By Irina Rusanova
With the start of a new semester comes the start of another boiling scholarly crisis. Whether this is your first semester of college, your last, or anywhere in between, you have probably gone through study-induced panic, exhibited symptoms of midday depression, and/or suffered mild-to-severe health deterioration because of the pressures that come with being a student. However, I’m here to provide you with a few tips for staying healthy while maintaining a substantial study schedule.
1. Systemizing Work and Break Time
Are you having time-management or productivity issues? Various studies have introduced a new method for combatting inability to focus while doing schoolwork, often called the Pomodoro Method.
Getting distracted by more entertaining activities than reviewing materials is both inevitable and frustrating. Darius Foroux, author of a productivity blog and multiple books, said he finds that, according to Alejandro Lleras of the University of Illinois, “deactivating and reactivating work allows us to stay focused.” Incidentally, the Pomodoro Method’s system of five-minute breaks for every 25 to 45 minutes of work allows the brain to rest after strenuous learning activity.
Foroux stated that taking strategic breaks during study sessions also increases work quality, thus decreasing the amount of time spent on assignments and memorization.
“Take your breaks seriously — see them as a reward,” he said. “Use your break to walk a bit, do some stretches, grab a cup of coffee, or do something that relaxes you. Feel pleased with the work you have done.”
Foroux’s blog is a great place to discover how to better combat bad habits.
2. Alternate music with silence
Another way to improve productivity can be listening to background music while working. According to Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel of Learning Scientists, some studies have determined that listening to music you enjoy may improve your work ethic (when the music is pleasant and calm, not aggressive or abrasive) and decrease time spent studying.
However, sometimes music can tarnish the ability to memorize content. David Cutler of Edutopia, following his interview with Dr. Nick Perham, a lecturer in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, U.K., explained that listening to music while learning material can impair comprehension despite its comfort-inducing effects.
Taking these opposing findings into account, a good balance of listening to music while studying and studying in silence should do the trick, keeping you on task while also aiding in your understanding of a subject.
3. Regular Physical Activity
Are you having joint troubles or other bodily aches from staying in one position too long while studying? A great way to prevent cramping is to carve short periods of physical activity into your schedule. Whether you go to the gym for two hours, go for a 30-minute walk, or simply do squats and other stretches for five minutes every day, even a small dose of exercise will relieve pains caused by inactivity and improve your self-image. This will give you a sense of accomplishment!
4. Sleep Schedule
A healthy sleep schedule is also ideal, as rest allows the mind to reboot and helps you focus on tasks ahead while also grasping subjects more quickly and easily. Some studies have determined that sleep is most effective for the body and brain when the duration is made up of 1.5-hour cycles, preventing disturbance of the five distinct phases that come with a full sleeping cycle.
“Studies show that the length of sleep is not what causes us to be refreshed upon waking. The key factor is the number of complete sleep cycles we enjoy,” said Leon Ho, founder of Lifehack, in his article about the importance of the sleep cycle.
The optimal snooze amount is five cycles, or 7.5 hours a night, so if you are not able to make time for a successive quintuple, try to make up for your loss by taking a nap during the day that is at least one cycle long!
5. Self Care
Make sure to make some time for yourself! Drink a glass of water in the morning to freshen up, stretch to relieve muscle soreness, take time to indulge in your hobbies, minimize your caffeine intake, maintain a balanced diet based on the food pyramid, etc. If you are struggling with anything at all, swing by the Health Center and set up an appointment with one of the doctors, nurses, or the resident therapist. You can always use a good conversation about your troubles with a trustworthy individual and opening up will most likely lift a significant weight off your shoulders!
Finally, remember – if none of these tips work for you, you can always just laminate your notes so that the tears roll off (I think we all have the urge to do this, at times). Good luck studying, and here’s to a fresh semester!