes to five o’clock on a sunny, beautiful afternoon in May. Just a couple of moments ago, I was sitting in the chapel at Hart House, immersed in a mindful meditation workshop hosted by Cheryl Champagne from Health and Wellness at U of T. I feel calm, happy and, well, a bit surprised.  Who knew that 20 minutes of breathing could transform me from frazzled to zen? I guess I forgot how amazing meditation really is.

In the spirit of wellness and renewal (part two!), today’s post will be all about workshops, events, and resources on campus that can help you keep positive in this journey called Life.

 

 

Dare to Self-Care?

It took me years to figure out that in order to be at my best, I had to care for myself as much as I cared for other people. So I was pretty delighted to discover that U of T’s very own Health and Wellness Centre offers a workshop called Dare to Self-Care. Hosted by Jill Cressy, the workshop explores a variety of self-care practices, including stress management strategies, mind-body techniques, and 10 keys to happier living. Jill usually asks the following questions in her session:

What do you care about?

What are your values related to health and wellness?

How can you best support Happiness in your daily life?

Try your hand at them! I sat down and attempted to, but as usual, when I try to answer questions, I come up with a bunch of them instead: What does it mean to be mindful?  How can we go about creating Happiness?

My quest led me to Sutha Sathananthan, a Masters candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at U of T. Sutha took a Cognitive and Psychological Foundations of Effective Leadership class last fall, and became hooked on the concept of ‘happiness’. The outcome? Sutha founded Engineering Happiness, U of T’s first on-campus Happiness Initiative.

Sutha, founder of Engineering Happiness at U of T

“I started researching a lot about happiness, and I learned that there is a lot of negativity out there” says Sutha. According to her, people don’t start by thinking ‘well, what really makes me happy?’ Instead, they try to find ‘happiness’ when they are faced with depression, anxiety, and other mental health or emotional challenges. Engineering Happiness is all about providing the space and the tools for others to create awareness about the things that bring them balance, contentment, and joy.

Engineering Happiness draws its ethos from the field of Positive Psychology, which seeks to make normal life more fulfilling. Think fostering joy, creativity, and authentic happiness as ultimate goals.

U of T’s Health and Wellness also offers some amazing workshops that explore similar themes. In fact, there is just so much to be explored in the realm of wellness right on campus. Did you know that U of T actually has a Happiness Webinar Series? It’s true!

Not only that, the Multi-Faith Centre is currently offering a class on Mindful Meditation every Wednesday afternoon. Later this summer, you can even participate in a Happiness Challenge, brought to you by Engineering Happiness. You’ll be able to go out in the world an document whatever makes you happy using any medium, then submit your creation for a prize.

My foray into meditation, happiness and self-care kicked off Mental Health Awareness week. Did I get the answers to my questions? Nah…but I did learn a few meditation techniques, and learn a bit more about Happiness. Am I happy? Yes, I can safely say so.

Check out Jill Cressy’s Dare to Self-Care workshop on May 10 from 10-11 am at Charles St. Residence. Engineering Happiness is also hosting a free Laughter Yoga session on Wednesday, May 8th from 7-8 pm at Hart House, 2nd floor Debate Room.

Come out and flourish!

-Aziza