First-Years and Midterm Stress

Fall is in the air, but for us university students, that just means that midterms have arrived. Personally, this past long weekend consisted of studying for a term test and a midterm, getting work done for other courses, and giving thanks for the extra day to pull it all off. Naturally, I’ve been curious to see how other first-years have dealt with the stress of exams here at U of T, so I went ahead and asked some of my fellow engineers how they are finding ways to remain calm heading into them.

“Engage in recreational activities that require minimal effort or concentration! I personally stop playing online video games around exam time, and it’s been great as I don’t get nearly as worked up.” – Anurag

This is actually a pretty sound piece of advice, one that I’ve been subconsciously doing anyway. I’ve found that sticking with simple things, be it putting on an easy listening playlist, or reading a good book, have been effective methods of unwinding after a hard study session on the eve of an exam.

DSCF5394

Listening to some music and catching up on the news in the common room right before an exam helps keep me centered.

“I don’t spend the day of the exam still cramming and reviewing – at that point, my retentive abilities are next to zero. Instead, I try to relax.” – Dhanyaa

Relaxing with classmates right before a midterm, crazy as it may sound, actually put me in a calm frame of mind heading into the test. As Anurag cautioned against, I didn’t do something potentially strenuous. I planned my week so that I had ample studying done for the exam, and thanks to Dhanyaa’s advice, ended up spending the hour before sitting around and talking with friends as if we were just waiting around for the next class. I didn’t get too confident about it, but ensured that I wasn’t pulling my hair out immediately prior to an examination. Seeing a friendly face can do wonders when it comes to keeping stress levels low.

“Go on a walk after the exam, clear your head, and just get lost in the city of Toronto” – Ibrahim

Go for a walk, take a basic tourist-y shot of the CN Tower, check and check.

Go for a walk, take a basic tourist-y shot of the CN Tower, check and check.

I wouldn’t quite recommend getting lost, but going on a brief walk is a fine way to unwind after two hours in an exam room. Last week, I took a quick walk around King’s College Circle, and just relaxed there for a bit to ensure that I wouldn’t fixate on the term test I had just written. Since the weather is still nice enough to remain outdoors, taking a walk is truly a convenient way of de-stressing. When finals roll around, the weather probably won’t be as forgiving; I’m considering cafés as a good alternative for the greenery. Mental well-being is not something to be taken lightly; by arranging my time to allow for periods of rest and ample downtime in the hours leading up to a midterm, I’ve found myself feeling significantly more tranquil.

A Soul’s Ballad: The Blessing of Reflective Writing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife university students write—a lot. At some point, the word ‘writing’ might elicit an instinctive groan because it just meant finishing that reflection piece for English, that chem lab report, or that [insert energy-sucking work here]. As a result, being entrenched in mid-October, you’ll likely witness your friends partaking in stress-relieving activities, such as dancing, crocheting, binge-watching Orange is the New Black, or in my case, writing.

Now, you may ask, how exactly is writing going to relieve you of your stress . . . from writing? Here’s the thing: I’m talking about writing for self-reflection. I’m not penning down an analysis of The Iliad, but personal things, such as academic anxieties, relationship problems, Am I really real and in control of my own body, or am I just a figment of another person’s imagination/imagining I am real but am really not? moments—the usual.

Recently, though, I haven’t been writing to de-stress myself. In fact, writing has been the cause of my stress! As such, I decided to go to a program called “Write Now!” where upper-year/graduate students host bi-weekly sessions for reflective writing to try and reconnect with writing for leisure, and boy, not only did it relieve me from my super stress-filled week, but I ended up feeling calmer than I’d felt in a long time.

After springing from my class in UC, I came running to the Friday session at 11:30 am and entered a room that emanated stress-free vibes.

The Sidney Smith room used for the Write Now workshop.

A room filled with shades of blue. Blue walls, blue desks, blue chairs. If I I had the chance to look at the Mirror of Erised, this image would’ve filled it.

The room was small and cozy, which was a nice change after having so many classes where I was surrounded by hundreds of other people. Now, there might be the misconception that everyone in the room was an English major, but that wasn’t the case. In our group, there were students from across all disciplines, including Psychology and Physics. Everyone was welcome, regardless of what they studied.

This week’s writing session focused on the theme of time. We were given creative prompts, such as such as interpreting combinations of prepositions with the word ‘time,’ and tasked with writing for an allotted amount of time. It could be a poem, a creative piece, or even a splurge of incoherent musings. Ultimately, the goal was to write without overthinking. We were allowed to write badly because this writing wasn’t going to be labelled with a percentage defining its worth—this writing was for ourselves. My prompt was ‘besides time,’ which I can definitely say yielded to . . . interesting results (I made the strangest comparison between time and a fleeting doe).

My notebook and pen I used for the workshop.

My cheesy notebook, which I filled with the strangest contemplations.

Throughout the duration of the workshop, the ball of stress rattling in my chest unraveled. The atmosphere, the quiet moments, the release of words onto the page, and the relaxed discussions that followed left me feeling lighter. Once I tackled my work afterwards, I no longer saw it as Way #28 to punish uni students, but instead, Way #28 to punish uni students, but will, over the long run, be worth it (in non-Tiffany terms: I viewed my work with a clearer, less-stressed and cynical mind).

I’m sure that, like me, some of you have put off your personal loves to keep up with schoolwork, but this month, I challenge you to treat yourself to something stress-relieving, and I highly encourage you to drop by one of the writing workshops, since you never know, expressive writing might be your stress-reliever, too!

Details about the “Write Now!” program can be found here. They also post their weekly writing themes on their Facebook page here.

 

Do you write as a stress-reliever, and has this activity every yielded to strange thoughts and/or revelations for you? Let me know in the comments below or through @lifeatuoft on Twitter!

Spotlight: jack.org + Mental Wellness Month

Jack.Org U of T logo

This month is dedicated to raising awareness and reducing the stigma around mental health and illness. This month says, “Hey, it’s okay that you’re stressed… it’s okay that you’re not feeling well” and asks, “What can we do to help?” A student group on campus whose goal is to answer this question is jack.org. I interviewed my friend Katie, Co-President of the U of T chapter, and asked her about jack.org and how she maintains her own mental well-being.

A photo of my friend Katie in her jack.org shirt and UC in the background.

Katie is a fourth year Life Sciences student and the co-president of the jack.org chapter at U of T.

Q: What is jack.org and how did this chapter come to be at U of T?
Katie: jack.org is an organization run by young leaders that serves to raise awareness about mental health and mental illness. Jack is the name of a first-year university student at Queens who died by suicide. His family and friends got together after his death to talk to each other about the importance of mental well-being. Over time, what started as a conversation between a small group of people is now a national movement with chapters all over in Canada in universities, colleges, and high schools. Jack.org pushes to reduce stigma around the topic of mental illness – we focus not just on the 1/5 people who suffer from mental illness but the 5/5 for whom mental health is important. 

Q: What are some of the things that the U of T chapter of jack.org has in store for this school year?
Katie: We are collaborating with other groups for an upcoming Art Therapy event. This is one of many midterm/exam destressor events we hold. Last year, we had a ball pit in Sid Smith! We will also be hosting a Satellite Summit in conjunction to the annual Jack Summit where 200 young delegates across Canada hold a conference to talk about mental health issues and how to enact long-lasting change around the way people approach mental illness. We also recently had a Speak-Out event (and will have more!) where students can share their own personal stories about how mental health or illness has affected them.

A beach ball with the words "How can we make U of T as a whole more stress free?" surrounded by smaller, colourful balls in the ball pit.

The jack.org U of T ball pit from last year!! (Photo courtesy of the jack.org Facebook page)

Q: How can students get involved and show support for jack.org?
Katie: You can come to our events! To keep up-to-date, you can contact us through our Facebook page or email and request to be put on our emailing list. Every September, we put out applications for a volunteer sub-committee who help organize events. But the greatest show of support is to keep the conversation going about mental illness… reach out to your friends, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions like “Are you safe right now?”. And never forget to take care of yourself – again, jack.org is all about helping the 5/5 people – we need to be well before we can help others!

Q: If we suspect or know someone suffering from mental illness, what are some suggestions as to how we would approach them and help them cope?
Katie: Reach out to ask them how they’re doing and make sure that they know that you’re there for them. Let them know that it’s okay to ask for help but also remember that you shouldn’t push anyone to do or say anything that they’re not comfortable with or ready for. Keep in mind that their feelings are valid and try your best to point them in a direction to talk to a therapist – don’t try to offer professional advice about something you’re not qualified for. You can also even offer to go to their appointments with them, as a form of emotional support. If you’re really worried about their well-being, try and talk to a family member or someone they’re close with.

Q: What are some ways you cope with bad days and/or stress?
Katie: The first thing I do is talk to my family; my mom, dad, and sister are my biggest support system! I also try and step away from what’s stressing me out, then go for a walk, sit in a coffee shop, or take pictures. Or take a long shower and put on some comfy clothes! I like to get together with my friends – even something small like studying. We may not be talking but it’s still great to know that they’re there.

A tri-fold bristol board with the question "We all have mental health. How do you take care of yours?" with sticky note responses all over written by students.

An interactive board at the jack.org booth at Mindfest this past Tuesday.

So U of T, how do you handle stress? Caring for your mental well-being and engaging in this global conversation is the best form of advocacy for this month! Let us know in the comments or shout us out on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #BeWellUofT!

Making Group Work Work

“Teamwork makes the dream work”, or so I’ve been told. Some people might be inclined to respond that “Group work makes the nightmare work”. It’s a scary form of assessment which universities seem to be falling increasingly in love with. From an outsider glance, it’s easy to see why: future researchers need to be able to collaborate with people who have different knowledge than do they in order to continue advancing our understandings of the world, and anyone working or living in the world today needs to develop interpersonal and teamwork skills to survive.

Both in the real world and in the university, group work poses a few risks: someone might coast along with the team just to take credit, people might take control of the group,  and duties might not be distributed fairly, among other things. In the classroom, there’s the added weight that your grade usually depends on working with other people. It’s a scary trial that many people will have to confront before they graduate.

Yet, despite so many students harping on group work at UofT and around the globe, a google search for how to make university group work actually work shows almost no results: mostly just resources for teachers trying to make group work worthwhile. But what about us students? Where are the guides for making group work work? Good question. It will depend on the kind of group work assigned and the discipline it’s for. But I think there are some answers on a broader interpretation. Continue reading:

1. Introduce yourself. Even in small classrooms, it’s very easy not to know the people around you. It will be a lot easier to work with people if you know their names, and it helps to break the ice. Even if your group work is only going to last ten minutes, it only takes a few seconds to introduce yourself.

2. Exchange the best contact information. A lot of students feel obliged to give out their utoronto email accounts, even though a lot of them don’t use their accounts too frequently. This makes it hard to keep touch. Go ahead and share your sk8r_h8r1998 hotmail account if it’s what you use most. Or, try Facebook groups or third party applications. Whatever is going to keep your team in touch.

3. Don’t be too modest. Everybody has their own skills. A team works best when it’s using everybody’s skills together. If you’re good at presenting, let them know. If you have great research skills, great! If you have strong penmanship, well you’re likely a total keeper. It will make assigning any jobs easier, and will make it easier for you to do your part when you’re already good at it!

4. Break out but don’t break up. It’s easier to work on projects in smaller groups and way easier to schedule! (Not to mention, may be helpful with productivity). But be careful that you don’t wander too far: your break out groups should stay accountable to your whole group. I can only tell you what happens when the people supposed to do section X disappear on presentation day, and nobody knows what their part was.

5. Get [a] stranger. If you have the option to pick your own groups, consider bringing in a stranger. It can be comfortable to study and work with the people you know, but (a) it also means conflicts can be even worse, and (b) some studies show that bringing new people into a group setting improves the creativity and productivity of the group. Who knows what your peers have in store for you!

6. Bonus: Ditch the doodle polls for group scheduling; when2meet has made my scheduling life so much easier in every way.

Have any other tips for surviving group work? Let me know in the comments!

A Beginners Guide to (almost, kind of) Surviving Statistics

Throughout all the trials and tribulations of university, whether it be cramming for 5 midterms in one week, or starting a 3000 word essay the night before, there is only one thing that actually, genuinely terrifies me:

Statistics. 

picture of Api with a face palm

Stats = eternal face palm :(

Unfortunately, the introductory statistics courses are required for my major. Of all my courses, it’s the one lecture that I don’t find interesting and engaging. To me, it’s like statistics has become the lone MySpace page in a sea of artfully crafted Facebook profiles.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found understanding statistics difficult. Maybe it all the “analysis” or whatever that’s involved, but my brain does not work that way. In the summer, I managed to get through the first introductory statistics course here at U of T (STA220, PSY201 or their equivalents) but I had a very specific system that made getting through the course a little bit easier.

I thought I would be done with statistics, but my best friend the Course Calendar kindly informed me that I still needed another half credit.

Api looking disconcerted

Statistics. Honestly.

There I was, once again terrified of numbers, so I knew it was time to refer back to my statistics game plan. I’ve also met many classmates who share the same anxious feelings towards to statistics, so hopefully this helps not just me, but everyone who’s tackling the course this semester (and in semesters to come)!

API’S POSSIBLY FOOLPROOF STATS GAME PLAN

1. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE

I remember on the first day of my first statistics my professor telling the class that we had to constantly do practice questions to keep up, and I’m not going to lie: I scoffed. DO THEY UNDERESTIMATE MY ABILITY TO SUCCESSFULLY CRAM INFORMATION INTO MY HEAD THE NIGHT BEFORE? No. No they did not. It took me a full three-day library session at Robart’s to actually catch up with the small amount of material I nonchalantly didn’t do.

2. There’s a Statistics Aid Center!!! 

It didn’t know about the Statistics Aid Centre until after I took statistics, dropped the course and then finally buckled down and took it the second time. They have people on hand to help you and it’s an amazing resource to make use of!

3. Finding statistics software 

My stats course included assignments and homework that were done on statistical software, and I found out that Robart’s Library has computers with statistical software installed on them! There’s also a computer lab at Sidney Smith with computers as well! I designated a weekly time to use the computer labs, so not only was I saving money on purchasing the software, I was also making myself have at least a few hours of stats practice each week.

Api giving a thumbs up

GOD SPEED, MY FRIENDS

So there you have it folks. That was my statistics game plan, and I’m hoping it’s going to work again this semester. Good luck everyone!

If you have any other tips, let me know down in the comments or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

T’was the week before finals

T’was the week before finals, when all across U of T 

Students were cramming, for the sake of their degrees

They read all night, unable to sleep in their beds

With visions of 4.0’s dancing in their heads

Picture of handmade card reading "happy finals"

Yes I made myself a motivational card. Deal with it.

IT’S HERE FOLKS. It’s what you’ve been dreading/waiting/prepping for all semester: Winter finals 2014!

It’s been a long ride. There have been tears, cramming and horrible midterms. There have been successful essays and aced tutorials. And it’s all been leading up to these next few weeks.

Ok, I’ll stop with the melodramatic hyping-up of finals.

I’ve worked hard all semester, and I know I may be very close to losing all my motivation and drive, but I’m hanging in there. I know the reward of finishing finals will be much greater than the stress of actually writing them.

What lies in the promise land after finals, you might ask?

  • All my old friends will be back in the city for the holidays.
  • Peppermint candy cane flavored Hershey’s Kisses.
  • Actual free time to spend time with my family
  • N  E  T  F  L  I  X
  • Other various peppermint flavoured sugary things
Picture of Hershey's candy cane kisses chocolate package

Peppermint everything <3

I’m convinced that the grass is greener on the other side. I know everyone studies their best in different ways, so I’m not really in a place to start giving out study tips. But I can request that we stay positive, and keep that morale up!

This my go-to final exams survival tip that I’ve been following for a while now. It’s been 2 years and counting since my last exam-related, stress-induced, panic ridden, night-before-the-exam break down and I owe it all to being positive. Common self-pep talks phrases include:

  • My grades do not define me
  • I am going to ace it. I got this.
  • Yeah yeah, we in dis BRUH. (my inner gangsta likes to make an appearance during pep talks)

So there you have it folks! Hopefully someone makes use of my personal exam survival to make positivity their ally in the war against finals.

Just remember: We are fabulous. We are fierce. We are in the number 1 university in Canada for a reason. We got this. So happy finals to all!

Picture of inside of card from first image. Reading "You go girl" with a hand drawn heart.

The inside of my motivational card. Treat yo’self. Love yo’self.

*Disclaimer: Not studying at all and then being positive usually doesn’t work. Please study <3

So what are you looking forward to after finals, U of T?

Exam Survival Guide!

It’s that time of the year again! Your favourite library starts to get a lot busier, your notice everyone you pass has bags under their eyes, and the line at your favourite coffee shop on campus is suddenly three times longer than normal. Welcome to Exam Season!

Whether you’re an Art-Sci in full-year courses writing mid-terms, or an Engineer trying to comprehend how you’ll be able to finish all these final assignments, exams are stressful for everyone.  While I don’t have any secret tips to help you guarantee a hundred in all your courses, I do have some vital tools to making surviving exams a little bit easier!

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 1.17.05 PM

1. Trail Mix – nothing is worse than mid-studying munchies. Don’t let your blood sugar drop, and keep this protein-packed snack in your bag! Eating something like trail mix can also help your concentration and focus by occupying your tactile senses.

2. Noisli App. – sometimes you just need to listen to something while studying – but Beyonce can be a bit too distracting. Try noisli.com, it lets you create the perfect custom ambient noise, or offers pre-made mixes for relaxation and productivity.

3. Backup Pens & Highlighters – this is a basic. Don’t let the convenient excuse of having a highlighter run-out justify your 3 hour study break. Pack some backups.

4. T-Card – you’ll need this to get into the stacks at Robarts, or to stay in a library after hours. It also has the double bonus of being able to be loaded up with flex dollars for those emergency Starbucks runs.

5. Earphones – this goes along with the ambient noise player. Earphones are the perfect way to shut out the world around you, or let you enjoy a study break by watching some youtube videos.

6. Water Bottle – hydration is key! All that extra caffeine and the dry library air can really dehydrate you and your skin. Drinking water keeps you stay hydrated, and more alert and awake.

7. Flashcard App. – this app is a gift to University students everywhere! You can create your flashcards online, then transfer them onto your smartphone and take them with you everywhere you go! It’s convenient and environmentally friendly!

8. Extra Chargers – finally, don’t forget your device chargers – after all, thats what all the outlets built into the tables are for!

Well U of T, did I miss anything? What are YOUR go-to exam essentials? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @Rachael_UofT – and happy studying! 

How Things got Bad – Then got Better

Such was the advice I’ve needed over the past few days. I’m convinced that the most recent 25 views or so have been me hitting “replay”.

As suggested by my lack of (and tardy) posts, these past few weeks have been rough.

Assignments have taken longer than expected. I’ve felt unable to be at full strength for either of my two jobs. And just over a week ago, I received some failing test grades.

Now I have written about receiving poor grades, and preventing negative feelings, but this was so devastating that neither seemed sufficient to explain how I felt or help me get through it.

The course in question was my final pick of the term, a course I needed to even out my schedule, but didn’t necessarily need for my program requirements. But it quickly turned into my most demanding.

The lectures were hard to follow, and the course materials in an alternate format arrived a couple weeks into the course. This meant I had to rely on support from one of the course’s two Teaching Assistants. I also formed a study group of people I hadn’t met before to work through material and practice problems. Once I had access to it, I spent many a night reading the course pack and working through the examples it contained.

And I still failed the first test, and just passed the second.

The silly thing was that the tests didn’t feel too bad. I felt I was on top of the work and the material, more or less. To find I wasn’t — right when I needed to be splitting my focus between all my courses to accommodate mid-terms and finals over December — was a shock. What do I do now? How can I save this term? The final’s worth 60 per cent of the course grade — what if I don’t even pass that? And my other courses! They’re program requirements!

Needless to say, I didn’t handle it particularly well. It made my other posts seem flippant.

Here’s what I did after receiving the bad news:

  • Cried. To the course’s second TA whom I’d never met before (she had the test grades handy). To a friend I met for dinner afterwards. To my sister over the phone. To my mum over the phone. By myself. (I unabashedly cry in public; just ask the friends who went to The Fault in Our Stars with me…)
  • Got mad. Wondered aloud why I’d spent so much time on a course that wasn’t a program requirement at the possible expense of courses that were. Raged that I’d done solid (as far as I could tell) work and still come up short. Questioned why I left school in my hometown to come back to U of T at all. Hated that I’d even thought that.
  • Sulked. Tapped into my arsenal of therapy tools with some success. Finished an assignment for another course while questioning my intelligence. Did work but couldn’t concentrate well. Slept fitfully and napped for the first time all term. Watched too many Grey’s Anatomy clips on YouTube. Drowned my sorrows in a Grande Peppermint Mocha: my first Starbucks in a while. Spent too long flicking through my iTunes library to find an appropriately peppy song to get me going or reflective song to be in the moment with. Coldplay, The Dixie Chicks, Glee cast, Allison Hinds, Drake, Fleetwood Mac, My Chemical Romance, angry Taylor Swift, The Killers, Bedouin Soundclash, Lorde, and any non-Disney songs from the soundtrack to the Broadway production of The Lion King all made appearances on this week’s playlist. Considered adding Les Misérables, but figured that was getting too melodramatic. Found One Direction and Taylor Swift’s new stuff on YouTube. Questioned my claim to adulthood as a result.
  • Got sensible. Discussed matters with my parents, something I definitely didn’t do the last time I was here. Realized the gaping holes in my knowledge. Sought a tutor. Spoke to the instructor of the course in question and had a rational and productive discussion. Considered late withdrawal as a last resort. Went to lectures and took some of the best notes I’ve made all term. Used my very basic HTML  knowledge (just because I could) to write down a master to-do list of everything I wanted to get done over the next week for each course, my jobs, and any personal miscellaneous tasks. Noticed my rising panic and second-guessing ebb away as this list of concrete things to get done by a specific date came into being all in one place.

Though I constantly feared (and fear) a slide into behaviours of my past — where I eventually gave up on pretty much everything — this was not the case. It hasn’t been a great week by any stretch, but I’m slowly digging myself out of the hole I landed in, with much help from family, friends, and time.

I wanted to share this with you because it not only has absorbed my mental energy all week, but it also is a thumbnail sketch of how things can get bad, but then get better with the proper tools and a bit of rational problem-solving.

I will leave you with another inspiring classic movie quote to get you through the coming weeks.

Don’t worry, be app-y

I often find that I have the need to be on the grid to be able to keep up with the fast paced student lifestyle. Getting a smartphone was a complete game-changer because it allowed me to be productive while on the go. Over the last few years, I’ve grown attached to a few applications, which make my life as a student SO. MUCH. EASIER.

Some of these do use Internet, so they might not be as accessible for an authentic “on-the-go” experience. But they’ve still been really useful to have because I can complete some of the tasks I need to do, without actually having to physically be at a computer!

So without further ado, here are some of my favourite student-friendly smartphone apps:

1) TTC Bus Map (And other related TTC Apps)

Screenshot of phone screen showing map with red indicator of 510 Spadina streetcar

For commuters who take buses or streetcars on the TTC, this app is a godsend. It has a real time map of where all the buses or streetcars on any given route are located. This app specifically is for iOS devices, but there are dozen of other TTC apps with similar functions that are available for both Android and iOS.

2) Adobe Reader

Phone screenshot of Adobe Reader App "add note" function. Note reads "I can add notes!"I love this app for those days when I forget to print out my lecture slides and I’m too lazy to bring my computer to school. If you go to your phone browser and open .pdf files with the app, then you can highlight, add text, underline, draw and even add notes to the file!

3) Google Drive

Phone screenshot of Google Drive App "add to my drive" page.

I only recently found out about the Google Drive app but it’s been so helpful, especially for some of the student groups I’ve been involved in! It’s great to be able to pull up files while on the go, and if you download the corresponding Google Docs/Sheets apps, then you can even edit files!

4) Any Calendar App

Phone screenshot of iOS calendar app. Reminder reading "Library time"

My calendar app of choice is the default one that’s on my phone and it is my number one organizational tool. My entire schedule is at my fingertips so I’m constantly aware of deadlines. I once thought it was a Wednesday (it was Thursday) and I didn’t finish my Thursday blog post, so yeah, calendars are my best friend.

5) Urbanspoon

Phone screenshot of Urbanspoon App homepage. It shows options for search, reserve table and hottest in Toronto.

You had to have known this was coming. I love food, and having Urbanspoon lets me look for different varieties of food at different price ranges in whatever area of the city I happen to be in. GOD BLESS.

Maybe one day, humanity is doomed because technology will turn on us and the robot uprising will wipe us out completely. But until that day, I will still trust my smartphone to be a fairly reliable companion in my life.  So remember all: be app-y.

Uh oh, I slept through my final exam!

“Mum, I slept through my final exam.”

Of all the horrors film can provide, and no matter what craziness happened on Friday night at the Hart House of Horrors Halloween Party, this will forever be one of my life’s more terrifying moments.

It was 2009, and after a rough term, I was woefully behind in my studies and tried to cram to the point where I ended up asleep on my bedroom floor. By the time I arrived at the Test and Exam Centre, it was too late.

I admit this is a First World problem, but when university feels like your whole world, one’s perspective gets distorted.

I’m not telling you this to frighten you. My goal is just to impress upon you the importance of sleep.

“But Sarah,” you may say, “finals are more than a month away! Why tell me this now?”

Because, if you’re like me, this time of year is when the rubber hits the road: tests have come and gone with more on the way. Essays and labs are due soon. Not to mention that any extra-curricular obligations still carry on in spite of your heavier workload.

If ever there was a time to consider skipping sleep hours, it’d be now.

Source, Flickr ,Lily Monster (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Source, Flickr ,Lily Monster (CC BY-NC 2.0)

We know that feeling well-rested makes us feel better about life in general. Our friends at Harvard tell us that sleep can also help with learning and memory, before and after learning a new task. So sleeping after a study session can help you remember what you learned or reviewed, and make it easier to get more learning done the following day. You also will be less likely to fall asleep in class and more likely to pay attention and take good notes.

But how much is enough? According to the Mayo Clinic, adults (yes, we do fit into that category, as scary an idea as that is) should be getting 7-8 hours a night, but more if we’re sleep deprived, which is probably most of us.

Is napping ok? As long as it’s short (20 – 30 minutes), it shouldn’t interfere with your nighttime sleep. The National Sleep Foundation has some great napping tips and suggestions for improving your nighttime sleep, too.

It’s easy to forgo sleep when deadlines creep closer, but I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not worth it. As much as you may think 7 hours of sleep would be better spent studying, you don’t want to end up fast asleep on your floor when you should be acing an exam.

Take it from me – get to sleep before the lack of sleep gets you! You will feel so much better for it.