Lessons from 2020-2021 (feat. Break Ideas!)

As I reflect on this past academic year and my time blogging for Life @ U of T on behalf of Accessibility Services, I am really appreciative for the blog as a safe space for me to journal, grow, and interact with the student community.

This year has been a whirlwind. What I want to focus on most are the lessons I learned this year in terms of my mental health, self-care, and studying.

  • Taking breaks while studying has always been a challenge for me. In the beginning of the academic year, I would either have a full study session with no breaks or just one long break. Neither were very productive. After experimenting with different forms of the Pomodoro technique (25-minute study / 5-minute break) I have learned to customize my study sessions for the task at hand. For example, if I have a large task to complete (like a big essay), I dedicate only a small portion of time on the first day – this way I ease into it. For a smaller task, or just a task I know I can complete easily, I will give myself a large portion of time so I can finish it when I start! This initially felt counterproductive, but it actually helped motivate me in completing my tasks!

Break ideas (extra great for finals season)!

  1. Water – for both you and any plants you may own
  2. Sketchbook ideas
    • Drawing
    • Colouring
    • Devoting a page to collage a movie/book/tv show, with quotes, stills, and your favourite moments (now you have a book about your favourite things!)
  3. Walk just for a bit (and talk if you bring someone you live with)
  4. Stretching/light exercises (while watching Netflix if you want entertainment… I definitely do)
  5. Put on some music and dance!! Very strange to say aloud but very freeing, nonetheless.
  • Creating daily goals for my to-do list has been so effective for my mental health AND productivity! I break down my assignments into tasks and then schedule when I will do each task. Before, I would tell myself to complete a first draft of an essay when I start… which was not helpful (oops!). Now, I can let myself rest after I complete the goal I had in mind!

As well, before I take my breaks, I’ll write down the next few things I will do when I come back to work – I learned this from a learning strategist who told me that this allows the brain to start subconsciously thinking about the next topic so by the time you start again, these subconscious thoughts (or aha moments) will be at the surface.

Here’s an assignment calculator to help break down assignments: https://ctl.utsc.utoronto.ca/assignmentcal/

  • Self-care is not just giving yourself an x-amount of time to have a break. It’s doing whatever “future you” needs. When I used to think of self-care, I thought of one long break, but I’d feel guilty during it for not working and then terrible the next day when I have more to do. I realized self-care was learning to balance the attainable goals I set for myself and then the breaks I can give myself after. This way I feel productive and allow myself to rest.

Thank you so much for reading my blog posts this year. Being a writer for this blog has been a highlight of this year. And thank you for sharing this amazing experience with me.

Have a wonderful finals season, good luck to everyone, and I hope you recognize how much growth and learning you have done this year too.


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