Post-secondary students work themselves to the core. Balancing academics, part-time jobs, internships and social lives, all while getting a taste of adulthood for the first time leads to the inevitable – burnout. University and college can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Reading week is the perfect opportunity to restore your sanity and recharge so that you can perform your best when school kicks off again and final exams start creeping up. In my first year at Dalhousie, when most of my friends went home for the November reading week, my friend Sarah and I (hi bestie, I know you read my articles) had a simultaneously productive and relaxing week that was so much fun. At this point, I’m a reading week expert.
My first piece of advice for taking advantage of this semester’s reading week is recognizing burnout. The common experience of burnout is a feeling of extreme mental and physical exhaustion. It’s imperative to recognize the symptoms of burnout in yourself. Some usual indications include changes in appetite or sleep habits, frequent headaches, general exhaustion, anxiousness, irritability and lack of motivation. There are plenty of things you can do over your reading week to ease any feelings of burnout. I recommend talking to the people in your life who are going through similar hardships. Your friends in university/college should be your support system. Starting a conversation can be very rewarding and I’m sure your friends will be grateful you did. If you don’t feel comfortable enough talking about your mental health with friends, that’s okay. I’ve found that talking to someone who provides a sense of familiarity is comforting. Whether it’s your mom, dad, grandparent, sibling, childhood friend, teammate, coach or therapist – regardless of who you’re talking to, talking is important.
While we’re discussing the topic of burnout, here’s your friendly reminder to take a break. Sometimes when we’ve been going full speed for so long, it’s difficult to stop ourselves and take breaks. Although the title “reading week” implies a time to focus on readings and other school work, give yourself a chance to catch your breath. Sleep in late, take a bath, read or write something for creativity instead of school.
I’m a firm believer that a fresh playlist can be life changing. Reading week last year was when I formulated the perfect exam season playlist for studying, and I listened to it religiously from November to Christmas break. I’m not saying yours has to be a mellow playlist filled with folklore songs. You may need a new soundtrack for lifting at the gym or waking up in the morning. Whatever your prerogative, reading week is the perfect occasion for crafting a no skip, never miss, playlist. The process of playlist making is also so therapeutic that it could be considered a form of self care.
My last tip for making the most of reading week is to get outside of your far too familiar environment. During a regular school week, leaving campus can be challenging. Going somewhere new can help inspire a new hobby. Experiment with a fancier coffee shop instead of your go-to spot, hop on a bus or ferry to a store you’ve always wanted to check out, and finish the hike you’ve been planning forever.
There are so many fun things you can do in Halifax over reading week for a change of pace. If you’re looking for ideas, last year Sarah and I explored downtown Halifax in the pouring rain, tried a new restaurant, went for walks along the water and watched back to back movies in theaters (not a change of environment but something we had always wanted to do). A change of scenery can be so refreshing, so pick a day, text one of your friends, and start exploring!