Thursday, August 20, 2009

Advice for College Freshmen (Part 4)

(Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

College students are notoriously sleep-deprived. With no one telling you that you need to go to bed, unless your college has a curfew, you can stay up and out all night if you would like. Don't - I beg you!

It was sad to see people wandering from class to class with their eyes glazed after a night of little sleep. Our bodies were made to need sleep - and it is hard to function the next day when you only get a few hours. Somehow others made it through on little sleep each night, but many would also get sick or have to crash on the weekends.

The department I was in, theatre, was also notorious for the amount of work to get down and the little time to do so. A friend, after asking how much sleep I usually got, exclaimed, "You must get the most sleep in the whole theatre department!" Another friend quickly chimed in, "Yes, but she also gets the most work done." While I doubt that was true, getting enough sleep does help you work more quickly and efficiently the next day. If you stay up to study the night before and then can't concentrate and have to fight to stay awake the whole of the next day, it would have been more beneficial in the long run to just go to sleep!

It is hard, I know! Sometimes there is so much homework that you have to stay up a little later. The second semester I was getting 5-6 hours of sleep per night at times. However, try not to make this a habit! It is hard to fit friends on top of school work, but don't sacrifice sleep and health as a result. You are there to learn, and it is hard to learn if you're groggy!

I found it helpful to stay on a pretty consistent schedule. I woke each morning at 6 AM, which allowed me to have devotions, eat a good breakfast, and fully wake up before the rush of classes. Knowing that I would be getting up early the next day helped motivate me to go to bed even when it would have been nice to hang out with friends. I did stay up talking a few nights, and sometimes I studied as needed or took a special outing with friends. But these were the exceptions, and I never had to pull an all-nighter. Most nights I tried to be in bed by 10 or 11 PM. It was worth it!

You can't work all of the time. Taking time to rest is something I still struggle with, but it is needed. In the midst of a busy day or a time of studying for a major test, your brain and body need time to relax. You may only have a few minutes to spare, but try to take enough breaks to prevent burnout.

Rest doesn't just mean sitting still and staring out into space. Especially if you've been in one place studying, a form of rest can mean moving - stretching, or taking a quick walk around campus, being refreshed in the outdoor air. Sometimes you do need to just sit still, and if it is relaxing for you, a few minutes spent reading a fun book or magazine can be a mental treat as well.

It's also helpful to plan breaks into your schedule. I knew of people who took Sundays off from studying, and it seemed helpful although I never did so completely. Going to a group meeting or spending time with friends can also be a good way to take a break and rest. My favorite way was to spend some time outside, walking, praying, reading, writing letters, or just sitting and enjoying the beauty. Time off will help you feel refreshed and ready to face another pile of books.

Not only is it good for your health, exercise also increases blood flow to the brain which will help you in your studies! If you're feeling sleeping, doing some exercise is a great way to wake you up. Also, making sure that you consistently exercise is a good way to avoid the "freshman 15."

Exercise doesn't have to be stressful and hard - it can be fun! There are many ways to burn calories - taking walks, going for a run, dancing, playing ultimate frisbee, power-walking to each class - anything that gets you moving! I was blessed to be able to take dance and some theatre classes in which we moved a lot, thus earning college credit while getting some good exercise! I also enjoyed walks around the spacious campus.

Whatever your method, choose one or integrate a few to ensure that your joints and body stay healthy. You will have lasting benefits by making this a habit now!

Don't Drink the Coke!
Eating in a cafeteria is a great way to learn self-control. Now you have high-fat foods, sugary desserts, and soft-drinks available to you at each meal. These foods aren't good for your brain or health, not to mention your waistline.

There's a whole list of things you could avoid, but the one of the best things to go without is the soft drinks. Sugary and carbonated, they have no benefits, but are rather horrible for your teeth and bad for your body. They're also very addicting, so I decided to not even think about drinking them at each meal - to just go to the water or milk instead.

I also made it a point to not look at the desserts most days so as to not awaken my taste buds to want them. The occasional treat that I got was so much more a treat because it was rare!

The occasional bad-for-you food or drink won't kill you. But, like so many other things, you want to make it the exception rather than the habit. Learn to exercise self-control and find balance in these daily choices.

1 comment:

Grace said...

Excellent advice, Anna! The college my sister attends sometimes holds scheduled events (such as chapel-like services, etc.) at 10 p.m. or later!