With the add-drop period coming to a close, the reality of the back-to-school season has begun to set in. With the inevitable stress and pile-on of assignments, days grow more hectic and small parts of life may begin to unravel. To calm fears about present and future stress, The McGill Tribune has compiled a few tried-and-true ways to stay feeling in control of each day.
1. Freeze your meals
Be it after a tiring trek home in the bitter Montreal cold or right before a long day at the library, a healthy meal can work wonders in keeping you energetic and motivated. Yet, finding the time to cook every day is a challenge. In order to make sure you always have a hot and healthy meal on hand, plan your meals in advance, and give your future self some time off. Before the semester gets too hectic, spend a few hours preparing one or two hearty meals that you can keep in the freezer for up to a few months—think chilli, lasagna, and smoothies. Then, when the time comes, you can take them out, pop them in the microwave, and you’ve got a no-stress meal ready to go. You’ll thank yourself later.
2. Plan small breaks into your schedule—and respect them
Studies show that taking regular study breaks improves productivity and overall mental health. Try taking multiple short breaks over the course of a long day of studying. The Pomodoro Technique—a study strategy that involves alternating between 25 minutes of studying and five minutes of rest—is a good way to do this. Chrome extensions like Strict Workflow, Break Timer, and Micro Breaks also help with remembering to take short breaks while working.
You may also want to incorporate longer breaks into your weekly schedule. Allocate one specific day and time per week to explore a new part of Montreal or watch a movie you would typically not give yourself the time to see. Make sure to respect this date every week and plan your work schedule around it so you don’t resort to studying through it during busier weeks.
3. Assign yourself early deadlines
Before you get lost in a pile of homework and assignments, take some time to look ahead and schedule your semester. Try putting all of your assignments into your planner and colour-coding each week based on how busy it is. If you see that your workload is particularly light one week, assign yourself a fake deadline to complete an assignment or two from a heavier week early in order to get ahead. By planning out your time in advance, you can mitigate some of the anxiety of cramming to do your work at the last minute. With a bit of foresight, you can rearrange your workload to be more manageable, and avoid painful coffee-driven all-nighters at McLennan.
4. Make your bed
Studies show that making your bed when you wake up leads to an all-around more productive day. This practice not only forces you to get out of bed, it also ensures that you don’t get back in it once the sheets are pulled up and pillows neatly arranged. The feeling of accomplishing this small task will put you in a better mood for the rest of the day.
5. Review course material for a few minutes each day
While it’s tempting to leave studying to the last minute, going over your notes from your daily courses before going to sleep will help you retain information you may have forgotten during the day. If you find that you’re too tired to read before going to sleep, consider finding other down times during your day to review lectures or readings; you can record yourself talking through course material and listen to it on your walks home, for example. Staying on top of your studying will help alleviate stress when you get to midterms and finals season as you will already be familiar with all the course material.
These strategies are not an alternative to proper mental health treatment. If you are struggling with a chronic mental illness, on-campus support and therapy is available to you at McGill Counselling Services. The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) also offers many peer support programs including the Peer Support Center and the McGill Students’ Nightline.