The importance of self-management, time management, and school-life balance while coping with chronic pain.
Chronic pain…where do I even begin?
I started struggling with chronic pain when I was in grade nine. I had emergency spinal surgery due to a tumour that was paralyzing me from my chest down to my feet. I’m now a third year undergraduate. However, as a result of the 11-hour surgery, I now struggle with chronic pain every moment I am awake. I’m writing this blog to comfort other chronic pain survivors, give you some tips on how to manage your life with school while in pain, and educate those who aren’t fully aware of this physical disability. Much of the advice I give here would help out those suffering from similar chronic or ongoing mental or physical issues.
What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is a physical disability that causes pain and occurs every day. The pain is diagnosed as chronic when it lasts longer than 12 weeks. Chronic pain cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Chronic pain often not only affects the survivor physically, but other health problems can arise: insomnia, fatigue, decreased appetite, mood changes such as depression, anxiety, and irritability, are not unusual. My chronic pain has lasted six years and, though being in pain every moment of the day can seem daunting, my experience has helped me grow in a way that allows me to reach out to and help people like you.
Living with chronic pain at school has affected my energy levels. On good days, I wake up and am motivated to be productive while my pain is at its least. On bad days, I wake up already in pain, not wanting to get out of bed, and just the thought of going to class makes me unmotivated. School takes up most of my time, and I treat it like a full time job. Unfortunately, however, school is the largest factor in worsening my pain due to endless hours of sitting, studying, reading, and writing. As a result, I am often isolated because once I’m done my to-do list for school, I usually have no energy to do anything else, like socialize or even cook for myself.
The isolating effect of chronic pain can often negatively affect my motivation to do just about anything. I have had to learn how to balance my schoolwork, social life, eating well, and doing things that feed my soul. I get frustrated with my chronic pain on a daily basis, as it is disappointing to constantly be amending my schedule around my pain – saying no to social events, having low energy levels, not finishing the work I have to do, and not even being able to engage in any of my hobbies because the only way to diminish my pain is to lay in bed.
My ability to focus has been affected by my chronic pain. Sitting in class for an hour and a half feels like a six-hour car ride to me. My pain will start within five minutes of sitting down in class, so it takes a lot of willpower to focus and take effective notes. One of the main reasons I became a Peer Learning Assistant was to learn for myself how to flourish in school through all of the great strategies we teach. To have maximum focus, I have to be in a comfortable position that supports my back. Once I know that my pain won’t arise in this position, my ability to focus lasts a significantly longer time than if I was leaning over a desk at Stauffer.
“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.” – Unknown Author
Tip #1: Self-Management & Self-Care
My first tip about how to get past the decreased energy levels, isolation, and lack of ability to focus caused by my chronic pain relates to self-management and self-care.
Self-management is a process, and it may or may not come easily, but chronic pain will help you discover more about yourself, such as what really makes you happy and distracts you from your pain, who around you lightens your mood when you’re having a bad day, and how to effectively communicate with people. If you experience chronic pain, you have to learn how to problem solve, advocate for yourself, and learn decision-making. I have had to find a way to draw a line between working on school and doing things that make me happy. The silver lining to having chronic pain can be hard to find, but it has taught me the importance of balancing my daily life.
Meditation has helped me accept my chronic pain. For me, meditation involves lying down where my pain is alleviated so I can focus. Meditation helps my mind be at peace and ease, and has helped me accept that I am a survivor of chronic pain. The physical act of focusing on my breathing calms my muscles and slows my heart rate, which in turn can actually alleviate some of my physical pain.
Similarly, I try to deal with my chronic pain by getting out into nature. Whenever I find myself spiralling into a dark hole of hopelessness when my pain gets bad, I try my hardest to go outside as it brings me out of my dark thoughts and back to the present. I feel grounded.
It is important to acknowledge that survivors are different in their management preferences. It may take a while to find the right treatment for you, but there are many routes to calm and ease the difficulties associated with chronic pain.
Tip #2: Time Management
Time management is the key to success. When just sitting in class after an hour my back starts to hurt, you can imagine how hard it is for me to spend hours at the library or sitting up doing my readings, writing essays, completing assignments, etc. To improve your time management, try to find what time of the day your pain is at its least. For me, my pain is least in the morning and worsens as the day goes on. I take advantage of that morning period to power through some work. Finding your productive time will allow you to rest when you’re in pain without stress or guilt that you haven’t done your school work.
Creating weekly and even daily schedules will help you finish some work while managing your pain. You can learn more about creating detailed schedules here. I want to draw your attention to a couple of my favourite methods. The ABC method of prioritization is one that I use to help manage my time. It works like this: label all the tasks you have to do with the letter A; label tasks that should be done with the letter B; and tasks you want to do but don’t have to do with the letter C. Now you know what to address first when you’re feeling at your best, and what you can put out of your mind until tomorrow. Meanwhile, a monthly calendar helps me prioritize tasks over the coming weeks. Having a monthly view of due dates and other events is important because you won’t miss anything when creating a day’s ABC to-do-list.
Tip #3: School-Life Balance
School-life balance helps you stay healthy, physically and mentally. School-life balance is one of the main reasons why I am able to persevere and cope with my chronic pain. If, as I’ve shown you above, you work while your pain is at its least, you can also spend time looking after yourself and doing things you enjoy if your pain worsens.
So, how does one actually balance school, eating well, doing things you enjoy, socializing, and finding time to sleep? My advice is to create a daily routine. I know that my mornings are a vital time when I push myself to the fullest, but also reward myself when I achieve goals. I have specific days of the week where I schedule in certain activities that keep me entertained or relaxed, like hobbies and socializing. It is so important to prioritize activities that maintain your mental and physical health alongside schoolwork. Whenever I schedule something I have to do for school in my to-do list, I also add something for myself. I challenge you to do the same, and hopefully you will achieve school-life balance.
A Final Note
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors, peers, family, and professionals if you’re struggling. A support system of friends and family members who listen and offer emotional support is a great tool, but there are lots of professionals at Queen’s who’ll help you too. A starting point to getting assistance is through Student Wellness Services. You can phone them at 613-533-2506. Counselling services, which can be reached at 613-533-6000 extension 78264, are always ready to help you out too. If you need help with learning and writing, the staff and peer assistants at Student Academic Success Services will help you out through workshops or one-on-one appointments. But you might not always need formal assistance: try asking your professors for extensions if you can’t get your work done by the due date because of how chronic pain or any other similar condition. Lots of faculty and staff at the university will be understanding and want to help you out. Good luck!
Scenario 1: “Wow, that was an easy midterm. I am too good for university… I’ll just party for the next few weeks and cram closer to exam time.”
Scenario 2: “That midterm was awful. This subject isn’t meant for me… there is no point in trying for the final exam. It will be a waste of time.”
If I asked which scenario you would prefer to be in, you would probably choose scenario 1. However, on a closer examination, you might realize that neither scenario embodies the most productive mindset for approaching university, or even life in general.
At SASS, we differentiate between two types of mindsets; a fixed mindset, embodied in the example scenarios above, and a growth mindset, which is what I will elaborate on later in this post. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that they are born with a certain, unchangeable, level of ability in a task, and that regardless of their efforts, they cannot change their proficiency. In contrast, someone practicing a growth mindset takes a more constructive view and realizes that through commitment, practice, and effort, they can develop their abilities.
Being in the midst of my ninth university midterm/exam period, I can confidently say that practicing a growth mindset is one of the most effective strategies you can embrace. Each midterm experience presents a unique opportunity for personal development. Not only do you learn new content and then study it later to improve mastery and recall, but you also learn more about your preferred ways to prepare for exams. With a growth mindset, you can free yourself to refine your ability to tackle the content, to manage your emotions and nerves during stressful situations, and overall feel more optimistic about your learning.
However, developing a growth mindset is a skill itself, and not a way of thinking which you can simply switch on. Here are a few techniques which I would recommend you try to practice this skill:
Every week, set aside some time to reflect on your progress. What did you learn that week and how did it build on your previous skills? Also, reflect on some goals (more on setting “SMART” goals here) which you did and did not achieve. What was the difference between your approach to each goal, and how will you tweak your approach to achieve the goals you set for the next week?
By consistently reflecting on your progress, you practice your ability to self-regulate. At the same time, you realize that even small changes in your approach to learning can have a large, overall impact on your success.
When reflecting on an experience (such as a midterm), don’t focus only on the effort or only on the outcome. Instead, praise yourself for the effective strategies which helped you get to the outcome, as explained by Carol Dweck, a pioneer in theories of mindset (more information here). A rationale behind this is the following: If you spend many hours preparing for a test which ultimately goes poorly, then consoling yourself by praising how long you spent studying may not be effective. This is because if you repeat the same approach to studying in the future, then you may face another disappointing result. Ultimately, you may feel that you are unable to develop your skills. Likewise, focusing solely on the result can either make you feel overconfident (if the exam went well), or demoralized (if it didn’t go so well).
The better approach, is to break up the exam into sections (either by question type or content). Then, evaluate what strategies you used to help prepare for each section. Praise yourself for the strategies which helped you do well, while aim to try new strategies to replace those which were not so effective (e.g. doing more practice from a textbook instead of re-reading your notes numerous times, a pitfall I have often fallen into).
Acknowledge the power of the word “yet”. We all have areas of weaknesses. But instead of viewing the weakness as a static inability, look at it as an area for improvement. So begin by acknowledging the skill you want to improve. Then, realize that you may not be comfortable in this skill “yet”, and therefore can improve in the future. For example, you may not have mastered a key concept in your math class yet, but by approaching your professor during office hours, doing more practice problems, and searching for additional resources online, you can master the topic.
Once you recognize an area of development, embrace the “Creator” role to develop your skill. Although there can be external circumstances outside of your control, you can still control the way you respond to adversity. Likewise, you can create a more constructive situation, by taking responsibility of your actions and making more effective choices. So if an exam doesn’t go so well, take accountability for the performance, and then work on the alternative strategies you think of (e.g. practicing, approaching your professor and searching online as mentioned in point 3). (For more information on the Creator role and how it applies to a related topic, Stress Management, click )
By practicing the tips mentioned above, hopefully you will begin to view the process of writing midterms as an enriching experience, rather than a hurdle which you can or cannot overcome. So if you find yourself in one of the scenarios mentioned at the start of the blog, reflect on your inner voice. Ask yourself, “Is it my fixed or growth mindset speaking to me?”. If it’s your growth mindset, then perhaps it will sound something like this:
Scenario 1: “Wow, that midterm went well. I guess it indicates that I am on track to understanding the concepts. I should continue using the strategies I am using, and make sure to add in new elements which can make the final exam preparation an even more smooth transition.”
Scenario 2: “That midterm didn’t go so well. I should reflect on where I went wrong. Did I focus too much on certain details while missing other concepts? Or did I know my material but couldn’t focus well during the exam? I should work on these skills to be more successful on the upcoming exam.”
And remember, your growth mindset is your friend. It takes time and commitment to establish and maintain a friendship, but it’s always worth the effort.
For more strategies and information, please click here
By Kaitlin Pilarski, 2nd year Life Sciences student
Nowadays, everyone seems to make elaborate coffee orders. We stand in line between classes, watch as the barista inputs every detail right down to the caramel drizzle, and spell our name out letter by letter so they CAN’T get our name wrong – but what if we spent as much time caring about our goals as we did our coffee? Would our outlook change? Would the outcome be different? Let’s take a look…
By Sam Taylor, 4th year Concurrent Education, English student
Mid term season is one of the more stressful times during the semester, which I’m sure you already know. Whether it is to get me through the pressures of mid terms or just to brighten my day, I tend to rely on positive quotes. I use them as my laptop screensaver, my phone background, and have them up on the walls in my bedroom. Reading these motivating words could also be your source of inspiration this mid term season!
Rohn, Jim. “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” Quote Fancy, 2017.
Build a weekly study schedule
This way, you can do your best to complete all of the assignments and studying necessary to succeed on your mid-terms, while still maintaining the other aspects of your life
When writing it, you can incorporate everything necessary for school such as your set class times, assignments, homework, and studying you should accomplish each day
Be sure to also include other set time commitments such as jobs and extra curriculars
Finally, it will allow you to put in time to take breaks to see friends or to go to the gym, and to do laundry, eat meals, exercise, etc.
50/10 rule for studying
Study or work on a task for 50 minutes and then take a break for 10 minutes. A study has shown that you remember best what you study within the first 25 minutes and the last 25 minutes of a study session
Actively use time between classes
By using time in between classes, you are often able to accomplish shorter tasks and will have completed more throughout the day by doing so
Treat each day like a work day and each week like a work week and put in your 40 hours of work per week
Sleep 7-8 hours per night
Students often think that they need to sacrifice sleep to complete their homework or studying. But by getting the right amount of sleep, you will be more efficient at completing your studying
Maxwell, John C. “Dreams Don’t Work Unless you Do.” Quote Fancy, 2017.
Eat a frog for breakfast
Complete your most difficult studying or assignment in the morning so that you are not dreading working on it the entire day and putting it off
Review concepts before, during, and after class
By doing this, you are ensuring that you truly understand the content and will more easily recall the information when studying later for the actual mid-term or final exam
Nip confusion in the bud
Go to your TA/professor’s office hours, send them an e-mail, or speak with them after class so that it is clear what you must do for an assignment or on the mid-term
Refer to past exams, use assignments, or course learning objectives to study
Check exam-bank for old exams to practice studying from, use assignment questions and course learning objectives to generate practice study questions
Think about long term goals
How will short term goals of doing well on a mid-term contribute to your long term goal of getting good grades to get into graduate school or help you to graduate so you can have your dream job
Try to remember that the stress of mid-term season is “a difficult road” right now that will “lead to beautiful destinations” later on. You are the one who gets to decide how you want to tackle these tough days or weeks during the semester in order to achieve your goals!
School can be tough. As assignments, midterms, and papers begin to stack up, the drive to lock ourselves away in a productive frenzy can seem like an attractive solution to burgeoning to-do lists. As appealing as this ‘grind’ can be, it leaves us vulnerable to isolation, and isolation is a threat to academic success, health, and happiness. While we do need some solo time to study, it is vital to seek help when we become stuck or frustrated. I can think of many times when I was sitting by myself, in my room or in the library, stuck on a problem which easily could have been solved with some basic clarification. Even more often, my frustration could have been eased with some kindness and encouragement. What I (and many of us on campus) struggle with is actuallyseeking the many avenues of help that are available to us. Here are three sources of help that I feel are most important:
Friends and Classmates:
Last year, I wrote about the so-called ‘Happiness Advantage’ which posits a link between happiness and success, both academically and professionally. One pillar of the theory suggests that during times of stress we should reach out to our social networks for support and encouragement, rather than withdrawing from these networks under the guise of ‘being too busy.’ While it may seem illogical to recommend spending time with your friends when you have a lot of work to do, taking breaks to engage in meaningful social interactions will keep you happy, and therefore primed to be more productive (and successful) upon resuming your work.
Of course, moderation is suggested here. Don’t spend three hours with your friends the night before an unfinished paper is due. What I do suggest is taking small breaks to refresh and reach out to your friends for encouragement – you’ll be surprised by how much better you’ll feel while working. Resist the temptation of the all-day grind. Take some time to see your friends and other people who make you feel happy.
Although they are responsible for the difficult assignments and exams that you endure, professors really do want you to succeed. Your professors and teaching assistants are your best source of help for your coursework, and they are willing to help you if you make the effort to ask. Still, I understand how difficult it can be to determine where, when, and how to approach your professors. I use these strategies:
At the beginning of the semester, I always write down my professors’ email addresses and office hours in my weekly schedule, so that this information is easily accessible. Since half the battle is finding out when your professors are available, this is helpful.
As I go through readings, problems, or lecture notes, I have a pad of sticky-notes beside me. Whenever I come across something that doesn’t quite make sense or needs clarification, I mark the page or problem with a sticky note, and write a brief note to myself which will help me remember what I was confused about. This system saves you time when you see your professors, and allows you to focus on your readings and notes, confident that you will not forget what material you need to revisit.
Sometimes your professors and friends may not be able to give you the support you need. If you reach out to your professors and friends, but still feel down, frustrated, or overwhelmed, consider seeing some of the professional resources on campus. You won’t be able to concentrate or succeed at school if you’re not feeling well!
Professional Learning Strategists: Student Academic Success Services provides many resources, including the Peer Learning Assistants (like me!) and professional Learning Strategists. If you are having trouble managing your time, learning new information, or if you feel like you need help with school in general, book an appointment for a 1-on-1 consultation at queensu.ca/sass-programs-2/appointments/
Student Wellness Services: If you feel like you need some help with your mental or physical health, schedule an appointment with Student Wellness Services. A healthy mind and body will help you succeed in school! http://www.queensu.ca/studentwellness/home
Isolating yourself during ‘the grind’ can work for a short period of time, but eventually leads to frustration, stasis and unhappiness. When the schoolwork begins to pile up, reach out to your friends to keep you happy, your professors to keep you on track, and professional resources to keep you healthy. These resources will go far in helping you become a more successful—and happy—student.
Look no further for the perfect back-to-school motivation
They say that the best books tell you what you already know, so maybe this goes for advice as well. Keep reading for quick tips on how to set a healthy routine for successful start on the fall semester!
Declutter your life
Reset sleep patterns
We’ve all heard that sleep is vital for our physical health, daytime performance, and healthy brain function. Make it a top priority and aim to get around eight hours each night. While many people argue against morning classes, waking up early for lectures can be a good thing because it forces you to develop a routine that allows for more productivity during the rest of the day.
Being surrounded by clutter can often distract you from more important things and create unwanted stress. The new semester is another chance to start fresh, so organizing your internal and external environment is essential. There is no better time than now to get rid of old clothes, books, and other miscellaneous items you don’t need. Furthermore, find a to free your mind and stop worrying about past problems that can no longer be fixed. For confidential crisis support or one-to-one counselling, book an appointment with Counselling Services.
Plan your activities
The life of a typical Queen’s student is quite busy, so it’s incredibly helpful to keep track of your class quizzes, club meetings, and various upcoming events by writing them down in a planner or on a calendar. Making daily to-do lists and estimating how long each task will take is also an effective way to manage your time and stay on top of things. Take a look at what kind of time management resources SASS has to offer.
Study mode: activated
Set high expectations
Who recalls that inspirational quote about shooting for the moon and landing among the stars, stuck on the wall of every elementary school classroom? Be confident in your abilities, stubborn about your goals, and flexible in your methods for achieving them. Challenge yourself to see how far you can go, because how will you ever know if you don’t try? See more on tips for setting smart goals here.
Libraries are one of the few places where you can go to be simultaneously surrounded by people and silence. Going there to learn is a good idea, not only because to avoid disruptions, but it’s also motivating when everyone else around you is studying. Opening your textbook and flipping to the first page is often the hardest part, but as time passes, you’ll find yourself learning and adapting to a new routine. Remember: nothing is stronger than habit.
Find what works for you
There is no ultimate study strategy, since what works best greatly depends on the student and the topic. Creating flashcards, forming connections, and using spaced repetition is helpful for memorizing information. To fully test your understanding, work on lots of practice problems and make sure you can explain what you’ve learned in your own words. For more information on improving your study skills, visit this page.
Attitude over aptitude
Practice your focus
It’s way too easy to turn your head at the ring of a notification or click open a tab to get lost on Facebook. Break down your work into reasonable intervals and time yourself with the Pomodoro technique. Whether it’s classical melodies or the sound of rain, listening to something without lyrics may also improve your concentration. For more techniques on maintaining focus, look here.
Balance is key
Taking short breaks in between your homework sessions are just as important as the studying itself. Studies have suggested that exercise, such as running and yoga, enhances your memory and focus. Celebrate small successes, and never forget to make time to keep in touch with family, have fun with your friends, and pursue your own creative hobbies.
Positive thinking only
You won’t always be able to control what happens, but you are in control of how you think and respond to the situation. The loudest and most powerful voice you hear is your own inner voice. Let it tell you to keep looking on the bright side, because even the most devastating mistakes can be viewed as an opportunity to learn from them. Never hesitate to seek further help – for example, SASS offers free individual professional advising with a learning strategist.
By Victoria Wolf, 4th year French/Linguistics student
Dear first-year me (& whoever else might be reading this),
Three years have flown by and I suddenly find myself in the first week of my fourth year. While I’m definitely not the perfect student (is there even such a thing?), I have learned a bit about the DOs and DON’Ts of university that I wanted to share with you.
1. Taking regular breaks is so important! Don’t try to power through five hours of readings in one sitting – university is a marathon, not a sprint. Try the 50-10 rule – set a timer for 50 minutes and spend that time working towards a goal with no interruptions, then set another timer for 10 minutes and use this time to take a break and recharge.
2. Take advantage of little breaks you find between classes and use this time to catch up on work, review course notes or preview slides for your next lecture. It can be easy to go home during that hour and a half gap and convince yourself you’ll be productive, but it turns into a long and guilt-filled journey into the depths of Instagram every time.
3. Stauffer and Douglas aren’t the only places to study on campus. You might like empty classrooms – they’re especially useful for group studying because you can make use of the chalkboards and projectors. Coffee shops downtown might also provide some inspiration (and fuel), as well as get you out of the campus bubble for a bit, when you’re working on daunting papers.
4. It’s okay to say “no” sometimes. When you’re surrounded by other students, it can be tempting to accept every invitation, and easy to spread yourself too thin. They will understand; they’re in the same boat as you and often wish they had the courage to do the same thing. Catch up with them next time; it’ll be much more enjoyable if you use your plans with friends as a reward for finishing a task.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are so many people who are so willing to help you (it’s their job!) – your dons, your profs and TAs, Queen’s Student Academic Success Services, Student Wellness Services and so many more. It’ll make life at Queen’s so much easier!
Cha gheill, Fourth-year you
Photo courtesy of Queen’s University under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.
By Jessica MacNaught, 3rd year ConEd Linguistics/French student
Take time to take care of the most important person – yourself.
As all students know, it can be hard when you need to balance school, extracurriculars, and a social life. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember to take care of yourself physically – to eat, sleep, and exercise enough to be healthy and feel your best. But what about your mental health?
Mental health is something we all have, and something that it is important for all of us to remain conscious of, even during stressful times such as midterm or exam season. It is very easy to get caught up in a hectic schedule and feel overwhelmed. However, it is always important to remember that your health is more important than anything else, and your mental health is just as valid as your physical health (and sometimes they can be interconnected)!
One way that you can take care of your mental well-being is to ensure that you practice effective self-care. Self-care is the act of doing something that makes you feel rejuvenated and at peace in order to maintain a healthy mind and soul. Self-care can be anything that makes you feel happy – whether it’s going for a jog, watching some Netflix, spending time with your pet, calling a friend, colouring, or more! Try to schedule in some time just for yourself each week, where you can check in with yourself and take care of YOU, the most important person.
There is a great resource from Queen’s Student Academic Success Services (SASS) that can help to reflect on how much you are taking care of yourself. You can find it here. This sheet showcases a number of ways you can care for yourself, and look out for yourself (for example, asking for help from others or saying “no” to requests when you know you don’t have time) and allows you to evaluate your use of these methods. Using this resource made me aware that I wasn’t really taking the time to make sure that I was caring for myself as much as I needed to. When I took the time to reflect and take care of myself, I felt more peaceful and more productive. Another way to improve your mental health is to avoid stressors as much as you can. If you know that a situation makes you feel negatively, work towards avoiding or at least preparing for that situation. For example, If speaking publicly makes you nervous, you can minimize that anxiety by preparing in advance for a presentation – there are some really great public speaking resources here. You can write a script, practice the presentation with friends, or ask your professor if you can present to them one-on-one.
As for myself, I get anxious about forgetting what I am doing next, so I use a schedule on Google Calendar to plan my day so I know I won’t miss anything important! Another way to make self-care a priority is to add it into your schedule. I use cooking and baking as a form of self-care, and it makes me feel relaxed and productive, but you might like to do something else – and that’s okay, because there is no one way to practice self-care! Choose a few hours each week to dedicate to yourself, and make it a date! When you get back to studying, working, and living life, you’ll feel so much more refreshed and ready to face the day.
If you find that you need to talk to someone about your mental health, don’t be afraid to reach out and get help. The Peer Support Centre at Queen’s, which is located in Room 034 of the JDUC, is a confidential, non-judgemental, positive space where you can go to talk to a volunteer about any topic, and they are so supportive! Good2Talk, a hotline for post-secondary students, is also open 24 hours and can be reached at 1-866-925-5454.
Here are some ways to use self-care!
Photo courtesy of Sacha Chua under flickr Creative Commons License 2.0.
By: Julia Tighe, 3rd year Con-Ed/Health Studies student
I’m not going to deny it, this is a difficult time for university students. Week 4 readings are coming back to bite you, final exams are looming, and assignments are real. Very real. Regardless which program you’re in, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and the sun is staying out longer every day.
NOW…I’m going to make TWO bets with you:
I bet that you will be able to do all 5 things I list in this blog.
I bet that you will sing along to at least one of the songs its aligned with.
Don’t believe me? Read on to prove me wrong 😉
NUMBER 1: Break Free by Ariana Grande
~ TAKE BREAKS ~
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been at Stauffer all day long, and some days all night long. Take wisdom from me: THIS DOESN’T HELP. At hour 3 of studying, my brain goes to mush and a break is needed. Number one thing YOU CAN do this exam season is take breaks while studying. Not only will it allow your brain a break, it will actually help you consolidate all the information you have been learning!
NUMBER 2: Slow and Steady by Of Monsters and Men
! PACE YOURSELF !
Exams are a marathon not a sprint. By planning out your exam season it allows you to p a c e y o u r s e l f. We definitely do not want any exam to sneak up on you like those multiple 4-pieces from Lazy. What some people forget is that scheduling time to go to the gym or to FaceTime your dog is an important aspect to your exam success as well. The BEST template to create a plan for yourself can be found here.
NUMBER 3: All Star by Smash Mouth
< FACE YOUR COURSES HEAD ON >
One of my favorite exam study tricks is to eat a frog for breakfast. Eat a WHAT you ask? No, I’m not recommending you eat a real live frog – however, I am recommending you do your scariest most dreadful course first thing in your study day. By getting the worst thing out of the way first, the rest of the day will be super smooth. A super smooth day means a less stressful one too. Just remember when you’re facing your dreaded course head on, hey now, you’re an ALL STAR.
NUMBER 4: Human by One Republic
— REMEMBER, you’re only human —
The final step to your exam season success is to be calm. You have done an amazing job preparing and will rock your exams! Remember your growth mindset as well while working – you may not be rocking every step of the exam process from the get go but you will get there! You’re only human. Watch a TED talk on the growth mind set here.
NUMBER 5: And Then Some by the Arkells
~-~ Take Care of YOU ~-~
For me, FaceTime-ing my sister during exam season is just what I need in times that I’m feeling down. It is just as important to stay on track academically as it is to keep a normal routine. Listening to your favourite song, keeping physically active, eating healthy foods, and laughing as often as possible will all keep your brain fresh for absorbing information to apply on your exams.
I know you are going to rock your exams this season, because you took the time to get prepared! You are one step ahead of the exam game. Remember you are not your grades, you are way more than that. A successful exam season doesn’t mean straight A’s, your wellbeing is important as well. You can do this!
If you are looking for even more resources or tips and tricks from other Peer Learning Assistants check out sass.queensu.ca! There are so many incredible peers who want to help you succeed.
The best thing I ever did for my school work (writing, classes in general, all of it) was get up the courage to go talk to my professors.
In my experience, undergrads have a tendency to be intimidated about going to see their course instructors about their papers, especially in the early years. But the truth is, profs and TAs are there to help you do well in the course – they want to see you succeed – and going to talk to them about any questions you have, bouncing ideas off of them for the outline of a paper, running a thesis by them, whatever, can really help keep you on track with your ideas, and help you organize your thoughts. I often find my papers are better structured, and I have avoided silly little mistakes made out of ignorance when I meet with my Prof before handing in an assignment. These meetings don’t have to be long, but they allow you to get feedback before you get your grade, which is great! You could email your course instructors for these kinds of questions, sure, but in my experience, something gets lost without that face-to-face interaction. You can get a lot more out of a 15-minute conversation with someone than you can in 15 emails (not to mention it takes a lot less time).
Another bonus that most people don’t think about is that arranging to have a quick chat with your course instructor about an assignment forces you to manage your time. If I am going to see a prof about my thesis for a paper 2 weeks before that paper is due, then I have to have a thesis (and probably an outline) for said paper 2 weeks before it’s due. BAM! Time management.
But wait, there’s more! Getting to know your profs and TAs by going to talk to them face-to-face helps build relationships. That may sound trivial at first, but think about it: these are the people who may, one day, give you references for jobs or post-graduate studies. Building those relationships now can open a lot of doors in the future. Furthermore, your course instructors are a wealth of information (and not just about their subject matter), so why not take advantage of that? Say you’re thinking about doing a graduate degree. Who better to ask about master’s programs than your TA, who is currently working on their master’s?
I’ve had profs who have changed the way I write, who have changed the way I look at the world, and who have thoroughly enriched my time at Queen’s so far. This is a rare opportunity for us as students, so take advantage of it! So go talk to them – they don’t bite!