Work, School and Self-Care

I am no stranger to stress and anxiety. In fact, neither are my classmates.  I have seen my colleagues crack under the pressure of having to balance the many different responsibilities in life while trying to maintain good academic standing.

A friend of mine once ran out of class mid-sentence during a presentation. We found her crying and hyperventilating in another room down the hall. She explained that she had been at work all weekend, she lost sleep because she used the remaining time she had to prepare for her presentation, and she simply became overwhelmed with pressure by the time she was up at the front of the class. Luckily, our professor was understanding of the situation and gave her a second chance.

Situations like this are completely unnecessary to experience, and completely avoidable. It simply takes personal commitment to achieve the work-school balance that we all so desperately need to master.

I have personally had my fair share of burn-out, chest-pains and shortness of breath while trying to perform well as an elementary teacher while getting through my studies as a Graduate student. The pressure was ON! Unfortunately, it took getting pushed over the edge for me to start making changes to the way I managed myself and my responsibilities. I hope that you can start making adjustments before reaching the point of crisis.

It is no secret that McGill has launched a mental-health and wellness services across campus. Loads of new and exciting initiatives will be taking place to help students better manage their personal wellness. I highly encourage you to consider using the services and attending the workshops – especially if you find yourself juggling many responsibilities at once.

For now, I would like to share with you 3 of the changes I have made that have helped me get through school while working.

Downloading Insight Timer.

In a desperate effort to help myself breathe easy, sleep easy and reduce my head aches, I stumbled upon the free App called Insight Timer. I can’t remember how I came across this app, but it was the first crucial step I took to getting better.

This app has become extremely popular for the thousands of free meditation sound clips available to its users. There is something for everyone on Insight Timer. Whether you prefer a guided visualization, a progressive muscle relaxation, or spiritual ly and intellectually stimulating podcasts; Insight Timer has got it all. I started off with listening to whatever caught my eye in terms of reducing stress and anxiety, and helped to bring more clarity and calm to my day. I use the app daily since I first downloaded it this January

Drinking Water and Eating Healthy.

It is so important to stay hydrated throughout the day. When we lack water in our bodies, we tend to feel irritable, hungry, and sluggish. Drinking water helps you feel more alert, improves your memory, and generally helps you feel better. If you aren’t a water-lover – and I know many people who aren’t – then I encourage you to take baby-steps toward including more water in your diet during the day. It may be just one small glass per day, but it would be one more glass than you would normally have. You will feel a difference!

It is also important to limit the amount of fried, salty and sugary food you eat during the semester. When we feel stressed, some of us tend to reach for the least healthy food. Personally, I made the commitment to cut refined sugar out of my diet. I found myself eating too many chocolates and cookies without properly nourishing my body with better food. Our brains need proper fuel to burn as we power through our research, our essays, or our studying – and processed sugar is NOT the right fuel. We want to avoid experiencing spikes in drops in energy, and eventually, exhaustion during waking hours of the day. Once I stopped eating processed sugar, I made sure to replace the bulk of my diet with fresh food. I made sure to eat the rainbow at least once a day. And I don’t mean Skittles! I prepared salads that had a mix of at least 5 different colours of fresh produce to eat once per day. Not only did I gain more stable levels of energy, but I also felt good knowing that I was doing my body a favour by providing it with that food that it needs to function throughout the day.

Timing yourself

As someone who tends to sit and work for hours without stopping, I am all too familiar with the feeling of hitting a wall and trying to power through the wall before finally reaching a slump. Working this way not only induces anxiety, but it also not productive. You may feel that you are working hard because you have made the commitment to sit for hours-on-end, but doing so will reduce the quality of your work as you become more and more tired.

I started using the Timer feature in Insight Timer to limit myself to a work period of 30 minutes. I replaced my chair with an exercise ball, put some headphones on, chose my favourite droning sound in the Timer feature, and got to work for 30 minutes. (Keep some water beside you!). During these 30 minutes, I committed to doing one task. No social media allowed in these 30 minutes, no texting permitted either. When the timer would sound, I permitted myself a 10 minute break for going to the washroom, checking my phone, but most importantly, at least 5 of those 10 minutes were dedicated to moving my body. I found a simple 5 minute yoga video on YouTube to combat long periods of sitting, which combined stretches and breathing, and I committed to performing the sequence before getting back to work for another half-hour. Your brain needs oxygen to feel refreshed and awake. It helps DRASTICALLY to get up and move, and to take deep breaths between work periods. I promise that you will feel refreshed and ready to work for another 30 minutes once you give yourself the well-deserved break.

So, how did I maintain these habits throughout the semester?

I simply told myself that I deserved these healthier choices. It is tempting to experience feelings of guilt when putting time aside for ourselves rather than tackling the long list of tasks we have lined up for us. I learned – the hard way – that guilt only hinders our performance. In giving devoting some time each day to take care of yourself, you will perform more efficiently and you will experience less stress.

You deserve to be healthy. And you should start now.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.