My Mental Health Story

It’s been 18 weeks since I wrote my introduction post on this blog. I remember sitting down at my computer to draft it and thinking that I wanted to portray the best image of myself. I wanted to be the epitome of the “perfect U of T student”, and I thought that maybe if I pretended to be that person long enough – eventually I would actually become them.

Unfortunately, that’s not how things work. I’m not perfect. 

U of T Graphic Reads: October is Mental Wellness Month. Learn ways to balance responsibilities, find relaxation, engage with your community, and be mindful. See the full schedule of events at uoft.me/mwm

U of T has dedicated October to Mental Wellness month. So, some of us on the crew have decided to share with you our own stories. Whether that’s how we deal with stress, what resources we utilize on campus, or just where we can go to clear our heads, we hope that it can bring you some comfort in knowing you’re not alone, and remind you that we’re more than just typing fingers behind a computer screen. We’re humans too.

Group shot of the community crew at an orientation event.

See! Real proof that we exist out from behind your computer screen!

My story begins when I was very young. I remember being in grade 6 and beating myself up over not getting the grades I thought were  mandatory. This obviously escalated in high school, and as the work load increased so did my anxiety.

But when I came to U of T, I started to be more  anxious about my social life. I worried about who I would run into in the hallways of my dorm or about what the person who was staring at me (albeit probably aimlessly) was thinking about me. If they hated me even though they had never met me. I grew distant from my new found friends and closed myself off from the world I had only just begun to feel comfortable in.

 

Just because someone looks happy, doesn't mean they are. It took my friends a long time to notice I wasn't well, because I insisted on putting on a happy face.

Just because someone looks happy, doesn’t mean they are. It took my friends a long time to notice I wasn’t well, because I insisted on putting on a happy face.

It took time, but eventually I reached out and found the help I needed. It started by telling a friend, who helped me tell my parents, who helped me find a professional I felt comfortable talking to.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. So for that reason, I don’t feel that sharing what specifically helped me, will necessarily help you.

Instead, I want to share two things; 

1. Talk to Someone. Talk to a friend, a family member, or one of the amazing counsellors  at U of T’s Counselling & Psychological Services. They offer amazing resources including in-person counselling.

2. I’m okay. I survived and dare I even say, flourished, in the rest of my first year. I got help I needed, and I’m still getting the help I need. I know it may feel like it’s never going to get better, but it will – I promise.

Left Photo: Rachael laughing with friend in hallway. Right photo: Rachael and female friend buckled-over from laughing outdoors in front of trees.

Eventually that fake smile turned into a real smile, and with time it even turned into a laugh.

So I guess my story should end with an ellipses and a “to be continued”. It’s still something I’m working on every minute of every day. Sometimes it means I skip a class on Friday to go home and see my parents, or sometimes it means I skip a social event to go to the library and do my readings. It’s about finding what works for you, and accepting that “perfect” isn’t an achievable goal. 

So stay tuned for the rest of the week here on the Life@UofT blog for stories, tips, and tricks from the rest of the crew. While you’re at it, make sure to check out the U of T Mental Wellness Month activities.

The Life of a University Smoker: Why I Decided to Quit

Let’s face it: University is crazy stressful. With exams, assignments, and school clubs, not to mention juggling work, family, and friends, it is hard to manage everything. In the TL; DR version of my story that is why I started smoking: I was doing a 30-hour internship, five courses, and a lot of extracurricular activities. It was just WAY too much. My anxiety hit a breaking point and I had heard smoking helped alleviate the immediate stress that comes with millennial school life.

And for me, it worked…at least for a while. I was able to step out of the situation for seven minutes, walk around aimlessly, and be away from all my responsibilities for just a little while. That was the appeal, with the nicotine being just an added bonus/minus (depending on how you look at it).

So why did I quit? It was certainly not because my family was nagging me to do so, although they do take the credit for it now (hey Mama O’Shaughnessy).

No, I quit for a simple reason: I got super sick. The flu bug flew around my college and I ended up with a massive cough. As I went outside with a cigarette, coughing like nobody’s business, I thought to myself, “This is just dumb: I am prolonging my sickness because of this addictive and expensive garbage.”

I should also mention just the blatant hypocrisy what I have been doing with you all: I am the Health and Wellness blogger! Was I really following my job title when I walked down to the store after I got my first paycheck? I don’t think so.

And so, eleven days later, here I am, writing this post smoke-free!

“Quitting is that easy, Haley? What are all these smokers complaining about?”

Okay, okay, okay, I will be honest: quitting sucked a lot. I was a half-a-pack smoker, so I guess you could say that is pretty average. Yet when I quit, I felt tired, irritable, and hungry all the time. Just ask anyone from my college – they saw it was hard work!

First Day- Feeling okay

First Day- Feeling okay

Second Day- How this is awful- All I am thinking about "maybe I should cut down." I pushed through, perhaps because I could write this blog with this glamour shot. ;)

Second Day- WOW this was awful- All I was thinking about “maybe I should cut down.” I pushed through, perhaps because I could write this blog with this glamour shot. ;)

Second Day

Third Day- I was probably the worst person to be around that day (I literally yelled at my friend over whether subways or LRTS are better… and I live on residence).

Sixth Day- Feeling better good! Third day was definitely the worst and ever since then I have been thinking less and less about those darts, bud.

Sixth Day- Feeling pretty good! Third day was definitely the worst and ever since then I have been thinking less and less about those darts, bud.

So here’s my suggestion: get some nicotine gum. As a U of T student it is free through the Koffler Drop-in Clinic or through the CAMH. There are also some amazing support systems through the “Leave the Pack Behind” campaign. The university is huge and so I am telling you now, you are not alone. One of the main reasons I stuck with it was because I was telling my friends my progress via Snapchat (who knew disappearing photos could be a tool for quitting smoking)

One of the Pamphlet you will get with your free Nicotine gum through Leave the Pack Behind!

One of the pamphlets you will get with your free Nicotine gum through Leave the Pack Behind!

Follow those directions when taking your gum!

Follow those directions when taking your gum!

Another pamphlet! I read these when I get stressed and feel the urge to smoke.

Another pamphlet! I read these when I get stressed and feel the urge to smoke.

Now, I am no longer revolving my schedule around smoking breaks and in fact, I actually can breathe much better (which I didn’t realize was a problem until after quitting). Those first few days were a small price to pay for my mental, not to mention physical, well being

All for now,

Haley

Here Comes The First University Assignment! A Story from Not-so-Long-Ago…

So it’s the first of October, which means your first essay/test/some other form of evaluation is near. Before you freak-out because you just realized a month of school has already passed, never fear: I will tell you a little story from my first year that you may perhaps learn from.

My perma-face from first-year

My perma-face from first year

I remember my first class very well. It was seminar connected to the notoriously difficult TrinOne Program. But being from far, far, far away (aka Edmonton, Alberta), I knew none of this.

I sat down and I immediately felt awkwardly underdressed. Many of the folks in class where wearing nice sweaters and dress pants, if not ties and “casual” suit jackets whereas I was wearing my blue cheetah pants with a some-what plain flannel shirt.

Flannel is a Lifestyle

Flannel is a lifestyle

And then my prof came in. Now, to preface this story, my professor for this class turned out to be one of my greatest mentors (where I am today is thanks to him). Nonetheless, when he walked in, I felt incredibly intimidated. The room was dead silent.

He starts introducing himself.

“So you may have heard that I used to interview terrorists for a living.”

For the record, I heard no such thing.

 

“And although it was not a sort of James Bond type of job, that is a hundred-percent true…oh and by the way, I take plagiarism very seriously.”

EEEEEKKKK

EEEEEKKKK

“How am I going to make sure I don’t plagiarize? I mean there are millions of books out there! Someone somewhere is bound to have said what I have said at sometime, right?”

Now obviously I didn’t really understand what plagiarism meant, So when my first assignment rolled around I placed a footnote in every second sentence…meaning only half of the work would be considered my own analysis and thoughts. That problem, along with a bunch of grammatical errors and factual misconceptions, led to a pretty low mark. To be sure, I worked my little first-year tail off but I still ended up hugely disappointed and incredibly stressed out.

So, why did this happen?

 

The classroom that taught me how little I knew

The classroom that taught me how little I knew

Although it certainly had to do with my nerves from the first class, that essay could have been a lot better had I gone to a writing centre, the Academic Success Centre , or had I understood the concept of time-management.

Of course I did poorly because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fix what I didn’t know.

And so I took that first assignment as a learning opportunity to do better on the next one. I bought some grammar books, I went to the writing centre, and I went to my professor’s office hours, and WHAM! I ended up with a fantastic mark at the end of the year and I was far happier and far less stressed.

More to the point, staying organized and being aware of the resources, helped me to maintain my mental well-being (and alliteration!) and ensured that I would not get all nervous and anxious every time I got a new assignment put on my desk.

 

Okay, my perma-face still in third-year

Okay, my perma-face still in third year

All for now,

Haley

 

The Not-so Healthy Wellness Blogger: Haley and the Simplicity of the Unhealthy

Hey Life @ U of T blog readers!

My name is Haley and I will be your Health and Wellness Blogger for this upcoming year. Now, before you say “Oh another health guru, let me just look at someone else’s post,” let me be straight up with you now: I am not your typical “health” blogger. To be frank, I am a chip eating, wine drinking, cigarette-smoking (my boss is probably horrified by this admission), anxiety-stricken queer person who has never thought of dental dams and “the bedroom” in the same sentence.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 11.39.54 PM

Now you might be thinking: “But Haley! I drink wine and eat chips, and sure, I may smoke a couple cigarettes at a party, but you can still be healthy if you keep it in moderation.” Thanks friendly reader but here is the problem: moderation is not as easy as it sounds. Not to make excuses for myself but when I am stressed, which is often, I am not thinking to myself, “I really should be doing some meditation while I eat some kale.” No, I am thinking, “Pass me those Pringles so I can get me through (insert stressful essay/activity/event here).”

Eating a lot of terrible things are often “quick fixes” to terrible student problems. We all know that. But it seems impossible to get out of this mindset of reaching for the fast and often unhealthy food. Although I am making it through in public with a smile on my face, I am still struggling just as hard as I did in first year. Resorting to smoking, if anything, has made it worse because all I think about during writing an exam/essay is “when can I go outside for a cigarette?  I just can’t seem to focus without one in my hand.”

I have not actually solved the underlining problem of WHY I get so anxious. Yes medication helps, but the brain is an organ folks- it needs proper nourishment too.

It is hard, I know, but there really is no quick fix. Healthy eating and occasional exercise is something to work for, one little step at a time. I know treadmills are not my friend (fast walking for the sake of getting sweaty and tired, why?), but tap shoes are!  Cheesecake is definitely my friend but so is stem-cooked broccoli and baby carrots. Come April 2015, I want to look at health and wellness as something other than the “miracle pill” or the “lose weight on your couch” garbage that is seen on television. I do not want to see these options as “compromises” but as an additive to a better and happier lifestyle.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 11.40.41 PM

That is why I want to write for y’all and that is why I need your help to take the initiative to put my body and mind first. It is not easy and if people tell you it is, they are probably trying to sell you some green “health” mush from a late-night infomercial.

Help me, fellow students! Let’s get a little bit better together.

All for now,

Haley

#Foodie – The Off-Campus Food Scene

To be completely honest, I don’t even know what the exact definition of a foodie is, although you’ll often find me claiming to be one. Urban dictionary had way too many varying explanations, so that didn’t help much either. I do know that the real star is the food. Which is why I recently wrote a post about making your own food, or trying some of the great food that U of T has to offer. What I like to keep in mind though, is that I’m here for about 4 years. I don’t plan on making couscous every day when some of the best places to eat are just off campus.

Being in the heart of downtown Toronto, I always like to try out what our amazing city has to offer! It’s all a part of the student experience, right?  I’ve spent many a study session abandoning my books and going for walks around the outskirts of our campus, and I’ve found some really great places. Here are a few of my favorite eateries so far!

Millie Creperie near Spadina and College – This one was a fairly recent find. A friend and I decided to walk around the area and we found this place tucked away in Kensington. The crepes are served in this little cone, which doesn’t make it any easier to eat, but makes it cuter to look at!

IMG_4834

Must-try: Mango Tango Crepe

Banh Mi Boys near Queen and Spadina – I found Banh Mi Boys during my Toronto staycation and although it’s probably the furthest spot from U of T, it’s definitely worth the walk! I never realized my love for Vietnamese food until I came across this place!

photo (1)

Must-try: I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. Kim-chi fries!

Fresh near Bloor and Spadina – If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you have to try this place out! They have amazing smoothies and a fairly large menu with vegan/vegetarian versions of your favorite foods! Must-try: Sweet Potato fries! They were good enough that I didn’t even have time to take a picture :(

Dlish Cupcakes near Yonge and Bloor – Dlish does amazing cupcakes. There are so many flavours to choose from, and it’s conveniently close by to campus in Yorkville. #classy.

photo (3)

Must-Try: …cupcakes?

Sakura Sushi near Bloor and Spadina – Even if you aren’t a fan of sushi, this place has plenty to offer in terms of udon, grilled meats, desserts and more. Also, did I mention it was all you can eat? *Cheers*

photo (2)

Must-try: It’s all you can eat. Try Everything

So that was my foodie adventure (so far). So tell me U of T, what are your favourite off-campus places to eat? 

My School-Year Resolutions

Back in January, in the midst of all the New Year’s hype, I made the same general resolutions I always do: Eat healthier. Exercise more. Try harder at school. I’m not ashamed to say that I usually break them within a month, and continue on with my junk-food-laden, physically inactive, sleeps-through-lecture life.

photo 3

Add a box of Oreos and this is literally me. Source: www.ssandmann.tumblr.com

Well my friends, I sleep easy because my real resolutions start at the point in the year when I feel that my life is starting its next level: the school year!

It’s a ritual I’ve practiced since I was a little kid: Every year, I give myself the first day of school pep talk and think about my school year resolutions. What are my goals? What do I want to accomplish? What do I need to improve on?

After my rollercoaster ride of a first year here at U of T, I resolved to 1) Get more involved and 2) Attend ALL my lectures and tutorials. Sweet and simple. The result was an incredible second year, with better grades, more confidence and a happier Api (if that’s even possible).

photo 1

Happier than this?????

After much contemplation, here are my school year resolutions for third year:

1) Get help as soon as I need it. I have gotten a little better at this over the last 2 years. I attended the occasional office hour, I tried to ask questions at tutorials and I even got some guidance from the Academic Success Centre. But, I realize that running to the professor or TA one week before the final about a topic from the first lecture is probably not the best choice.

2) Relax more!  I’ve had issues with anxiety and stress in the past, so I’ve decided that I want to do something fun or relaxing to let loose every so often during the school year. I want activities that will cause me zero stress, like yoga classes at the Athletic Centre, or even one of the creative classes at Hart House!

photo 4

Unfortunately there are no rocks for me to relax and wistfully gaze off over the water on in the middle of the city.

3) Watch fewer TV shows.  Okay, this one sounds like one of those generic New Year’s resolutions, but hear me out. I am not a casual TV watcher. I am a fangirling, fictional-character-loving, Netflix-binge-watching TV show enthusiast. I have spent an embarrassing number of hours catching up on the week’s shows at Robarts (yes, even during exam season) and I think it’s time I put a stop to it. So please, if you ever catch me trying to stifle my laughter while staring at my laptop in a quiet study area, remind of this post and my public declaration to stop.

photo 2

My reaction when people tell me to stop watching TV. Source: www.cokelame.tumblr.com

So tell me U of T, what are your goals or resolutions for the year? Let me know down in the comments, or tweet me @Api_UofT!

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?