Doing a degree is difficult; it takes a lot of time and energy, and you become heavily invested in it. Sometimes it can be easy to find yourself sacrificing basic human needs, like: enough sleep, decent food, time outside and just generally time to think about anything else. Usually, for most students I think, this reaches a ‘peak of unhealthiness’ at around exam time. But even throughout the rest of term, it’s easy to keep up with these bad habits.
There has to be a solution, right?
These are a list of the things I do to recalibrate. I’ve listed them into categories of how long they take – so that even when exams are literally tomorrow, there’s still a few quick things that are possible to do!
Shortest solutions (5 mins max):
These are quick things that are good if you have a day of revision, or are just extremely busy. Some people use the Pomodoro study technique (four rounds of 25 minute study sessions, separated by 5 minute breaks. After the four rounds, you have a 20 minute break, then begin again) – these five minute ideas are good for something to do in those short breaks.
- Stick your head out the window (if it’s safe, of course). Honestly, I love doing this – it sounds a bit weird, but it’s quite refreshing. I don’t tend to do this when it rains, though.
- Five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste: This is a common technique for alleviating anxiety, but it’s also generally just great for focusing on the surroundings, and forcing yourself to focus on something other than work.
- Make a cup of tea and grab a snack.
- Move around – a walk around the house, or listen to some music.
Generally, if I am more tired, I find a break that incorporates some kind of movement or exercise most beneficial. Taking myself out of my study zone/area and having to think about something else allows me to recalibrate before going back to studying.
But whatever you do;
- Don’t check your phone or social media
- Don’t continue to think about whatever you’re studying (otherwise it’s not really an effective break)
- Don’t stay seated at your desk for the whole break
My favourite technique is to connect with my surroundings. I like to go for a walk when I can. Here are some recommended things that I do that keep me present and happy:
- Reading: no – not university literature, I mean anything else, actually. If there’s not much else going on when I’m eating a meal, I usually read a book. I used to watch something instead, but for some reason it feels more rewarding to read a book than stare at a screen.
- Bringing the outside closer: All I mean by this is buying a couple of plants, and sticking a bird feeder on my window. Pretty easy, but the rewards are great. Yesterday a robin sat on my windowsill less than a metre away from me. By adding the feeder, I have attracted more birds in general to the garden where I am staying, and it’s nice to hear them singing.
- Going outside: Walking (even in the rain). Tocil wood is a really pretty place to go. At the moment, there are thousands of Bluebells out (see my picture below). They will only last for another week or two, so if you want to see them, now’s the time! I also recommend doing some volunteering to get outside. The other day I did ‘balsam bashing’ for a couple of hours with Friends of Canley Green Spaces, which consisted of pulling up himalayan balsam (an invasive plant species) and stamping on it.
- Exercise: Running, biking, walking, in-room workouts, the Gym, yoga – whatever works for you. Exercise can help to break up the day, and it makes you feel good!
If anyone reading has more ideas which you recommend, let me know, I’d be glad to try them out and share them!