Tag Archives: balance

Take a Break

With Summative Assessment season upon us, it’s important to remember to  keep things balanced and to take regular breaks.


It may sound counter-intuitive when you have submission dates piling up and exams to study for, but studies show that when we work / study for hours on end on the same task, with no breaks, our brain slowly starts to switch off  and no longer registers what we are doing. Taking regular breaks from studying, or working on an assignment, allows your mind to refocus and improves attention. The trick however, lies in selecting the correct type of activity for your study / work break so that you return to your task focused and refreshed.

How Long Should You Be Studying / Working For?

The general consensus appears to be:

  • Study / work for 50 – 90 minutes with a 10 minute break in between sessions.


  • And to take a slightly longer break after every 2 to 3 sessions.


“Good” Study / Work Breaks

Different activities work for different people. The point is to decide on an activity that will help refresh you and that makes the transition back to work / studying easy.  Also, a “good” break is one that isn’t able to morph into a procrastination tactic.

The simplest way to manage your breaks (and even your study / work sessions) is by setting a timer – when the timer goes, the break is over.

Good, reinvigorating breaks include:

  • Moving away from the screen / book / desk – sitting in the same position for hours on end is no good for you, especially if you are hunched up with tension and anxious about what you are working on. Get up and stretch, move around, get your blood flowing and your eyes moving and focusing on different things. Even better, go for a 10 minute walk outside – the fresh air will help clear your mind and re-energize you for your next session.
  • Chitter-chatter – you’ve been “in the zone” for the past 50 – 90 minutes, phone a friend or find someone to have a quick (emphasis on “quick“) chat with. It will help you change your focus and feel connected again.
  • Dance, draw, doodle – do something creative and fun for 10 minutes. Dancing can boost your energy and lift your mood. Colouring in (yes, with crayons or pencils) is a wonderfully relaxing way to clear your mind and get your focus back.
  • Eat – whether it’s a quick snack (during your 10 minute break) or a light lunch (during your 30 minute break), the low efficiency activity of putting together a light and healthy snack or meal not only allows your mind to focus on something else, but refuels your body and improves your mindset.

What Not to Do

Just like the right type of break can energize you, the wrong type of break can result in unplanned detours and distractions that make it hard to get back to work and full focus.

Things to avoid include:

  • TV / Computer Games / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat / WhatsApp / E-mail – Rule of thumb: if it has a screen, avoid it. None of these activities boost productivity or focus; what they do is leave you feeling more tired, wound up and distracted than before. Unless you are done studying or working for the day, or self-discipline is your secret super power, don’t use any of these as your downtime break activity.
  • Catch some Zzzzz’s – Taking a nap can actually be counter-productive to your work / study schedule; more often than not it leaves you feeling more tired and less inclined to want to get back to work. Instead, aim for a solid 8 – 9 hours uninterrupted sleep a night and if you absolutely have to take a nap during the day, ensure that it is not longer than 20 minutes.
  • Quick fix – A take-away pizza (junk food) and super sized energy drink (caffeine) may make for a quick meal break and energy boost, but that is exactly what they are…quick. Neither offer sustained energy or benefit, instead resulting in your blood sugar spiking and then crashing, leaving you feeling flat and tired.


How to Take a Study Break. (2015).  Retrieved from: https://www.brainscape.com/blog/2011/06/study-break/ [Accessed on: 14 October 2016].

Hoyt, E. (2016). Energizing Study Break Ideas & What to Avoid. Retrieved from: http://www.fastweb.com/student-life/articles/energizing-study-break-ideas-what-to-avoid [Accessed on: 14 October 2016].

Nauert, R. (2011). Taking Breaks Found to Improve Attention. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/09/taking-breaks-found-to-improve-attention/23329.html [Accessed on: 14 October 2016].

You’ve Been Taking Breaks All Wrong. Here’s How To Do It Right. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/youve-been-taking-breaks-_n_4453448.html [Accessed on: 14 October 2016].


Tips for Surviving & Thriving at College

Here’s the bottom line: it doesn’t matter whether you were head prefect, soccer / netball captain or an honours student in matric. Success in high school does not automatically translate to success at college.


Everyone starts college with a clean academic slate – disappointing for some…an exciting opportunity for others. The decisions you make and the actions you take as a First Year over the coming months will largely  influence the remainder of your college experience.

According to a recent Council on Higher Education (CHE) study, “only about one in four students in contact institutions graduate in regulation time“, and close on half of every first year intake group will never graduate (CHE, 2013).

Now before you decide to close this page and go check out what is happening on your Twitter feed, read a little further to find out how you can survive your first year of college and go on to thrive right to the end.

Some of the following tips and strategies you will find critical to surviving your first few weeks at college, while others are more long-term in nature. Either way, remember to enjoy yourself and all that college has to offer!

1. Attend Orientation

Yes, you would rather spend the last two days of the holidays fixing up your digs or meeting friends for one final get together before the hard slog begins. BUT the sooner you find your way around campus and get to grips with the new rules, regulations and timetable system, the more relaxed and better prepared you will be should any issues arise.

2. Get organized

This is not high school! There are no teachers to hand-hold you through homework or remind you of your due dates. College lecturers often post assignments (sometimes for the entire semester) and expect you to take responsibility for noting what needs to be done and by when. Buy a diary, download an app, do whatever you need to remind yourself of your assignment , submission and assessment dates.


I repeat…this is NOT high school! The temptation to skip your Monday 8 am lecture or stay home on a particularly cold and rainy day will be great. There is no registration class at the beginning of each day to ensure that you are attending lectures. There will be no phone calls home to find out why Thato wasn’t at college today. It is up to you to be disciplined and to attend lectures. Besides learning whilst attending lectures, you will also receive important information from the lecturer like what to cover for an upcoming assessment, how to go about tackling a particularly challenging assignment, changes in due dates etc.

4. Become an expert in course requirements & due dates

Trust me on this one, no lecturer is going to give you the benefit of the doubt when you come to him or her with the “But I didn’t know it was due today” excuse. You will be issued with course outlines and calendars, make sure you read them and make notes of all the due dates.

5. Take advantage of resources on campus

Every lecturer has scheduled office hours for the sole purpose of meeting with their students – introduce yourself and take advantage of this resource if you are struggling with a course or concept. Find out about additional classes, study sessions, mentoring programmes that may be available at your campus. Start a study group with a few like-minded, reliable students.

6. Find a balance

College life is as much about the social side as it is about the academics. What is important is to find a healthy balance. This can be challenging for some people and can lead to burn-out on the one hand or dropping out on the other.

7. Get involved

Homesickness and loneliness can be a problem for some. Consider joining campus organisations, clubs or sports teams. It will help with making new friends, learning new skills and feeling more connected with your campus.

8. Strive to do well

Few students breeze through their college years – the increased work volume and degree of difficulty is often an equalizer on the academic playing fields. You need to work hard in order to earn good marks at college level and this may mean having to set yourself realistic goals and putting in the extra time and effort required to achieve them.

9.  Take responsibility for yourself & your actions

Now that you have entered your college years, you are considered an adult. Being an adult comes with responsibilities and expectations. It means taking ownership of your life…including when things go wrong.

10. Make connections with students in your class

This isn’t always easy for everyone but during the first few weeks of lectures try make at least one new connection or friend in each of your classes. This will not only increase your network of friends but is also a valuable resource should you ever not be able to make it to class (for legitimate reasons, of course).

11. Do not procrastinate

Say it with me people: This is not high school! You may have gotten away with leaving your homework to the last minute and still manage to get good marks, but that kind of lack of discipline is not going to work at college. Note your due dates, calculate your deadlines and stick to them.

12. Keep healthy & eat right

A lot of problems, many first years face, can be traced back to illness, causing them to miss lectures for extended periods of time, and resulting in a knock-on effect of missed assessments, courses having to be deferred etc. Make sure you get enough rest, take your vitamins and eat healthy.

The “Freshman 15“, or more South African appropriate “Fresher 5”, is no myth. Many of you will be living away from home for the first time, having to cook for yourselves…it’s very tempting to live on 2 minute noodles and packets of chips rather than sticking to a healthy and balanced diet.

13. Learn to cope with homesickness

For those of you who are leaving home to attend college in a different city or province, it’s only natural that you will miss home and your family. Find healthy ways of coping with these feelings: set a regular time for phoning home; look into getting Skype or FaceTime; e-mail your loved ones or even try writing a letter and sending it snail mail! With all of the technology available today, there are many ways of keeping in touch with loved ones and fighting the Sunday night, homesick blues.

14. Get help when you need it

Whether you’re feeling sick, depressed, isolated or don’t understand what is happening in a course, please ask for help! Speak to a lecturer, your Academic Manager or the Branch Manager – they will be able to point you in the right direction.

15. Learn to budget

If you’ve never had to budget, now is the time for you to learn. Find ways to make your money stretch further. If at all possible do not make use of a credit card, the interest alone will ensure that you are always in debt.

16. Be prepared to feel overwhelmed

You are entering a new phase in your life. There are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed, the trick is to remember that a) it will pass and b) you’re not the only one going through this.


Hansen, R.S. (n.d.). Your First Year of College: 25 Strategies and Tips to Help you Survive and Thrive your Freshman Year and Beyond. Retrieved from:  http://www.quintcareers.com/first-year-success/ [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].


Overcoming Your First Year Fears

Feeling nervous about starting college is not only normal, but a good sign that you are gearing up for, and are ready to take on new challenges.


The good news is that most of your fears will be put to rest during the first few weeks of term, and for those that linger there are ways of addressing them.

Common First Year Fears:

I don’t know anyone, and I’m terrible at making new friends.

Firstly, you are not alone – the majority of first years are new and don’t know anyone else either. Creating a new network of college friends can be challenging , which is why you need to be proactive and make the effort to meet new people:

  • Attend orientation, not only will it prepare you for your first day of classes and how to navigate the college system, it’s also a great opportunity to meet other 1st years.
  • The first few weeks of classes are the best time to start making connections with other students – challenge yourself to exchanging phone numbers with at least one other student form each of your classes.
  • Greet and introduce yourself to the person you sit next to in your classes or labs.
  • Don’t always rush off immediately after class, have a cup of coffee or lunch with a classmate if you have the time.
  • Don’t wait to be invited / join the conversation / be introduced – take the first step.
I’m not academically cut out for college.

Without a doubt college will be more academically and creatively challenging than high school. Your workload will increase, assignments may be fewer but more demanding and will require your critical engagement with the subject matter. This does not however mean that you are doomed to struggle your way through the next three or four years.

It is common for student’s marks to drop a little from high school to college – this doesn’t mean that you are not coping or not cut out for college. What it does tell you is that you are transitioning to a more challenging educational environment with new and different demands.

I’m living away from home for the first time and I’m really going to miss my family / friends / boyfriend / girlfriend.

Homesickness is a common and normal 1st year experience. We will be providing tips on how to survive your first year away from home in an upcoming post.

I’m worried about my finances.

This is a very real concern for many college students, not just 1st years. College is expensive and the spending doesn’t stop at just paying the tuition fees. Knowing how to budget and manage your money is an important life skill, look out for the upcoming post on budgeting.

Another proactive way of dealing with financial worries is by getting a part-time job – visit the blog page at the top of this post titled: Casual and Part-time Work for more information on finding part-time work and how to balance work and studies.

I don’t know how to cook or do laundry.

The simplest solution to this problem is to ask someone to teach you / show you how to: plan and cook simple meals, operate a washing machine, buy the correct detergent / softener etc. This can be done before you leave for college, or if you’ve already arrived at college then now is a good time to start making friends with people who know how to do these things!

I’m terrible at managing my time, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to balance everything.

Time management and being self-directed are two major challenges most college students face when transitioning from high school to college. You will be able to find posts on time management already published on the blog and in upcoming posts, so be sure to visit the blog regularly or sign up to follow us; that way you won’t miss a post.

My lecturers scare me.

Approaching a lecturer may seem like yet another daunting college-related obstacle but you will find that Boston’s lecturers are actually very nice and approachable. Be sure to find out what your various lecturer’s consultation times are and where their offices are located on campus.  Make an appointment to see your lecturer if you are having problems with course content or struggling with an assignment, rather than hoping to catch him / her for an impromptu meeting after a class; that way you will both be prepared.

I am totally stressed out – I don’t think I can handle this!

You’re already in the right place, just by visiting this blog! The BMH Student Wellness Blog is here to provide you with information and assistance regarding a variety of relevant interpersonal and wellness topics. Spend some time scrolling through the blog or visit the Categories tab, on the right-hand side of the page, for a list of topics covered.

You can also visit the Need Help? page at the top of this post for a list of support services and material to help you with a variety issues.

Alternatively, Boston offers free counselling to all registered students – visit the Student Counselling page for more information on how to book a session with Boston’s counsellor.


Lucier, K.L. (2014). 15 Tips for Conquering Your College Freshman Fears. Retrieved from: http://collegelife.about.com/od/beforeyouarrive/qt/freshmanfears.htm  [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].

What to Expect from Uni Life. (2015). Retrieved from: http://www.gettingstarted.unsw.edu.au/what-expect-uni-life  [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].



Coping with Homesickness

There is no doubt about it, you are living in exciting times! Starting college, leaving home, moving to a new city, being independent. It doesn’t get better than this! Right?

But come Sunday night, or any night for that matter or even during the day, you start to miss home, mom, “your” bed, “your” room, “your” friends.

Question: What is wrong with you?

Answer: Absolutely nothing! “Homesickness” is a normal part of college student development. Being away from home for the first time, adjusting to college life and the workload, having to set up a new daily routine are all stressful changes. The good news is that there are ways of coping with homesickness and settling in to your new life.


What is “Homesickness”?:

On the most basic level, homesickness is thoughts and feelings about home, which generally exist along a continuum i.e. it isn’t a matter of being totally homesick or not at all, rather it’s about degrees: mild, medium, severe.

Homesickness isn’t actually about missing home but rather missing what is “normal” and “comfortable” to you – what you are used to and familiar with. Basically, homesickness is a longing for the familiar.

How to Get Over Homesickness:

The following tips and methods will help you deal with those homesick pangs: Understand and accept that it is normal

An important step in overcoming your homesickness is accepting that what you are feeling is normal, in fact chances are that most of your fellow students who are also living away from home are feeling varying degrees of homesickness too.

By acknowledging and accepting your homesickness you can start working on getting through the adjustment period and creating new, familiar and comfortable routines.

Work on making the unfamiliar, familiar

As already mentioned, a big part of homesickness has to do with being uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. The only way to deal with this is to work on making the unfamiliar, familiar. Get to know your college campus, the surrounding area, the neighbourhood you live in. Find quiet spots were you can sit between classes instead of always heading for the library or computer lab, figure out which little cafe or shop offers the best deals on slap chips or chicken wings. The more you start to make and feel that your campus, your home, your neighbourhood belongs to you, the more comfortable you are going to start feeling.

Make friends

Be with people. You probably don’t know many people yet or those that you have met you are not particular close to but the point is having people around and not isolating yourself. Some things you may want to try include: eating your meals or watching tv with others, catching a taxi to or from campus together, walking together to the shops.

Making friends doesn’t come naturally to all people, but with practice you will become more relaxed. Also remember that strong friendships don’t develop overnight, so take your time to meet and get to know new people.

Don’t be afraid to be alone

Whether or not you have friends to spend time with, it’s also important to have some alone time during which you can pursue or start new hobbies. Some activities you may want to consider include: exercising, reading, crafts, listening to music, volunteering.

The aim is to strike a balance between having alone time, spending time with friends and studying. Too much of any of these is not a good thing.

Phone home

Again, it’s all about balance. It is important for you to maintain your relationships with your family and friends back home, this will help with missing them less. By “touching base” with your family and friends you will feel connected and not as if everyone back home has moved on without you.

With cell phones, e-mail, SMS, Skype, FaceTime, Whatsapp, WeChat etc. it’s easy to keep in touch with those you love either on a daily basis or at lease a few times a week.

Stay positive

Give yourself time to deal with your homesickness but do not allow it to consume you, this is a period of adjustment that you will get through. Try stay positive, set yourself small, realistic goals and remember not to confuse being alone with being lonely.

What if it’s More than Just Being Homesick?:

It’s rare for homesickness to develop into something more serious, but you know yourself better than anyone else. If you are having serious difficulties with adjusting you need to ask for help, don’t keep it to yourself. Signs you should be aware of include:

  • excessive use of alcohol or food*
  • excessive tv, internet or video game use*
  • inability to do what needs to be done i.e. attend lectures, attend to personal hygiene
  • persistent crying

Follow BMH Student Wellness on Pinterest for more ideas information:  https://www.pinterest.com/bostonmediahous/

* Remember that these activities are normal, it is the excessive use that may be of concern.


Kolade, L. (2015). How to Deal with Homesickness Freshman Year. Retrieved from:  http://www.hercampus.com/high-school/how-deal-homesickness-freshman-year [Accessed on: 22 January, 2016].

How to Cope with Homesickness. (n.d.). Retrieved from:  http://counseling.uoregon.edu/TopicsResources/StudentSelf-Help/Transitions/HowtoCopewithHomesickness.aspx  [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].