How to start fresh this spring semester
For many people, the spring semester is a season of change; whereas maybe last semester didn’t end quite the way they had hoped, the new semester brings hope of fresh starts.
But staring down the long road of a new semester can feel pretty daunting, and probably a little overwhelming. What can you possibly do to change? And how can you assure that you can perform to the best of your ability?
Well, I’ve composed a list of useful tips that have worked for me in the past—and I suspect they might just work for you, too.
1. Make homework seem like less work.
When you’re faced with a 10-page research paper, it’s pretty easy to suddenly remember how much you want to watch Netflix—and procrastinate starting until 2 am the night before it’s due.
Obviously, this means you’re probably not going to get the best grade, and you have to spend an entire day glaring at everyone through raccoon eyes and drinking a gallon of coffee. So how can you avoid this dark fate?
There are actually two methods that seem to work best for people: the Pomodoro, or chunking.
In the Pomodoro method, all have to do is make a sort of small promise with yourself: You agree to work on whatever homework you have for 25 minutes straight with no distractions (*cough* Facebook *cough*), and once time is up, you take a 5-minute break. This way, doing homework is much less dreading the amount of time you’ll have to spend, but more getting a small amount done in a reasonably short amount of time. And it’s easy: You can just time yourself for 25 minutes using your phone or computer.
Chunking follows a similar idea, except instead of breaking up your homework into 25-minute bites, you break it up into smaller tasks. So instead of sitting down with dread in your heart as you consider your 10-page paper, you compose a list of smaller chunks of the homework and do it systematically.
For example, you could have your first task as finding three sources for your paper, then reading them, creating an outline, writing an introduction, editing, and so on. This way, the paper seems much less overwhelming as a whole.
2. Take care of your mental health.
College is stressful—it’s no secret. But people often seem to forget what effect this has on their mental health. Stress is actually the leading cause of depression—and when it’s coupled with minimal amounts of sleep, many students begin to struggle with their mental health.
So what can you do about it?
Probably the most important way to help yourself is to practice self-care. Schedule a time weekly that is dedicated to your happiness, and yours alone, whether it be a Netflix marathon, a spa day, or a journaling session. And take breaks during times of stress so that you can allow yourself to release pent-up tension. In other words: treat yo self.
Social connections also are strongly protective against mental health issues. If you’re someone who tend to bottle up feelings, try to talk them through with friends. Or, if you are able, talk to a mental health professional regularly, whether you are feeling depressed or just need someone to listen.
3. Befriend your professors.
Or at least just talk to them during office hours. Personally, this was something I always struggled with, as I’m a bit of an introvert—but talking to your professors not only can make them seem like the normal, not-intimidating people they are, but also means they are more likely to help you down the road if you start to struggle because you have already forged a connection. Plus, getting to know them early means they can write you wonderfully personal recommendation letters.
4. Make your physical health a priority.
I can hear the groans now. But physical health actually ties in directly to your mental health—for example, the most protective action you can take right now for the prevention of Alzheimer’s is to exercise.
First of all, try to get enough sleep! I know, it’s often impossible, but if you make yourself a priority, the benefits are enormous. Sleeping not only consolidates memory, but also keeps your immune system strong so that you don’t get sick as often.
Exercise is also clutch in terms of helping your memory—but if you don’t have a solid 30 minutes to spare, studies have suggested that small chunks of exercise spread throughout the day are just as positive for your health. Taking a 5-minute walk every once in a while might just give you the boost you need to go up a grade!
And lastly, watch what goes in your mouth! This isn’t some nagging diet reminder, but more a warning that consuming alcohol too close to when you’re trying to study or after you’ve finished is actually harmful to recall. High fructose corn syrup, too is a good thing to avoid—a recent study found that it can slow your brain functioning, and interfere with memory formation.
Image credit: "Bibliotecaestantes" by Nathan Williams from London, UK - Cinema Book Shop. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.