Self care in stressful times

It’s exam period (I’m sure you all know – I’ve been banging on about it enough!), and when times get tough it can be hard to take care of yourself. Here are my top tips:

  1. Plan time off. Even if you think you can’t afford to have a break, you need one to stay healthy and to work better. I try to stop working every evening by 7.30pm, and since I have a lot of extra curricular which I have to do on a Sunday I take the rest of the day off so I can fully enjoy it.
  2. Eat regular meals and as healthily as you dare. It can be easy just to eat biscuits and  chocolate and call it a meal, and easy to subconsciously snack as  you work, but it’s much healthier (and better for your teeth!) to have meals and try to avoid snacking. I try to have a long enough break to heat up some soup and toast for lunch, and a main meal in the evening. I don’t have much time to cook at the moment, so I’ve planned ahead and cooked and frozen some meals in advance. I’m also greatly enjoying exploring the variety of ready meals available from tesco (although this is not the most cost effective solution it’s definitely not the worst!)
  3. Don’t spend your time off just watching TV! I’ve fallen into this trap more than once. It’s just so easy to grab some nibbles and slob the evening away. But going out, seeing friends and doing things is so much more exciting, and makes you feel like you’ve actually done something!
  4. Sleep lots. Just go to bed. Take a nap. You can’t work if you’re tired.
  5. Try to enjoy it. Hopefully you picked a subject you love, and while revising for exams 60 hours a week isn’t the best bit you can hopefully still find some interest in what you’re learning about!
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Easter revision

Just under two weeks left of the Easter holidays and I’ve finally worked out how revision is going to work best for me!

Since starting uni, the way I revised has changed considerably, and I’m starting to think it’s not a good thing. I used to do four half hour to an hour bursts of revision a day, one for each subject. When I started uni, I realised I needed to do a lot more. I decided to do blocks of an hour and a half, and do eight hours a day. I decided it would help to go through one subject at a time.

I tried for weeks, losing motivation every hour, and often not making it through the day. I was lucky if I managed four hours before I gave in to the pull of my book or a tv program.

I needed to change, and fast. Working with my boyfriend when he came to visit made me realise that 45 minutes is probably the maximum time I can concentrate for. I started doing 45 minutes of work and 15 minutes break every hour. It worked fine except for some of the more confusing topics, which I then started splitting into two lots of twenty minutes with a five minute break between.

I make notes, go through flash cards, read notes, do questions, and worst of all attempt to learn mechanisms. And that was what the sticking point was. 45 minutes, even 20 minutes, of organic chemistry was far too much more me. So the finishing touch to my perfect revision timetable was to spread the organic throughout the day by doing 5 minutes in each of my quarter hour breaks and 10 more at the end of the day.

I can now make it through all of my planned revision for the day, and despite only having six full hours planned I get a lot more done than I used to.

End of exams!

The time I’ve been waiting for for weeks has finally come and I’ve finished my first year exams!

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These exams were without doubt the hardest exams, I’ve ever done, but that’s to be expected. University is a huge step up from A Levels, and despite how many times teachers will tell you A Levels are the hardest thing you’ll ever do, I’m struggling to find anyone here who agrees. There’s a lot more content, no tailored revision guides, hardly any mark schemes, and you rely exclusively on your notes, your friends, your textbooks and, of course, the good old internet.

In times of revision, I find it hard to keep my cool. I really enjoy reading, but can’t read novels any more because of the huge guilt that it should be notes I’m reading, and after a long hard day at my desk I don’t want to sit down at my laptop, but I can’t motivate myself to go outside and do something. It’s a long limbo of working, sleeping and feeling guilty.

Now though, I have big plans, for partying and socialising, walking and reading and painting and finally brushing the dust off my trumpet. (And probably getting a job and maybe even starting to look at next year’s work, but let’s not think about that yet…)

Term is nearly over?!! And revision tips (mainly for myself)

I only have a week left of the epiphany term at university before Easter. I don’t really understand how it happened…

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People always say that term will go fast and the year will be over before you know it, but I never really believed them. They said the same at high school and it never felt like it to me. But now, having been at university for a short five months (one of which was the Christmas holidays), I have a week left, a month’s ‘holiday’, a couple of weeks, exams and then the year’s over!

To be honest, it’s terrifying. To think that I’ve nearly learnt everything that I’m going to be taught this academic year. To think I’m nearly a quarter of my way through my degree. To think that exams are only a few weeks away…

Over Christmas I struggled with thinking that I would do really badly in the exams we had in January, and it’s even more likely to happen this holiday, with actual proper real-life exams so soon. So here are some tips for myself:

1. Work a set number of hours each day and stick to it. My plan is to do eight hours per day Monday to Saturday, and three to four hours on Sundays. This is plenty of time and I am not allowed to do any more!

2. Don’t over-commit to other things. Over Christmas I committed to a lot of concerts at the beginning of the holidays, which made me panic towards the end. I also went to Grandparents’ houses for two weeks, and was unable to work in a suitable environment or do the number of hours I needed to.

3. Turn off my phone! This is the top tip on every website you go on, and this time I’m going to actually do it.

4. Do more questions early on, instead of maintaining that I’ll do them ‘in the last week’. Questions become even more vital at university, since they’re so different to anything I’ve done before, so should be a big part of my revision.

5. Make summary sheets and read over them before bed each night, then test myself on them in the morning. I’ve tried this a couple of times and tried to do it more but never manage. I find things stick in my head a lot better if I read them straight before bed and then consolidate the next day.

6. Do enough exercise. In my case, I want to cross train or go for a walk for about half an hour a day as I go through the notes from the day before.

7. Don’t work too late into the evening. I plan on finishing by nine pm at the latest every day and having the evening to relax. (I want to work 9-10.30, 11-12.30, 2-3,30, 4-5.30, 6-7 and 8-9pm).

8. Go to bed early enough (for me, by 11 every night).

9. Start collecting and reading through notes now.

10. Try not to panic!!

University Exams

I have recently had my first set of collections exams at university (mainly mock exams for the summer, but one which counted towards my mark for the year), and wanted to share my thoughts.20150206_174139

I didn’t do much work through the term other than what we had to do, and really regretted this. It took me a lot longer than I thought to go through all my notes and try to understand/learn them, which didn’t leave much time to do questions or try past papers.

I got very very stressed and spent all of every day of the Christmas holidays (except Christmas day) working. I think it annoyed my family a bit, how little time I was spending with them, and I would have liked to have done more with them.

I was convinced that I was going to fail all my exams and fail the year and not get a degree, and became very upset and tearful, which didn’t help my work.

I would give myself two pieces of advice looking back:

  1. Do more ‘extra’ work in the term – looking through lecture notes and looking up and annotating anything I didn’t understand, reading the textbook, trying more questions, and revising work from a few weeks back (reading over it, doing the occasional question)
  2. Treat it the same as other exams. When I got to university they told us that university is completely different to high school and sixth form, because we needed to understand things and read around and be mature learners, but I honestly believe most A-level students try to understand the work and not just learn mark schemes. I put a lot of effort into doing it ‘the university way’ and in the end I would have been a lot happier and done better if I’d worked the same as I did for A-levels

In the end I went from thinking I wanted to drop out over Christmas, to doing quite well. I’d still like to do better, but I can do that now by following my own advice in the future!

Worn out?

I’ve been in the midst of exams for 3 weeks now, and I know that’s not that long but it’s really starting to drag.

I feel guilty for not working as much as I could and frustrated at how much work I have to do and I’m just plain exhausted. And it got me thinking, although (if I do say so myself) I’ve kept quite a good work-life ratio over the past month or two, there comes a point when you just need a day off. And I haven’t had one of those. Every day I’ve tried to take off I’ve made it until about 5pm before freaking out so much that I work all evening. And sometimes I start working in the mornings with good intentions but peter out by lunchtime.

So tomorrow I’m having the day off. And this is my written promise to myself that it will stay that way all day.

Working too hard?

For the last few days, nothing really seems to have been going right for me.

After a long hard think (they really do exist!) I think I’ve worked out why. I think that I try to make everything I do into a chore.

Obviously revision and all that comes with it has to be done and is therefore fairly close to a chore. I also play the trumpet and am doing my Grade 8 exam on Friday. What used to be a cheery revision break has turned into something just as stressful, or perhaps even more so. I’ve been giving myself breaks, but I seem to think it’s absolutely necessary that I achieve something else in them. I’ve been making my boyfriend a scrapbook for our anniversary (which is today, happy anniversary to us!) and it started off very fun indeed but by the end became a bit of a slog to finish in time.

I have a reading list (and feel the need to make myself read a designated number of pages a day, otherwise I’m some sort of a failure), a film list, a TV shows list and even a music list and for some reason won’t let myself read/watch/listen to what I’m in the mood for and instead have to follow the plan to the letter.

I’m been informed by my boyfriend that I even make skyping him into a chore, not just for myself but for him too.

Why do I do this? Why can’t I just let myself ‘go with the flow’?

I’ve always been that sort of person I think, always pushing myself to my limits. I think now I’ve realised that sometimes enough is enough.