Whether you’re studying at one of Exeter’s university campuses or at Exeter College, you’ll know that student life can be extremely demanding. Keeping up with your assigned reading, writing essays to deadline, cramming and taking exams all take their toll. You may also be living away from home for the first time, with all the household chores and responsibilities that this entails. Doing all of this as well as having the kind of social life that is an equally important part of being a student can sometimes seem overwhelming, and not in a good way.
Knowing how to manage your time and practise essential self-care is vital for getting through college and university life. When it comes to studying, this means knowing when to take a break. Deadlines and heavy workloads inevitably lead to anxiety and stress. However, while a certain amount of stress can drive us on and gets the adrenalin pumping, too much is actually detrimental to our ability to get work done, retain facts and organise our thoughts.
Take a break
It’s been proven that constant study becomes counterproductive after a while. Sometimes, taking a break allows your brain to work on a problem that’s been stumping you subconsciously, while your conscious mind drifts onto other things. When you come back to your studies, what had seemed like an impossible conundrum now has an obvious solution.
The reason for this is that your brain doesn’t always work well under stress. Taking the pressure off allows it to do its work naturally. It also lets you come back with a fresh perspective. Sometimes, just shifting to a different kind of task for a while can be an effective break. Taking up a mentally undemanding chore such as laundry or cleaning your room will make you feel better and refreshed. Not only will you not have that particular chore hanging over you anymore, but often when you’re physically tidying and organising, your brain subconsciously does the same thing.
Scientists suggest that 20 minutes is the ideal length of time for a power nap that will refresh your brain cells and restore your energy. Giving your brain some complete time off through sleep lets it catch up, so when you wake up, the information you’ve already absorbed has been properly ordered and is more accessible. The brain is also better able to take in and process new information. As a result, you’ll feel like your memory has improved and learning will also seem easier.
Making sure that you get a good night’s sleep is extremely important for the same reasons. If you don’t want to nap (or aren’t able to), then 15 to 20 minutes of meditation each day can also reduce your stress levels, as can physical exercise.
Have some fun
Don’t feel guilty about giving yourself some enjoyable downtime with fun activities that aren’t too mentally demanding. Simple online games such as bingo can be a great way to take a break, and an online bingo review will give you an idea of the best sites to visit. Other relaxing hobbies that you could try for stress-busting include knitting, playing a musical instrument or sketching for fun.
Get out and about
Sometimes, just getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine can be a tonic in itself. Being out in daylight allows your body to absorb essential vitamins, and a gentle relaxing walk is both low-level exercise and a form of meditation. As such, a walk around the park is an excellent way to unwind and reduce stress levels.
Avoid burning out
Mental and physical burnout is a real problem for many students. Although it’s often necessary to push yourself to get things done, if you’re exhausted and unhappy, then you’re not going to deliver your best work. Everyone is different, and only you know when it’s time for you to take a break. Don’t try to work to other people’s schedules – find one that works for you.
If you’re having trouble keeping up with your workload, then you shouldn’t be afraid to speak to your tutor about it. Many students have a hard time organising their schedule and your tutor should be able to help you work out an effective personal timetable.
Above all, don’t feel bad about taking time off to relax, enjoy yourself and hang out with friends, or to be on your own. Do whatever you need to ensure your own mental and physical wellbeing. You can then return to your studies refreshed and ready to meet the challenges of student life head on.