From The Think to The Do

The first of May is here – finally! And so begins my summer. I can store my school work away and leave my books in my room, instead of letting them carve perma-holes in my backpack. It’s been a whirlwind of a year for me here at U of T – new people, new ideas, new stressors, and an interesting dynamic between sameness and constant change. At times I’ve felt like Kramer, a few (very few) times like Sheldon but mostly like Samwise  – a bit of a wanderer in this strange new space called U of T. Sam always craves potatoes. I always crave tea. We are not so different!

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog about spring and renewal, which got me thinking about my own life. One of my goals for this year and beyond is to focus on Doing and Being, instead of just Thinking. Hmmm. A tricky thing for someone like me, who gets lost in thought. Correction, lost in Many Thoughts. I’m pretty sure that my mind is a leafy labyrinth filled with comfy chairs, cozy throws and west-facing sunny rooms designed for Great Thinks.

I took an Aboriginal Worldviews class with Professor Jean-Paul Restoule at OISE this semester, which was rather life-changing. It moved me from the Think to the Do. Each class began with a Smudging ceremony, which is all about using the Sage plant to cleanse a space of negative energy. I usually entered class a bit frazzled, my mind jumping between to-dos and must-haves and what-nots. And yet, by the time each of us had drawn the smoke from the Sage over our hands, hearts and faces, I always felt grounded and calm. Professor Restoule would end the ceremony by giving thanks for the grass, for the trees, for winter, for the opportunity we had to gather together again, and so on. We were all brought to the present moment. That’s a beautiful way to start, well, anything, isn’t it?

I decided to start be a bit more grateful for regular things every day. It’s a curious thing: the more I gave thanks, the more content I was with who I was and how my life was taking shape. The less I looked at how others around me were doing and the more I focused on what I could do to create change. You know that paralyzed feeling you get when you realize just how much more you need to get done?   Well, those moments came fewer and further between. And, the more I did. I started taking a bit of time to draw and paint again. I started to take a few minutes to close my eyes and breathe in silence in the morning. Bit by bit, I started on a journey of renewal and change.

I have always been focused on next steps. When is the next paper due? What am I making for dinner that will last me a few days? How can I best plan my day/week/month/year? The act of writing these words makes me feel rushed. It is no secret that the life of an undergraduate or graduate student can often be stressful, scattered and difficult. So it was a beautiful gift to learn to be grateful for what just is.

Being grateful for even the smallest things (It’s sunny! I can feel my fingers! My taste buds can still taste this ghastly coffee!) helped me get through was must be the longest winter I can remember. Expressing gratitude is a form of doing. It is giving positivity back to a world which throws a lot of positivity my way too.

You have all written exams, handed in papers, and completed final labs over the last few weeks. Some of you have four months of Summer. Others of you are closing your chapter at U of T, and heading onto other wondrous things. Good Luck. Take a moment to create renewal for yourself (it feels great!).

In the spirit of Spring Cleaning, Happiness and Mental Health Awareness, check out MindFest at Hart House next Monday, May 6th. Activities include exhibit booths, an art crawl, film screenings, workshops, guest speakers (Steve Paiken!), free food, stand-up comedy, and prizes.

- Aziza

Ms. Worrier vs. Ms. Warrior


So here I am. My final post of the school year. This year has been …surprising, to say the least. And having to write blog posts on a weekly basis has compelled me to reflect on the events in my life more consciously than I normally would. Of all the things I’ve learned this school year (in and out of the classroom), the one that sticks most with me is this. I’m a worrier. I’ve always stressed about everything more than the average student. But this year, I realized that I live in the future too much. I spend so much time worrying about things that may happen that I miss out on many great opportunities.

I like knowing what will happen. What does my mind do with the unknown? It predicts what will happen. And my inner cynic dictates that most predictions are negative, creating more anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle.

But this year, I’ve figured out that control is an illusion. I can’t “control” what happens to me but I can manage my reaction. If I keep doing what I’ve been doing, I’m always going to be a worrier.

That’s why my goal for year’s end is simple:

To live in the present as much as possible.

I want to get out of my own head and stop losing time in the future (and the past). I realize it’s important to think about the possibilities that the future holds and marvel at the memories that the past carries but being in the present is definitely something I need to work on.

Since I’m not accustomed to living in the present, I took it upon myself to do some research. See what the experts were saying about the Here and Now. After some research, I’ve come up with an action plan.

How I will live in the present:

1. BREATHE (deeply).

2. Smile.

3. Forgive the past.

4. Dream big but work hard.

5. Do less.

6. Do one thing at a time.

7. Be flexible.

8. Dress comfortably.

9. Volunteer.

10. Spread the love.

I’ve printed off two copies of this list. I’ve put one on my bathroom mirror and the other in my binder. I’m going to make an honest effort to live in the present from now on. To remind myself that the present moment is just as precious as the future I’m trying to build. After all, “If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.”

Ishita

March Madness Madder Than Ever

It’s March again. The end of the school year is approaching and it’s crunch time. Everyone I know (myself included) is up to their necks in midterms, assignments, and essays. It’s hard enough as it is to keep track of deadlines and due dates and to work ahead. But this March, I find myself more swamped than usual. Not only am I balancing the regular workload of my courses, it has seemed that my personal life is (a lot) more active than it generally is. My relationships have been a little rocky as of late. Friends and family are snappier than I remember and I’m having a hard time keeping everyone satisfied. On top of that, my family is moving and the pressure and inconvenience that comes with selling a house are definitely starting to take their toll.

During these days, I often wish that I had the ability to stop time so to sort through my responsibilities and emotions. The world moves so fast and as a student, it can be hard to catch your breath. Where’s the manual that teaches us to balance the work at school AND the work at home? The work we do professionally and the time and effort we invest into our personal lives? Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be one. So we’re expected to “adjust” as we go along. We’re expected to “deal with it.” And normally, I find that I deal with it just fine. But this March, I’m overwhelmed and frustrated. How do I make the expectations stop? Sometimes, it feels like no one notices the stress we’re under. Everyone seems to be on top of their work while you’re struggling just to keep up. But this week, I learned that people do notice. And more than that, they do care.

This Tuesday, I bumped into my professor on my way into class. He held the door open for me and in an attempt to make small talk, he asked me how I was doing. Completely unintentionally, I burst into tears. I don’t think that that was the reaction he was expecting to get but he offered such genuine concern that I’m almost glad it happened. Students often joke at they are “just a number” at UofT but I find that there are many shoulders to lean on if you reach out.

So reach out!

- Use your friends and family as support. Talk to your professors and your registrar. You’ll be surprised to learn that more people care than it initially seems.

- Learn to change your expectations and priorities. Set boundaries and say “no.” There’s a limit to the number of tasks you can juggle so cut yourself some slack.

- Take yourself out.

- Smile.

- Splurge on a massage or a better printer. Or on whatever will help you get over the slump.

- Attend campus events, like those held by St. Mike’s: March Forward (http://smccampuslife.tumblr.com/post/44631112270/keep-calm-and-march-forward).  Remind yourself that there are living, talking, walking people out there!

It can be so uplifting to realize that the people around us recognize that we’re not essay-producing, midterm-writing, responsibility-fulfilling machines. And we need to recognize it too.

Till next week,

Ishita

exam jammin’

Hey U of T! Hope this week wasn’t too stressful for you. Remember, only a few more weeks until you get to dance your way out of the Exam Centre. Yes, it’s a dreadful paradox. Freedom is so close, but as it inches ever closer, so too does the impeding doom that is the E word or the thing that must not be named. Because every year it’s like this:

To prepare, you have a few options.

  1. Listen to R&B heartache songs at 3 AM and grieve with NeYo about the impending stress event. True, NeYo is probably singing about a girl — but you can pretend he’s “so sick of exams” instead of love songs.
  2. Go raid your nearest Metro and prepare the bunker. Your soups, your crackers, your nuts, your dried fruit and your coffee/tea. Also; make sure to get fresh fruit and veggie and store them in your bunker fridge – because otherwise you’ll get scurvy. And scurvy sucks.
  3. Organize your stuff. I did this today, I feel proud of myself.
  4. Go to Robarts. Don’t open a book or anything. Just sit there. Sit there for a while. Observe how many people look at you.
  5. Tell yourself that YOU ARE FIERCE.
  6. After studying very hard, head on down to the most fun place during exams .. Sidney Smith!
Wait what? You’re probably saying, they put those fancy banners on Sid Smith and now he thinks the place is the salt of the Earth. Full disclosure: I spend a lot of my time at Sid Smith, so after a while, you do come to appreciate the brutalist architecture. Somewhat. But no! I’m talking about Exam Jam!
Exam Jam is an event held jointed by ASSU and the Faculty of Arts and Science, as well with Hart House, MoveU, UeaT, the Faculty of Kinesology and Phys. Ed, Health and Wellness and the Academic Success Centre. It’s in its second year and is a day during exam period meant for distressing. We had it last semester and they are bringing it back for you on Monday April 8th.

 

Last time there were puppies, there was a BUTTON making machine (most fun of life I am telling you), there was free coffee and not just any coffee – SECOND CUP coffee. There were free snacks, yoga sessions, free massages, life sized Jenga, among other things. Exam Jam is a drop in event, so you can drop in when you feel tired of Robarts, or you can utilize the open study rooms located in Sidney Smith.

 

So, make sure to come on out to Exam Jam on April 8th to destress! The puppies will be waiting for you. :)

 

The Numbers Game

I often hear myself telling friends that university is a numbers game. Some weeks it is simply impossible to finish all the required readings and assignments. Often, we’re forced to choose one task over another.

The equations and ratios that are constantly swirling through my mind are migraine inducing. I am not a natural mathematician. I am always trying to figure out of which assignments will weigh more weigh more heavily towards my GPA, and which assignments I can afford to let fall below my normal standards.

For example, last week I had a midterm for a H1F class that was worth 10% of my grade in the class. On the same day I had a twelve page paper due for a Y1Y course that was worth 30% of my grade. Simply mathematics  proved that I designate more time for the essay than studying for the midterm. The morning of the midterm, I was just finishing up my essay, so I never had the opportunity to study for the midterm.

As I was writing this midterm, that I didn’t study for, I was mildly panicked that I would earn a mark in the 20-30% range. However, I somehow pulled off a B+. I’m not sure if this was just dumb luck or if it was because I always attend the lectures and tutorials for the class. I was able to work my way through the test in a jigsaw pattern, starting with the dates and events that I remembered from lecture and then guessing my way through the rest of the test.

In a perfect world I would have had time to write the paper and study for the test, but as the end of March approaches and time starts speeding away I think we are all finding ourselves in these situations. Don’t even get me started on the cruel reality of daylight savings time and how it has robbed me of a needed hour of schoolwork!

If you need to pick and choose between assignments and studying then make sure you’re picking the right item to concentrate on. It is easier to recover from a loss of 10% than a loss of 30%. Don’t forget that Y classes count more heavily towards your GPA than half classes and try to spend the most time on the assignments that matter most.

It really is a numbers game and understanding how to spread your efforts in the most pragmatic manner possible will save you time and stress!

Lori

 

Dear Mom and Dad:

The other day, my mother walked into my room and saw me sleeping next to my laptop, with a textbook as my pillow surrounded by laundry to be done, paper plates to be thrown away and garbage yet to be taken out. I was the ultimate hot mess after a failed all nighter. Why? Because I’d JUST caught up with school after falling a week behind with the reading week madness. She got so worried about my condition that she booked a doctor’s appointment for the next day about my odd sleeping and eating patterns (which I obviously will be skipping because of school commitments). From this point on, I have a few more 15 pagers left, but they are all political theory papers which I ENJOY working on, so stress levels are lessening. But nonetheless, ESSAY SEASON is among us, friends. And everyone knows how annoying parents can be during this stressful time of the year…so to help you out, forward this letter to your parents.

Dear Mom and Dad:

For the next two months, I need you to LLEAAAVVVEE ME ALOOONNE. This is how I feel when you express your concern during this time of the year.

I know my eating schedule is messed up. I know I haven’t been sleeping. I know that I’m behind on my vitamins. I know I look like the Undertaker.

I KNOW.

So please stop nagging me to clean my room, to take a shower or to start eating healthier…

at least for the next few weeks. I promise to listen to you after this madness because frankly I am concerned by my behaviour too.

It means the world to me that you care so much about the quality of my existence, but right now all I need from you is emotional support. I am so scared I won’t be able to meet these deadlines. Do you know what missing a deadline or failing to perform on an assignment/test this time of the year means? Thirty or more per cent of your mark or opportunity to do better in the class GONE. Do you know how huge some late penalties are in university? Do you know that everything is like magically due around the same time of the year which means that there is no way to have enough time to prepare enough.

Please don’t yell at me about where I am going to, or not, end up in my life by behaving like this. I don’t know. And the last thing I need to think about when trying to stay sane in the madness is my future. Also, please refrain from criticizing the way I look because my self-esteem is already dwindling because of that horrible paper I just handed in.

But you can do the following:
1)Tell me how amazing you think I am for enduring modern day university pressures and for not giving up when times get tough. I need all the external validation I can get right now. Good-morning, have-a-good day text messages, funny stories, pep talks…I need them more than ever to survive the home stretch.
2)Cook me meals. The reason I’ve been skipping meals and just snacking is that I don’t have time to prepare the meals. Coming home to a cooked meal after a long day of S-T-R-E-S-S is quite possibly one of the best feelings in the world. Food always tastes better when someone makes it for you.
3)Surprise clean my room. I’m not asking you to clean my room or organize all of my stuff (don’t do that, there’s a certain logic to everything and messing it up will get in the way of my morning routine of getting ready in 2 minutes). Coming home to a bed that’s been made is a really good feeling because it’s nice to know there is some order amongst all the chaos.
4)Be supportive.
I assure you things will be back to normal in May and I’ll be that beautiful, happy daughter of yours with healthy glowing skin, clean hair and fabulous outfits. But for now, just look at pictures of me from the past or something to make up for the lack of me in your life.

xoxo
Your Child at U of T

 

- Sarah

So that’s how the pros do it..

Have you ever watched professional athletes on TV in awe, wondering how on earth their bodies could be so fast and strong? Watching them amazes me, and I’ve often wondered what goes on behind the scenes – what do they eat? How much rest do they need to recover? It’s made me think about my own exercise and health habits… Are there specific foods I should eat after a hard workout? Do I really need to stretch? Am I drinking enough water?
Well, earlier this week I learned about all of this and more, thanks to the Hart
House Recreational Athletics Committee
.  They hosted the seminar “Keys to Recovery and Regeneration” featuring Dr. Greg Wells, an established human physiologist and assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (FKPE) here at U of T. I’m glad I got there early enough to snag a front row seat with my friends, as the room was packed!

Source: Hart House Recreational Athletics Committee Facebook Page

The lecture was very interesting and informative – Dr. Well’s didn’t talk just about exercise or training, but about how other key factors can influence our performance as well. One of the first things he mentioned was how crucial it is to constantly hydrate your body throughout the day. He also talked about how food is essentially our fuel and that we need to replenish our bodies with the right stuff – lots of whole foods!

Source: bbc.co.uk

Along with proper nutrition, Dr. Well’s emphasized getting enough sleep and de-stressing our minds as well as our bodies. Unsurprisingly, these are areas where many of us busy students often fall short (myself included!). But as he explains in this video, taking a little bit of time out of our day to meditate, do some yoga, or walk through a park can really benefit our health and well-being in the long run.

This was the first time I went to a Hart House Recreational Athletics Committee event, and I’m looking forward to attending more seminars. If you missed out, you can connect with Dr. Well’s and check out some resources via his website, Facebook or Twitter.

Also, March just so happens to be Nutrition Month, and to celebrate the FKPE is hosting some FREE talks on nutrition and exercise in the upcoming weeks! The one on Friday, March 15th will be all about healthy eating habits, and Monday March 18th will focus on proper nutrition for exercise/sports. Check out the Facebook event for more details!

-Lesia

PS: Once you hit up the links and events I mentioned above, there’ll be no more excuses to skip exercise – and that’s exactly what the MoveU Crew wants to hear this month! Every Tuesday they will tweet an excuse NOT to work out. And they want students to tweet back (#Excuse Eraser) their excuse-busters for a chance to win some cool prizes! If you aren’t on Twitter, no problem – you can find out more details on Facebook too.

Getting Out of a Rut

“…And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done…”

-        Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go

University has a structure associated with it. A process and solidity that many find comforting. We go from one year to the next, attending lectures and seminars and completing assignments and tests. The campus, despite being large, becomes a second home and the friends that we’ve made along the way become family. But sometimes the regularity and predictability that the structure of school offers can become repetitive and dry. Boring. But it doesn’t have to stay boring.

Stepping out of our comfort zone can be a good thing.

I’m a shy and reserved person and it’s easy to let that hold me back. It’s easy to want to withdraw from conversations or opportunities because I feel uncomfortable.

When we sit in the background, we lose control of some aspects of our lives. We’re the only ones who can decide to step out of our comfort zones and take the risks that will ignite a spark of inspiration. Last semester, I blogged about attending my first yoga session (http://blogs.studentlife.utoronto.ca/lifeatuoft/2012/12/05/yoga-lovin%E2%80%99/). At the session’s start, I felt like a fish out of water. I’m glad I stuck it out because I’ve found that yoga is a great way to relax for me.

The world isn’t out to get us.

I see some students who are prone to playing the victim. When they’re in a rut, they like to sit in their rooms wallowing in self-pity and complaining that the world is out to get them. When we feel left out or stuck, it’s natural for some of us to assume that it’s because other people are consciously trying to leave us behind. But it’s all a matter of perspective. Oftentimes, the only thing that is holding us back is our reaction to the world.

The best way to get unstuck is to create work that we care about.

So much of the work we do is mandatory. And I understand that it all has a purpose. But sometimes when we lack passion for this essay or that paper, we fall into a rut. You’ll notice that the people who are the happiest and the most successful are often the ones who believe in voicing their ideas. The ones who do the work they have to without shirking the work they want to do. A friend of mine writes for The Varsity. That means she has some extra research she has to do and some extra deadlines she has to meet but the fact that she enjoys it outweighs all the extra “work.”

Doing something you’re passionate about is the best way to feel involved and stimulated. Ignoring the voice in my head that said “there isn’t a point to this” was the best thing that I did in university.

“…NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing…”

 -        Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go

Ishita

The Week I Dropped the Ball and Everything Fell Apart

The week after reading week, A.K.A, the week everything was due. And I have yet to meet all the deadlines and the week is now long over. Yep, I dropped the ball. Not because I am a lazy or irresponsible student, but because I just had so much going on outside of school that I just couldn’t focus enough to perform my duties as a student. The last month has been full of hospital hopping, loooooonger hospital shifts and many setbacks in my dad’s recovery. And I don’t know how to explain to my profs that sometimes I just can’t come to class or finish an assignment on time because of reasons I hate having to give again and again.

I can’t tell a prof that the reason I couldn’t finish this assignment was because I’ve been having nightmares and flashbacks which have been hindering my ability to focus. They will think I’m a pity case or am always making excuses. I can’t just tell a prof that I was in the building of the class at the time of the class but just couldn’t come to class because my heart was beating louder and faster than it should and a two-hour discussion was something I could not endure. I can’t tell fellow club executives that I feel overwhelmed with all of my extracurricular commitments because that would be letting them down. And I can’t tell my employers that the reason  I’ve been MIA is that I feel like my life is falling apart and that I’m slipping through the cracks. I just can’t. Even if I do, they won’t be able to understand the kind of pressures involved in my situation. And I hate asking for help, making excuses and being such a flake.

And I don’t want to share such personal details with the my professors, employers and colleagues but I have to in order to explain to them my flakiness. Sometimes I just want to scream LEAVE ME ALONE, you’ll get the assignment when you get it, I don’t care about the late penalties. And I did that for a bit by ignoring emails, assignment deadlines and running from myself. But I know how irresponsible that is and I really need to prioritize my grades and commitments again.

I think what I need to do is speak to my registrar again and ask for accommodation. Suffering in silence got me nowhere. I’m also going to start communicating my needs better to my profs, employers and colleagues and stop feeling so guilty about my situation. And Im also seriously considering moving my graduation date to November 2013.  I don’t know how but somehow I’m going to get through this. I’ll figure it out. I always do.

All I have to say to you this week is: Don’t suffer in silence, U of T.

I did that for a week. And it just made everything a bigger mess. There are people here who care! And even if they don’t totally understand your situation, if you tell them, or communicate to them what kind of help you need, then they can locate better-suited accommodations for your situation. Don’t be ashamed of your baggage.

-Sarah

How the snow thawed my brain…

I have a whole lot of stuff due this week and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Speaking of icebergs…

This weekend I had a ridiculous amount of work due, but I still managed to find time to for procrastination hiking. I enjoyed the snow day last week, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to get out in the white stuff and play. I was stuck inside studying. I forced myself out of the house on Sunday and I’m so glad I did.

I recently moved to an area that is ripe with rock formations and waterfalls…if you are even vaguely aware of Ontario’s topography and you consider the fact that I study at the St. George a campus, then you could probably guess where it is I live. That mental game will give you a few minutes of needed distraction.

So like I was saying, I finally got out into the snow and it was magical…really it was. An hour of fresh cold air, the invigorating sensation of cold snow in your boots, the adrenaline rush when you almost slip five feet into an icy cold stream…it was all good.

After hiking to a nearby ravine I was face to face with a, icy twenty five foot waterfall. We spent about an hour playing in the snow, just being I awe of the natural beauty that surrounded us.

Before I went outside I was feeling really defeated, with a bad case of writer’s block. I was struggling to get any words down on paper and I was frustrated.

I’m not sure if I had just been in a waking sleep all day and the winter air just woke me up, but whatever biological or mental process that occurred during my winter hike cured my writer’s block!

So I really killed a few birds with one stone.  I got some exercise, I spent some quality time with my kids, I enjoyed what may be the last snowfall of the season (if Wiarton Willy is right) and I expelled all the stress from my system.  I was able to sit down at my computer after my hike and hammer out six sold pages of writing.

If you’re suffering from a writer’s block like I was, try a nice winter walk or some other form of exercise. I guess the experts are right it does really help!

-Lori