As a senior at the University of Michigan, I can understand the multiple crash and burns that come after the ... first week of classes. Let's be real, being a student is a full-time job.
The most successful people understand the need to balance work and play. Managing your attentional resources and utilizing the most of your potential depends on a artful harmony between studying and rest.
In the last few years of personal research on the topic, I've devised some effective ways to get the job done:
- Take smart breaks often. We've all been told that winners don't give up. The good news is, I'm not asking you to, you just need to take a few pauses. First, taking breaks from demanding tasks, or even switching from one task to another, is critical for your ability to regain focus and retain information. The more you push yourself, the less effective your studying efforts become. Second, not all breaks are created equal. Sorry to say it, but we all know that scrolling Facebook's gagillion pics and often pointless posts is a lot less restorative than taking a walk in the nearby park, napping, or meditating for 10 minutes. The frequency of the breaks is up to you. You may find that in being smart about your breaks you'll need to work less! Need proof? I'm all over it.
- Guerilla Yoga. It's not a secret anymore, yoga frickin' rocks. Take what you've learned in the studio to the diag! Try putting your legs up the wall before class, downdog under a tree or a headstand in the hallway. Seriously, who cares. What's more important, what people think of you, or you kickin' butt in classes and feeling good? I promise, in this case, breaking social norms is totally worth it. Note: Be sure to warm up, don't try anything that a certified yoga instructor hasn't taught you first and, as always, consult your physician.
- Breathwork. In yoga, prana is life force and is contained in our breath. When stressed, take 3-5 cleansing, deep inhales followed by slow, long exhales. If you really don't give a poop about social norms, try Breath of Fire for a pranic super-charge that will leave you blissed-out and tingling with feel-goods.
- Meditate. Meditation can be daunting and frustrating for some. If this is you, know that you're not alone. Thanks to the internet and growing support for a plethora of different meditation practices, the hurdles of meditation can be easily jumped. For beginners, I would recommend trying this 10 minute meditation from Eckhart Tolle, a spiritual teacher, best-selling author and former postgraduate at Cambridge University, and his partner Kim Eng. I practice Transcendental Meditation™ for 20 minutes, twice a day and it has totally changed my life and productivity levels for the better. It's not voodoo, it works.
- Be creative and let loose. Stress and anxiety cause tightening of the muscles. When you feel like you're going to bust (or hopefully even before) take some time to get lost in a creative pursuit to ease the tension caused by left-brain work. Hold a one-person concert in front the bathroom mirror, dance like no one is watching (because most probably aren't) or draw something that is totally yours on a paper that was originally intended for chem notes. We are all artists in our own right and whether you're "good" or not makes no difference on the importance of letting it manifest. More dangerous than letting it out is the consequence of keeping it in.
In short, the world, a company, your group bio project, or that 15-page paper cannot be saved by a burned-out student. Love the haters, take time to recharge and watch your potential bloom!