Before March of last year, I had never really had to workout on my own. From my high school varsity track team to Emory’s varsity track team, every workout I’ve done has been planned out for me. Having the commitment to a team and the guarantee that other people will be at the track or at the gym to work out with you made it so that exercise was a priority and an expectation.
Last semester, when I was back in Connecticut, I finally understood when people said that they didn’t always have the motivation to workout, or that they found it difficult to consistently schedule exercise for every day of the week. With all of my teammates too far away to practice with me, and nearby gyms and tracks closed due to the pandemic, I really struggled to keep up my motivation to workout everyday.
I struggled with motivation in other ways as well. Staring at my screen all day with nothing else scheduled in my day but work and small naps or tik tok breaks made it very draining to attend classes or keep up with my assignments.
As someone who always tries to be perfect, despite knowing that the logic behind the sentiment of being perfect is flawed, my days became exhausting. I spent each one lit by my laptop screen in the only dark room of my house that was somewhat quiet so that I could get my work done. With my eyes, brain and body feeling drained, I never felt like I had the time to get up and workout as well as finish all my assignments and keep up with studying material from my lectures week to week.
This semester has been a lot better for me, notably because I am living off-campus with an on-campus lab class as well as track practices. But even so, online learning can still be draining. From last semester to this semester, I’ve learned a lot about scheduling my time and taking proper breaks to prevent academic burnout. In the hope that it can help others with similar struggles, here are five things I learned during online school to keep yourself motivated, whether that be for academics or exercise!
1. Make exercise your academic break.
If you are getting very tired of staring at a screen completing assignments, why not go outside and exercise? Continuing to stare at your screen or worrying about the assignments you have to complete will only make you more mentally exhausted. Take a break from mental exertion with some physical exertion, and get your exercise for the day done at the same time!
2. Take at least 1 short social break per day.
Whether it’s eating lunch over zoom with your friends, playing a game/watching a show with friends, or just talking about any old thing for a few minutes after you’ve finished an assignment, these social breaks are crucial to preventing academic burnout.
3. It’s okay to not be perfect. Do the best that you can.
I think many people at Emory are used to getting almost perfect scores at their high schools, SATs and anything else academic-related that they’ve experienced. With it being midterm season, it is more important than ever to remember that if you are doing the very best you can, then that is all that you can do.
If you are really feeling down, it’s better to do something rather than nothing. Maybe you feel very exhausted one day and would prefer a hike instead of a hard track workout. That hike is far better than sitting on your couch or watching TV!
If you are returning to exercise for the first time in a while, don’t expect your running times or the amount of weight that you can lift to be the same as it was pre-break. You have to build back up to where you were and that’s okay.
4. Schedule out your time for the week
I like to use Microsoft excel and make a column with minute intervals from 8am-5pm and then include classes, extracurriculars and weekly assignments that you have to complete every week, as well as your breaks. Feel free to email me if you are interested in trying this method and would like an example!
5. Talk to a friend or write down why you are feeling overwhelmed.
Oftentimes, I think that I get myself more stressed than I need to be about the amount of assignments I have or time that I have to complete those assignments. By writing down the assignments I have or talking to a friend about them, it becomes much easier to realize that they are something that you can complete. Or, sometimes it is just nice to hear someone else justify how you feel and say that they understand why you feel so overwhelmed.
Though no solution will ever fully solve the exhaustion and zoom fatigue that comes with online schooling, or the absence of friends to study with or workout with during a pandemic, hopefully some of these tips can help to make the rest of your online semester a bit easier. Good luck with the rest of your midterms!