author: quinn bell | a&c writer
Winter is coming. / Pixabay
Changes are a-coming
It’s no secret that the winter semester is notoriously hard to handle (I guess you’ll find that out soon enough, first-years). Whether it’s the harsh bitter winds, the perpetual darkness, or the fact that we haven’t had four months of summer away from studying, it’s just tough. Looking around, everyone already seems to be either half asleep or anxious and on edge. It’s only been a week – yikes. Some might think it’s just the way things are. I’ve been studying here for four years now and the winter has always been harder for me, so heck, I get it.
But does it really need to be this way? In the last week, I’ve been picking the brains of some of the brightest undergrads I know, gathering people’s tips and tricks for making it through this always-difficult semester. While not all of these will work for everyone, I hope that you can find something right for you that might lighten the load just a bit. This winter semester, I hope you not only survive, but thrive. Godspeed.
- Taking care of that body:health is wealth.
You’ll be working your brain a lot this semester, but you need to spend time working the rest of your body, too. You can’t forget that it’s all connected, that if you put off going to the gym to get you work done too often, your brain will go on strike. Sit around too much and you’ll surely feel sluggish. Why not use that university gym membership? – you’re already paying for it! Exercise in whatever way works for you and your body. You’ll earn some self-confidence, work to clear your mind, and help yourself get a good night’s sleep.
- Don’t cheap out on rest.
Yeah, I know you know this one already, but there’s one simple reason it gets repeated so much. It’s SO important, and no one takes it seriously. Get enough sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day – yes, even weekends – and avoid screens as much as possible before you sleep. I say this hypocritically of course, writing on my laptop in the middle of the night. Still, seriously, try it out for a week or two and watch your mood improve and your energy get a boost. You’ll also find you have a lot more time in the morning to get ready, maybe sneak a quiet coffee by yourself. Also, FYI, naps are an amazing hobby to take up and they make everything better, always.
- Mind your mind.
While sleep and exercise might help, sometimes it isn’t enough. For those of us living with mental illness – chronic, circumstantial, or otherwise – sometimes there’s no amount of running or green smoothies that can help. There will be days when you can’t quite make it out of bed… and that’s okay. Please, don’t give up on yourself. Do whatever it is that you need to do to take care of your mental health. It needs to come first. That could mean taking one less course this semester, working a few less hours, or staying in when your buds head out to the bar. Slow down a bit, breathe deeply, and love yourself in all your moods. Take your meds. See your therapist (they’re great and they’re free, right on campus). Confide in trusted friends. Get some sun. Have a solo dance party in your kitchen. Sing out to your guilty pleasures! Indulge in a bath bomb. And please, seek help if things are getting hard. When you can’t find the energy or overcome the pain, try to do something you love. I know it’s hard. I like to head over to the Floral Conservatory with a good book or a camera – you can escape the cold for a couple of hours, breathe in fresh flowery air, and see some colour that isn’t the white, white snow.
- Be efficient with work.
Well, you’ll have to do work this semester too. That is what university is; we all signed up for it. There are way more efficient ways of doing what you’re doing, though, I guarantee you. When you sit down to write that paper, start by putting away your phone, or at least by turning off your notifications for a bit. If you’re a talkative and popular one, head up to a quiet part of the library or lock yourself in your room where no one can distract you. Before you know it, you’ll have crushed a few hundred words. Believe you me, you won’t have missed anything. Also – come on you can do it – do not procrastinate like you did last time! We all do it, we all always regret it. Why not start on that paper now? Slow and steady. Don’t wait for the last week to get started on your projects. It’s just not worth it.
- Make real time for fun.
That same rule also means putting school aside when school needs to be put aside. When you work, work, but when you take a break, actually do that! Don’t let every conversation be about school, and don’t let every date be a homework date. If you’re organized, you can and should take some time to leave school and work behind. Recreation is really important! Let loose a bit, enjoy this precious life.
- Go to class.
It gets more and more tempting to miss class when things get stressful. Go to class. If you didn’t get the readings done, you’ll go over it in class regardless. If you don’t go and you also don’t do the readings, well you’ll probably fail that part of the exam at the end. Don’t stress if you can’t get everything done for class, but attend the lecture (and pay attention!) and you’ll be miles ahead of where you’d be. And I know. Trust me, I know. Your bed feels soooo comfy this morning and you just can’t imagine going outside in the dark. Well, hear me out – if you take up naps, you’ll find that going home after class and crawling back into bed feels even better than staying there for a lame extra half an hour in the morning.
- Know that you aren’t alone.
At times, the stress will hit. You’ll be sick, you’ll be fed up with your profs, you’ll be panicked about your upcoming exams. When all else fails, try to remember at least one thing: you aren’t alone. Look around and you’ll see. That girl there with the anxious eyes, that friend wearing the same sweatpants as yesterday and the day before, the guy asleep at his laptop in the middle of the day. What you’re experiencing is totally valid and scary – but there are a lot of friends around who understand what you’re going through. We have to take care of each other.