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Academic Tips for the New Semester and How to Avoid Burnout

If you returned to campus with a sense of academic burnout, you are not alone. After a long holiday break, it can be incredibly difficult to return to the stresses of new classes, assignments, papers and all the other commitments that turn our daily planners into a mosaic of scribbles. Most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions after only one week, and February marks the month where failed promises and failed goals dampen the spirit and make taking any action toward change beyond difficult and exhausting. While these are not miracle cures, here are some tips and tricks to help you focus on enjoying (and surviving) this semester.

Clear off your desk and create a designated study space

Regardless of how you feel about the adage, “A cluttered desk is sign of a cluttered mind,” it can be really refreshing to take the time to clear away old papers and assignments and create a personal space for yourself that you enjoy and want to spend time in. I find that getting rid of papers, notes and assignments you no longer need can help create the sense of a fresh start and minimize some of the overwhelming feelings of the previous semester. Another way to detox is digitally-clearing away old emails, going through pictures and files, and organizing your desktop, which can help to create a sense of order in the digital space that we spend so much time in. It is important to choose a spot that you feel you can be successful in, so try and find an area away from distractions. You can even light candles or decorate your space to make studying there more enjoyable, or at the very least, less painful. If you prefer to study somewhere on campus, explore different places and find what works best for you.

Try and create a realistic and consistent sleep schedule

This one is hard, especially as busy college students. I can’t recall how many nights I’ve stayed up way too late reading papers and books for classes, talking with my friends or scrolling on my phone. While sleep is often sacrificed, it really is the cornerstone of both physical and mental health. Getting adequate sleep is necessary for having the energy to get through the day. Most doctors recommend anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep; however, it can really depend on the person. The important thing is to try and prioritize your sleep throughout the week, and this can be done by creating a consistent schedule for yourself and limiting exposure to blue-light before sleep. (goodbye, TikTok!) This is easier said than done and is something I am going to try and work on for the coming year.

Take thoughtful breaks

It is important to give yourself breaks when studying to keep energy up and avoid burnout, and to give your mind a moment of rest. While a break can be as simple as scrolling on your phone, it is important to give yourself meaningful breaks throughout the day in which you take time for yourself away from your studies and social media. My favorite ways to take breaks are through walks outside, listening to music, stretching, making a snack or chatting with a friend. These breaks can be little moments of mindfulness, and it is so important to incorporate them into your day. You know yourself best, and it is important to realize and respond to the moments when you need to step away from whatever you are doing.

Keep active

Finding ways to stay active can have a dramatic effect on not only physical health but mental health. While many people have New Year’s resolutions to go to the gym and work out, keeping active can even be as simple as taking the stairs over the elevator or walking to class rather than driving. Finding little ways throughout the day to get moving will help to raise your mood and increase feelings of focus when it comes to getting work done. Whether you go for a walk or head to the gym with your friends, adding a little bit of exercise throughout your week can relieve stress and improve health.

Stay nourished

One of the most important ways to manage energy levels and increase mood is by making sure that your body is well-nourished. While it can be tempting to skip meals while studying, it is important to make sure that you are eating well for both physical and mental health. Try making healthy snacks for an after-class energy boost or make some of your favorite meals to get you through the week. I love finding new recipes to make that are not only delicious but have the vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy. If you love coffee (who doesn’t?) make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking water. Being dehydrated can lead to headaches or other difficulties in focusing.

In the end…

College is hard, and it is important to take care of yourself. Hopefully these tips and tricks gave you some inspiration for starting off the new semester; however, it is important to remember that we are all different and need to find the things that work for us. Good luck with classes 😊

Mallory Wells is a sophomore studying psychology at the University of Kansas. In her free time, she loves to spend time with friends and family, listen to music from her favorite artists, and go on nature walks.
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