So you've just finished 3…4…5…6(?!) exams in the past few weeks and probably threw in some final papers and reports as well. And over the winter break, it was totally okay to want to simply sit in a dark room and watch the extended version of the Lord of the Rings trilogyendlessly (totally possible at 11 hours and 22 minutes long).
However, just like all good things the cinematic experience does come to an end. Although you may now feel like dedicating your life to finding the all-powerful ring, you have probably realized you need to get your behind in gear for the current semester – and that sounds miserable right? Right.
I’ve got to tell you though – after having seen so many students have a great fall term to then waste away their winter term, I know you need to do your best to resist the temptation to reach for the remote. How? The overarching theme I want you to think about is: Focus on what you CAN change, not what you can’t. This way, your 30 hours of class and labs (despite being intimidating and mandatory) appear manageable and easier to handle. So what CAN you change?
1. Find unique ways to be mentally stimulated.
Though lectures can certainly be be engaging and mentally stimulating, often the subject matter may not exactly be what you’re passionate about (and it’s never as good when it’s something you ‘have’ to do). Consider doing something purposeful to keep you excited regularly. Join a French conversation group, start a book club, have a “Sudoku Challenge Hour” with friends… Something to keep your mind engaged on things you are interested in!
2. Contribute to society. VOLUNTEER.
Students are essentially a big ball of potential value to the world, waiting to be used. We’ve been in training for 20+ years, and are finally able to use our knowledge and skills to add value to society. Often, the grind of school and more school can give you a sense of ‘What am I actually doing in this world, other than filling my brain with stuff?’
So to combat this feeling, volunteering is THE thing to do; all the cool kids are doing it. It allows you to be of value, plus you’re able to help out a great cause in need of your skills/knowledge. And as an added bonus, this can help your future career (segue!).
3. Add to YOUR career development.
Taking a full five classes in quantum mathematics this term when working towards being a business financial analyst can leave you feeling like you’re wasting time when you could be developing yourself for your future career. You can accomplish this (and tip number two) by finding a volunteering opportunity that will not just add value to the world, but also make you feel like a value to yourself. Another option is to find a part-time job working for little or no pay at a local organization to get the experience you are craving (and will be necessary as you inch towards graduation).
Hint: All clubs need people to manage the books – that’s can be much closer to your career than 4th order derivatives.
4. Get energized.
In order to stay motivated and get out of bed at 7 a.m. to make it to your 8:30 class, or to put in the energy to engage a passion during your down-time, make sure to eat well, exercise often and sleep lots. But not just a combination of ‘light’ popcorn, walking to the TV, and cat naps in class. Instead, make sure you keep fruits/veggies in your diet (idea: consider a cook-off with friends), get your heart-rate up twice a week (join an intramural team like dodgeball or innertube water-polo… Everyone can play and have fun!), and get seven hours of sleep per night. It’s possible.
5. Friends make people happier – invest in them.
Fact: Having more (and better quality!) friends make people happier.(About.com wrote about it, so it must be true.) But in all seriousness, I agree with their article. Burying yourself in work / business while ignoring your friends (or not seeking new ones) will NOT help you beat the winter blues. It can even make your productivity lower overall, as you aren’t efficient when you only work. Happy people work better.
How to find them?
- Be a free agent on an intramural sports team (this can satisfy numbers 4, 5, and potentially 1 on this list all at once)
- Volunteer (can satisfy numbers 2, 3 and 5)
- Join a campus club or social club (enjoy chess? Sci-fiction? Rock-climbing?)
- Take a recreational class (Painting? Yoga or dance class at your campus fitness centre? Great for energy, fitness, friends!)
6. Slot in dedicated ‘me’ time… Define it, and then LOVE IT!
‘Me’ time is glorious. It’s the time of day/week where what you do is 100% driven by what will make you happy, less stressed, rejuvenated, refreshed, inspired, rested, or any other state of being that you want to be!
The first step is to know yourself – what state do you want to be in? Then figure out what experience will bring you there (I.e.: a bath, reading trashy magazines, etc). Perhaps it’s dedicating a night once every other weekend to go out and dance, dance, dance, like it’s the last night of your life? (credit: Usher) Or maybe it’s playing video games with friends at other schools to stay in touch (a win for #5). Or watching the latest season of HIMYM. Figure it out and book it in!
Hopefully when you look towards the next four months of lectures, labs, reports, exams, projects, and presentations, you can also see change in the stuff you CAN change:
- A weekly after-school reading program (working towards your teaching degree!)
- A new Pilates class
- Registering as the newest SKIFFY member (look it up; it’s legit)
- Your Thursday night knitting ‘me’ time
Take back your life, get excited for the next term, stay healthy (mentally, physically, and emotionally) and HAVE FUN!
Greg Overholt (@goverholt) is the founder and executive director of the national student-led charitable social venture SOS: Students Offering Support (www.StudentsOfferingSupport.ca, @SOSnational). SOS is an organization where student volunteers teach their peers in exam-prep group review sessions, with the proceeds used to fund education projects in rural Latin America, built by volunteers on annual outreach trips. Since 2004, 20,000 students have been taught across 23 universities, raising more than $700,000 for 35 development projects. Greg graduated in 2008 from Laurier’s business and computer science program, and has spent the last three years helping 1500+ student leaders across Canada to ‘raise marks, raise money, and raise roofs’ on their campus. Passions include: sports (hockey, squash, ultimate), learning, teaching, and brick-laying (tied with cement mixing).