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.

keyboard-break

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.

study-break

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

study-break-3

“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.

References:

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].

 

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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.

 home

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.


References:

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].