It’s December! And we all know what that means… winter break! Yay!
However, there’s just one small thing to do first …
Yes, it makes me cringe every time I think about it. For most of us, exams are the only thing standing between us and a much-needed school break. And so we throw ourselves into powering through the last few weeks. The marked increase in people studying at Robarts is an indication of the incredible intensity of the exam period.
I find that in my own drive to get my exams done and over with, I fail to take as good care of myself, both mentally and physically, as I usually do. A recent article in the Globe & Mail suggested that I’m not alone in ignoring my own health and wellness while trying to cope with the stress of end-of-term exams.
But wait, where does it say that I can’t give myself a little self-care AND get through all my exams and papers successfully? Self-care and exams aren’t mutually exclusive. And, it’s especially during these stressful times that I need to take a little time for myself. I’m certainly not studying every single minute of every single day; therefore, self-care may not be as elusive as I initially assumed.
And yet, there isn’t always time to take an entire day off. But there are always those little things that can help us get through the day. Here’s a list of things that have worked for me over the years:
5. Reading something I want to read
When I’m tired of staring at a blank Word document or trying to sift through a 30-page reading, I set it aside and give my mind a mental break by picking up a leisure book or a magazine; just a short break, but just enough to allow me to regroup and refocus on the task at hand.
4. Drop-in classes at Hart House
I recently started going to a weekly drop-in fitness class at Hart House. Although it’s a grueling workout that leaves my muscles feeling like jelly, the physical exercise is definitely a welcome change from sitting in a chair most of the day.
3. Taking a shower
Some of my best ideas come to me in the shower; I think it has something to do with the soothing feeling of the hot water and just letting my mind wander. And, after a shower, both my mind and body feel alert and ready to tackle the next thing.
2. Talking to my parents
When I lived at home, our family’s tradition was to have dinner together every night. It was a chance for us to just talk about anything and everything. Although I’m currently living in residence I still talk to my parents regularly. Their support is always a great mental booster.
On Facebook, I’ve listed sleeping as one of my favourite hobbies. Yet, when exams come around, I’m always tempted to ignore this very important aspect of my life. Past experience, however, has taught me the value of getting a decent amount of sleep on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation doesn’t help my brain perform the critical thinking and analysis needed to write my exams. Now when I find myself feeling really sleepy, I listen to my body and head to bed. That way, I can wake up in the morning refreshed and able to process things much quicker.
Studying for exams can be a harrowing time for many students and it certainly isn’t realistic to expect to be stress-free. And, we all need a little stress to give us that edge to focus. But, the exam period doesn’t need to wreak havoc on our mental and physical health.
Most importantly, while I definitely know that every minute that goes by is a minute that can be spent studying, it’s important to not feel guilty about taking occasional breaks to regroup, refresh, and re-energize. Even the energizer bunny’s batteries have to be changed every so often, so I figure we’re entitled to breaks to make sure that our bodies and minds are getting at least as much attention as our books.
Do you have something you do to inject a little self-care into your study schedule?
Happy (and I really mean this) studying!