10 Ways to Have a Kick-Ass Winter Semester

Nobody seems to know how it came and went so quickly, but winter break is already over and here we are – back in Ann Arbor, tackling another semester of classes, clubs, jobs, interviews and social lives.

I’ve always enjoyed winter semester, in spite of the obvious excitement of fall semester’s football games, Halloween, and barn dance. The reason for my preference? During winter semester, with the chaos of fall behind me, I find myself more organized, in better shape, and overall just more successful.

The relaxed social calendar and freezing weather of winter semester have an amazing effect on my work ethic, allowing me to get organized, get stuff done, have fun, and overall kick ass. In comparison to fall semester, the only big social engagements during winter semester are spring break, St. Patty’s Day, and Winterfest, which puts less pressure on me to keep up with my super social friends and allows me to study without having too much FOMO. Additionally, the freezing weather eliminates most urges to go outside and indulge in my favorite outdoor activities, allowing me to focus better on the task at hand. 

For these reasons (and plenty of others) winter semester is a great opportunity to seriously kill it. Whether that means acing your classes, landing a summer internship, or keeping up with another new year’s resolution, here are the tried and true secrets to kickin’ ass this term.  

1.  Invest in Your Sleep – As DJ Khaled might say, the “key to success” is sleep. The benefits are diverse and crucial – a good night’s sleep gives you energy, equips your body to fight illness by “boosting the defense response of your immune system,” reduces your risk of high blood pressure and heart attack, manages your weight by controlling your appetite, improves mental well-being, and improves your cognitive abilities (school.sleepeducation.com). “Sleepless at Stanford,” the university’s health services website, recommends college students get well over eight hours of sleep. Certainly this isn’t always feasible, but adjusting your schedule to allow for more time to snooze will make your waking hours that much more productive. My advice? Treat yourself to a delicious new mattress topper and start sleeping more! #blessup

2.  Establish a Bedtime Routine – Establishing sleep patterns is crucial to getting your body and mind on the same track as your academic schedule. Make an effort to get to bed at roughly the same hour each night (apart from your usual Cantina Tuesdays), so that your sleep is deeper and more restful. My personal bedtime routine includes a cup of my “sleep time” tea, a hot shower, and light reading for about 20 minutes (I’m currently reading “The Underside of Joy” by Seré Prince Halverson).

3.  Drink Water – The classic admonition to “drink more water” is a tried and true method for improving health for both physical and mental performance. According to eatingwell.com, water accounts for 60 percent of our body. That’s about 92 pounds in a 155-pound individual. Talk about important. Be kind to your body and supply it with all the water it needs to function; the benefits are strikingly similar to a good night’s rest: sharper memory, more stable mood, and higher motivation. Plus there are other auxiliary benefits that make drinking water even more appealing, like supple skin and better-regulated body-temperature. 

4.  Sweat Off the Stress – It may seem counter-intuitive to take time away from your studies, but investing your time in exercise has a multitude of benefits for your studies. According to a new report from the Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences, “children who are active are better able to focus their attention, are quicker to perform simple tasks, and have better working memories and problem solving skills than less-active children. They also perform better on standardized academic tests” (as reported by the New York Times). With this evidence in mind, the benefits of sweating off your stress are immeasurable. The report recommends 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate physical activity every day. Currently I get my exercise in through yoga, running and pick-up basketball, but the possibilities are endless!

5.  Find A Low-Maintenance Look – During the week your schedule won’t allow for extra primping time, so it’s a great time saver to have that perfect class ensemble nailed down. Think trendy and comfortable. I have a stash of joggers, leggings and Henley tees specifically for my busy weekdays, making my morning routine speedy and stress-free.

6.  Supplement Yourself: Vitamins Are Your Friends – Freshman year I found myself getting sick very frequently, which often derailed my study schedule and social life. To combat this issue, one solution I found was to supplement my diet with vitamins to ensure that I received all the nutrients my body needs to function well. While there are dozens of vitamins available, it’s important to check with a doctor, nutritionist, or maybe even your parents about what vitamins you’re lacking in your diet. Vitamin D is especially critical in the winter months, as the reduced sunshine creates a distinct deficiency of this. Additionally it never hurts to take a daily multivitamin, which will help regulate your overall health depending on the vitamin you choose. I personally take One-A-Day Women’s MultiVitamin by Bayer. They’re gummies – who doesn’t love gummies?

7.  Carve Out Quality Time – Oftentimes students ignore their emotional well-being in an attempt to stay on top of their studies. However, denying yourself much needed social interaction will only result in lethargic and depressed tendencies, which is counteractive to keeping up with your busy schedule. Set aside a few hours throughout the week to engage with your friends and family in a relaxed and fun setting. You deserve it! And your loved ones miss you.

8.  Find Your Go-To Indulgence – When you do take a moment to relax, be sure to spend your time wisely. Be with your very best friends, go to your favorite restaurant, or watch your favorite movie. My go-to formula for relaxation is sushi from Sadako (Avocado and California Roll), a cup of Peppermint tea, a few episodes of New Girl with my roommate, and a Sephora face-mask to round out the night.

9.  Write Everything Down – In any given day, you’ll think more thoughts than your brain can hold. In an effort to mitigate stress and prevent headaches, be sure to write things down – and I mean everything. Once you open an email, write down the meeting it’s informing you of, and when you make dinner plans with your best friend, jot it down. That way you can make space in your head for new information throughout the day.

10.  Be Thankful – In the grand scheme of things, college is insignificant. These four years of your life are just that – 4 years. Life goes on and you’ll go on to bigger and better things. So, if you make a mistake here and there or perhaps get a lower grade than you had hoped for, it’s not the end of the world. It’s important to have this perspective, especially in the moments where you feel like the world is falling down on you. Do your best and in the end, it will all work out.