This article was written by freelance contributor Lauren Miner

By now we are approximately three quarters of the way through this semester (woo­hoo!). I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the small pieces of self care and some easy tips and tricks we can all be incorporating into our lives as the term comes to a whirlwind of a close in order to look after our minds and bodies, all while acing the last month of the term. These “life hacks” are things I have learned throughout my time here at the University of Lethbridge that have helped keep me motivated, healthy, and an overall better self. Often it can be the little things that slip our minds when the stress of a full course load and extracurriculars take over. And that is what I would like to focus on; the small things. The things that skip our brains when we are swamped in piles of textbooks, notes, and ramen noodles. 

Let’s get into it: 

1. As simple as it sounds, prioritize self­care.
This doesn’t mean you should do a facemask at 2 AM or go on a three day weekend bender. Maybe those things DO make you feel good in the short term, but what about the things that really energize your mind and body? Plot twist: these things don’t have to be huge time commitments. Hitting the gym or stretching, even for 15 minutes, can reboot your body and mind. Do what will refresh you, and for each of us that is different. Try different things in the process! Make it fun! Go for a run, learn to knit, paint, draw, journal… find what soothes you! 

2. On the topic of self­care, basic care needs to be a priority.
Skipping meals and sleep because you “just don’t have enough time” causes more harm than benefits. We ought to be fuelling our bodies with nutrition and sleep (not to be confused with a redbull and a power nap in the study rooms). As basic as it may sound, healthy nutrition and sleep are essential to a student’s (and anyone’s) life. School and studying are important, but your health should always come first. 

3. Walk-­in Wednesdays. Use them.
The University offers individual counselling sessions for no charge. Every Wednesday, starting at 8:45 AM, the counselling and career office (AH153) is open on a first-come-first-serve basis to book appointments for that day. They are extremely helpful with everything from mental health struggles, needing to vent and sort out your mind, to giving strategies on how to cope and work through your struggles. It is 100% okay to admit you are struggling and they are there specifically to help you through it. You can also book ongoing appointments or sign up for events such as a group workshop series!

4. Understand that you are not going through everything alone.
If it feels like you are, speak out. To a friend, roommate, family member (this would be an ideal time to give your mom a call!) or reach out to counselling services on campus. Ensure you are taking care of your mental health through it all. This time of year can be especially hard with finals right around the corner. Often times we find ourselves isolated in the names of stress and studying, but as helpful as the busy mind may think it is, isolation only causes more hardships when the day is done.

5. Brain breaks are key.
Contrary to popular opinion, a five-to-one ratio of Family Guy episodes watched per page of textbook read is not a healthy brain break. But, a five minute meditation between chapters while studying can make the difference between reading the chapter five times and feeling like none of it is in your brain (we have all been there), and a thorough understanding of what you are studying. Personally, I use the “Calm” app, which is full of guided meditations, but there are tons of other online resources as well! Even listening to your favourite song or some nature sounds through headphones while focusing on your breathing can do wonders. As cheesy as it may sound, your mind will thank you. Find your own version of a “brain break” but be sure to limit it and ensure that its purpose is to rejuvenate and not distract.

6. Less screen time (specifically social media) = More focus on things that matter. 
Cell phones and laptops are almost essential to a student, but social media can have a drastic impact on how you compare yourself to others, further draining your confidence. Not to mention what a time consuming rabbit hole it can be! See your friends in person, reduce the comparisons to the images on screen, and be mindful of the here and now. You will be amazed at how much time you save. Another app that I use for this reason exactly is called “Flora”. It sets a timer on your phone while you “grow a tree” and if you go on your device while the timer is still going your “tree” dies. I find it fun and so motivating to see my little phone-­garden grow as I study!

7. Keep your workspace tidy.
I say this from a messy desk but bear with me here… A tidy workspace is WAY easier to make you want to study than when your house is a disaster. I find a quick 5 minute pick up at the end of the day keeps my room where I need it to be in order to focus and get things done! 

8. Plan out your day.
If you’re anything like me, you’re big into planning your every move. But that doesn’t work for everyone, so an easy tip from me is to briefly plan your day the night before. Fill your bag with the essentials you will need for class the next day, put some snacks in a bag in the fridge to grab on your way out, and fill your water bottle. I find that by having everything ready to go in the morning I am more likely to get up and go earlier and I feel less stressed throughout the day (like when you forget your laptop at home again). You can take these tips up or down by just simply having your bag out the night before, or planning your day by the hour and what you want to accomplish. Once again, do what works for you!

9. Dress with purpose.
In addition to planning your day, plan out what you want to wear to your classes the next day. Not to be confused with turning your econ lecture into a fashion show, but I know from experience that I am much more likely to hide in the back of a lecture and skip spending extra time studying when I’m wearing yesterday’s lunch-stained sweatpants. When you dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident, it can sometimes be the boost you need to ask a question in class, go talk to that professor about a concept you don’t understand, or stay in the library for a while longer to hit the books before you go home to nap.

10. Talk to your professors.
Yes, professors often can come off as absolutely terrifying and confrontation for some is an absolute nightmare. Despite the rumour that an average of two students annually go missing during office hours, the professors can be incredibly kind and helpful. If you are struggling with a class, need an extension, need help with preparing for an exam, or just general advice in their field, you should bite the bullet and go for it. Contrary to popular opinion, no prof wants their entire class to fail their course. Most professors truly enjoy meeting their students and will help you out as best they can. 

11. Find your study space.
If it means parking yourself in the library, a spot you like in Uhall, or your desk in your room — find a place that is YOUR study spot. Try to make it a place with minimal distractions (I love to rent breakout rooms in the library) where you can settle down and study. And when you are there, only study. If you need a break, make a point to move yourself to a different spot to break, and return to your study space ready to go again. By delegating one area to just work, you set yourself up for success and less wasted time. 

12. Allow yourself to have fun. 
Just as some people party a little too hard, often students succumb to the pressure of maintaining their GPA and allow their studies to take over their lives. Letting loose by having a game night with friends, hitting up The Zoo on a “Wing Wednesday,” or planning a date with a significant other can allow yourself to back away from the pressure. Notice how your shoulders aren’t scrunched up to your ears anymore and how your eyes aren’t burning from the computer screen. Working to find a balance between study and play can be difficult, but it is essential to success. 

These may not have been the life hacks, per se, that you had been seeking. They are not mind tricks to help you ace your classes while napping through lectures and letting your cat write your paper. A constant theme throughout this article is finding what works for you! My tips and tricks may not be your cup of tea, but I hope they can at least inspire some positive changes in your life that do work for you. Hopefully after reading and implementing some “life hacks” of your own, you may just find the last couple of months before the summer break slightly more bearable. 

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