Almost There

So here I am, another year of school has gone by. I have no more midterms, and two more assignments to go. This does not include the various things I will need to apply/interview for but you know what? I feel good. I’m almost at the finish line.

For some reason as exams draw nearer, I feel less stressed…for now. So I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. I can finally take a step back and breathe. I’m excited to be almost done my 3rd year of university, but also a bit sad because I will be graduating this time next year. I won’t go into detail and dwell on my future of what will happen even in forth year. Right now, I want to feel in the moment for once. Think about the current situation rather than the future. I want to enjoy my calmness while it lasts, although I know it won’t last long.

I would like to take this time to reflect. I feel this school year has been a lot about growth, grace under pressure and taking on too much. I’ve learned a lot. The most important I feel has been to give myself a break, physically and mentally. I may want to do all that I can and sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but maybe that’s a good thing. Limits are a good thing because they let us know (no matter how stubborn we are or try to fight it) when it’s time to take a break or just move on. Limits give us a place to draw a mark in the sand, so we know not to go any further. And though I do believe that we all need to push our limits at times, it should not be an every day thing. I don’t want to push myself so hard and keep redrawing my line in the sand to the point where I don’t realise that I’m about to fall of a cliff or have life pass me by.

I want to have balance in my life. I know it will be hard, and I know it won’t be easy, but I feel ready. Obviously this comes after surviving one of my most stressful years in my academic career, now knowing that I can do it. But I don’t know, I feel confident. I know what success feels like and failure too. I’m still learning more and more about myself but at the same time, I’m not where I am when I first started university. Thus, with regard to the end of this school year, I am happy to say I am almost there. I made it. Not because of the late night study sessions, the lack of sleep, the countless commitments I made, but the people around me. Those I helped and those who helped me, even if they didn’t know it. And that’s a good feeling to have, so I’m going to hold onto it for as long as I can.

Well wishes,

L.R.

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Drawn and Quartered

I have committed high treason…against myself…AGAIN! I once again have begun to spread myself to thin. Breaking promises I told myself like, “I’ll go to bed by 10:00pm” or “I’ll stay on top of things”, and the classic “I’m fine, of course I’m not taking on too much”. But I’m not fine.

School, work, friends, family, volunteering, applications, planning for my future, meetings! (in no particular order). Sometimes it just gets to be to much. Constantly being pulled one way, whilst another part is being pulled in the opposite direction, all by my own hand. My decisions, and mine alone cause me stress, panic, and anxiety. And I can’t stop. Apart of me wants to, but another part of me knows (or at least thinks it knows) what’s best for me. I can’t tell anymore whether I’m worthy of a break, or if my judgement is on point, I just don’t know.

So many things and so little time. Or maybe its just my time management skills. Because honestly I can’t tell anymore. So much work and effort has been put into making me who I am, because no task is to big or to small when others ask; it’s not a problem. But I think I have a problem, or maybe I don’t and its just the lack of sleep. I just want…to be happy I guess. And I know this anxiety, this ball of fire in my chest burning me from the inside out will die down, maybe even go away entirely (eventually). But right now, all I want to do is lay down and not think.

I’m always thinking. Brain racing, head thumping constant reminders that there’s still so much to do. My future is riding on what I do, on my choices and it scares the hell out of me. Like a deck of cards, one small move, one misplaced card and all my hard work is gone. As if it was never there. Poof! And then what? Disappointment. The ever crushing, self loathing, let everyone down type of disappointment. The type of disappointment that makes your body feel like a thousand pounds, and yet like it’s floating. Untethered with nothing to keep you from floating away, from losing yourself, from ever caring again. So many expectations, and so many things to tend to. And sometimes, its all too much.

Being pulled apart sucks, its sucks a lot more when you are actively doing it to yourself. And I wish I had some positive ending statement about hope floats and precious words of encouragement, but I can’t even believe the ones I tell myself right now. But I’ll still be here. Day after day. Grinning and baring it till I get home, back to my bed, my safe place where I retreat inside my head.  I really wish I had something more positive to say, but I can’t. I can’t lie to myself or anyone else and say it will be okay. Especially when there is nothing wrong with NOT being okay. No one has to be it all, no one has to achieve it all. I don’t just want to be good, I want to be great, to surpass everyone. But who I should really be focusing on is myself. I want to be better, I want to be stronger…but right now I can’t. And I have to learn to be okay with that.

Well wishes,

L.R.

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Exam crunch and how to stay healthy

Everyone is busy finishing last minute projects, bonus assignments and preparing for their finals, whether that be papers, projects or formal written exams. I am currently enrolled in the SSH practicum program and at the last minute came to the realization that come Dec. 6th, I must present my poster to the faculty and community partners.

My exam schedule is all over the place to put the icing on top. I have exams the first and last day with two others in the middle – however this isn’t my worst exam schedule. Second and third year I had three exams within 26 hours of each other, which meant I was super stressed. If you have this exam schedule, or a similar one I suggest you start studying now or at least plan how you will study, I believe in you though!

Here are some tips for staying calm and healthy during finals:

  1. PLAN- everyone I know who does well, studies over a period of time.
  2. Take breaks- your brain can only handle so much and after four hours your brain doesn’t remember as much; so take a quick 5-15 minute break
  3. If you can’t get a full 6-8 hour sleep try napping, there are so many articles on added benefits of naps – however, aim for 30 mins or less, you don’t want to be groggy.
  4. Eat regularly – eating regularly helps you focus and keep the energy you need to complete assignments and exams. Also eat healthy – we often grab take-out or pre-made meals and eating healthy will give your immune system a boost to keep you healthy during this stressful time.
  5. Breathe – during an exam or project when you feel frustrated, take a quick deep breath and clear your mind.
  6. Trust your GUT – you often know more than you think you do, even if C has been your choice for the last 5 questions.
  7. Visit office hour for last minute clarification.

If you are starting to feel a cold coming on battle it head on with soup, orange juice, and if you feel like it take cold and sinus pills. Sleep will be your best friend, take a day for yourself, it could help you in the long run.

Good luck my fellow readers on your finals! You can push through this semester and have a great break 🙂

Burning Out: Is it to early to think about this?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “Burning Out” as   1) to drive out or destroy the property of by fire; 2) to cause to fail, wear out, or become exhausted especially from overwork or overuse.

Of course I am talking about the 2nd definition. As we are finishing up assignments and heading into our exam periods, it can become hard to be motivated. And for some, the potential of a good grade or passing a class, isn’t enough any more. The fire that was once lit under them – like the saying goes – is burning out. However, there are always signs. Below are Forbe’s “Top 10 Signs You’re Burning Out – And What To Do About It”. But like anything, please take this with a grain of salt and even add some of the signs you think were missed or even how you deal with it:

SYMPTOMS OF BURN OUT

  1. Exhaustion

A clear sign of burnout is when you feel tired all the time. Exhaustion can be emotional, mental or physical. It’s the sense of not having any energy, of being completely spent.

  1. Lack of Motivation

When you don’t feel enthusiastic about anything anymore or you no longer have that internal motivation for to do work, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing burnout.

  1. Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions

You may feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter that much anymore, or you may be disillusioned with everything; feel more generally pessimistic. Negative emotions are becoming unusual for you.

  1. Cognitive Problems

Burnout and chronic stress may interfere with your ability to pay attention or concentrate.

  1. Slipping Job Performance

Compare your work performance now to your performance in previous years, because burnout tends to happen over an extended period of time.

  1. Interpersonal Problems at Home and at Work (or School)

This tends to play out in one of two ways: (a) You’re having more conflicts with other people, such as getting into arguments, or (b) you withdraw, talking to your coworkers (peers) and family members less. You might find that even when you’re physically there, you’re tuned out.

  1. Not Taking Care of Yourself

When suffering from burnout, some people engage in unhealthy coping strategies like drinking too much, smoking, being too sedentary, eating too much junk food, not eating enough or not getting enough sleep.

  1. Being Preoccupied With Work … When You’re Not at Work

Even though you might not be working at a given moment, if you’re expending mental energy mulling over your job, then your work is interfering with your ability to recover from the stresses of your day. [Similar may go for when you are out with friends and you are thinking about school work]. In order to recover, you need time to yourself after the actual task stops … and time when you stop thinking about that task altogether.

  1. Generally Decreased Satisfaction

This is the tendency to feel less happy and satisfied with your career and with your home life.

  1. Health Problems

Over a long period of time, serious chronic stress can create real health problems like digestive issues, heart disease, depression and obesity.

SOME IDEAS ON HOW TO PREVENT BURN OUT

Take Relaxation Seriously

Whether you take up meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family, truly think about what you’ll do to relax, and designate time for it.

Cultivate a Rich Personal Life

Find something outside of work that you are passionate about that’s challenging, engaging and really gets you going—whether a hobby, sports or fitness activities or volunteering in the community (along with other items we mention here, like relaxation, being able to “turn off” and participating in rewarding non-work activities).

Unplug

While communication technology can promote productivity, it can also allow work stressors seep into family time, vacation and social activities. Set boundaries by turning off cell phones at dinner and delegating certain times to check email.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep every night is key in resting your body and mind for the following day.

Get Organized

Get organized, clear your head, put together a to-do list (or an electronic task list) then prioritize. That way, you don’t have to keep thinking about those things because you’ll have systems in place to remind you.

Stay Attuned

It’s important to tune into the precursors of those conditions both physical signs that you might be under too much stress: more headaches, tight shoulders, a stiff neck or more frequent stomach upset. As well as, mental signs like some of the top 10 signs.

Know When It’s You, and When It’s Them

Burnout is sometimes motivated by internal factors and sometimes it really is a symptom of external ones.

 

So, if the issues you’re struggling with are really serious and getting worse, you may need to seek professional help. Talk to a psychologist to get help beyond support from just your friends and family members.

Well wishes, L.R.

Gerry, L. 10 Signs You’re Burning Out — And What To Do About It. (2013). Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/04/01/10-signs-youre-burning-out-and-what-to-do-about-it/#2d31e7185e01

End of the Semester Relief

Most students are extremely stressed as the end of the semester nears. I on the other hand am quite relieved. Winter break is soon approaching which means a nice break from school, spending time with my family, and Christmas (which is my favourite holiday). I only have more one paper to hand in, which I’ve almost finished, and then 3 exams to study for. I hate studying, but it’s much easier to do when I don’t have 5 classes to attend each week. During the exam period, I personally don’t find studying too stressful. I normally begin studying once I wake up, at least for an hour or two. Then I normally take a break, eating and perhaps watching a movie or wrapping a few Christmas presents. After my break I hit the books for a few more hours, usually until around dinner time. Most nights I don’t study after dinner and rather just relax, as by this point I am mentally drained and know that I won’t retain any more information. I also tend to rotate between course while studying, and aim to study for each course every day even if just a little. Of course I do prioritize my studying based on when my exams fall and which courses have the most material. I try to keep in mind that in a few weeks I will get to have a break from school and tons of time to relax. This helps me make it through exams without getting super stressed out.

Staying on task this time of year

The end of the semester is approaching deadlines are right around the corner and stress levels are at their highest, and not to mention the holidays are right round the corner. With all this going on I find it hard to stay on track, stay focused and actually get work done. We are so close to the end yet so far, we still need to hand in our last few assignments, study, make it through finals and somehow find time to sleep and eat in between there. This time of year, I struggle a lot to keep on top of myself to ensure I am getting things done when I need to. So I thought I would share some of my tips to keep on tract for anyone else who has the same issue I have around this time of year.

  1. Make sure to get organized and eliminate as many distractions as possible
  2. Make a to do list and a schedule
    • Prioritize the tasks
      • The hardest or most time consuming item first to get it out of the way
    • Include breaks in the list
      • Allow your brain to take a small break – it will help you stay focused when you get back to working
    • Set realistic goals and expectations
  3. Surround yourself with people that will help push you to study and get stuff done ahead of time
    • Avoid studying with people who are known to cram their studying time
  4. Make sure to eat breakfast
    • It will help you stay focused and energetic in the morning
  5. Set times to eat during the day
    • I forget this one a lot, but it is easier to concentrate when I’m not hungry
    • Stay away from greasy and heavy foods it will only make you feel tired and gross, which will make it that much harder to focus and concentrate when you go back to studying
  6. Must set time to get a good night sleep
    • A good night sleep is key to allowing you to be alert and focus during the day
  7. For a courtesy to other people you should also insure you set yourself time to shower 🙂
    • I personally find water relaxing so I count my shower time as one of my studying breaks
  8. Most importantly let your brain relax now and then and reward yourself
    • At the end of a long hard day treat yourself – whether it is to indulge in ice cream, watch a movie or an episode of your favorite TV show – allow yourself to take a breather it will do you some good
      • Personally since I love the holidays that are approaching, I relax by watching a holiday movie so that the kid in me is happy to 🙂
    • Discipline yourself when it comes to your free time
      • Don’t turn a 1 hour break into a 3 or 4 hour break

Just because this works for me it doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for you. But I thought it might help anyone who struggles around this time of year like I do, and has not found a good way to stay focused.

End of the Semester Stretch

Every time the end of the semester hits I always get super lazy and complacent. It always happens… I want to get my stuff done and over with, but I can’t seem to just get it done. I stare at the paper for hours… I just want to give up and be done, but there is still so much more to do that I just want to sleep and not worry about finals.

Finals aren’t even a thing for me. I can’t study because all I want to do is again sleep. Maybe do a little crying and some stress eating.. and some more crying. I literally just want the semester over and I somehow cannot see the end in sight yet it is LITERALLY RIGHT THERE. I can never know why I cannot just get my butt off the couch and get the stuff done!

How do I beat this stretch and get on the ball? Well… usually I stop crying and hike up my socks and just take a mass amount of breaks and eat waaaaay too much chocolate. It may be hard but somehow I always get it done.

Basically, just try your best and breath. You are not the only one who is trying to fight the stretch and you can do it!! I believe in you! Good luck and kick some finals butts!