Feeling the stress

I did pretty well this year over the exam period at not getting too stressed and feeling like I couldn’t do it, but now exams are over I’m feeling a whole range of emotion that I didn’t expect to.

Last year I felt very down leading up to and during the exam period. I felt as though I couldn’t do it, that I was out of my depth, that school had never prepared me for this. This year, I was better prepared. I knew how to tackle my revision more effectively, past papers were going reasonably well. Sure, there were things I didn’t understand, there were exams I knew I would struggle with, but I knew I’d done my best and that I couldn’t ask myself for anything more. I knew I could make a stab at whatever was thrown at me.

Now that they’re over, that wave of hopelessness has finally hit. I’m more stressed than I’ve been all year, and I can’t work out what it’s about. My list of 10 things to do every day (last post) lasted little over half a week before I descended into a routine-less, stressful way of life.

This summer is the summer I really have to throw myself further into the adult world than I ever have before. I’m planning a bellringing tour for my university society, and while booking accommodation, food, T-shirts has been easy, communicating and coordinating with dozens of church towers has been exhausting. I’ve finally come into contact with adults who are uncooperative, unresponsive, plain lazy or even rude, adults who don’t want the best for me and who don’t want to make my life any easier.

I’ve also spent the last two summers working for my dad. While the offer’s still on the table this year, I know it isn’t the best way to grow my CV and my skill set. I was hopeful at the beginning of the year, applying for internships and jobs within the university, and though I am very grateful for the short, unpaid internship I have managed to secure, it’s nowhere near the length I’d hoped, and the rest of the summer is a terrifying blank canvas.

I don’t know what more I can do to sort the things that I’m stressed about out, and will probably just have to wait until it’s all over and time runs out. And that’s not how I thought this relative freedom would feel.

Post exams

I’ve just finished all my second year exams and am embarking on a two week long bliss of freedom.

The exams didn’t go amazingly, but could have been worse, and since there’s nothing more I can do, I just want to try to move on! I have loads of things to sort out, like the tour I’m booking for my ringing society, researching for the lab project I’m doing soon, and finding something to do over summer, which are really stressing me out still. Mostly though, my lifestyle has become very unhealthy and made me less happy than I could be, so here’s ten things I plan on doing every day for the next two weeks:

  1. Getting outside – either by going on a walk or a jog, or just going into town to run errands, I will not be spending all day holed up revising for a long time!
  2. Take small steps in organising the things I need to organise by doing a little bit every day.
  3. Do a nice thing for my housemates or other friends who still haven’t finished their exams, to make life a bit easier for them.
  4. Write – I want to write a lot for myself, for this blog, and for my science blog which you can find here
  5. Take control of what I’m eating by keeping a food diary, cutting out or reducing snack foods like crisps, biscuits and chocolate, and eating a lot more fruit and veg
  6. Read a lot! Books, magazines, comics, I want to read them all!
  7. Relax by meditating or practicing yoga.
  8. Listen to music from a variety of genres, and really stop to listen
  9. Learn a new thing. Something completely separate from my degree – I’m considering teaching myself some of a new language or taking up the piano again
  10. Talk to anyone I can find. Talking to someone I haven’t spoken to in a while or a stranger or even people I regularly talk to really lifts my mood and my confidence, and I need to push myself to seek that connection again.

These are the ways that I think I can really improve my mood and my confidence – I’ll let you know how I get on!

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!

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.

Shameless plug

Hi everyone!

I’ve recently started a new blog (in addition to this one) related to all things Physics and Chemistry. These are the subjects in my degree so are obviously very close to my heart, and I would love to get more into writing about them to combine two of my favourite things.

I’m going to be posting a news story related to the physical sciences every Wednesday at 3pm, and I also have a variety of pages talking about how the science I learnt at A Level was expanded to a first year university course. It’s the sort of thing I wish I had when I wanted to push myself more in sixth form and read more around what I was learning to deepen my understanding not only for myself but for my UCAS application and interview preparation.

It would really mean a lot if you checked it out – it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s close to my heart and I’m really proud of it. You can see it here. Thank you!!

Easter holidays

Term is finally over!! (bit of a delayed response, since it finished on Friday)

I’ve done a lot of sleeping, including more naps than I’m proud of, a bit of partying (like, one party) and actually a lot of work.

By the end of this term, as with every other term, I felt swamped with work, with loads of things I’d pushed to the back burner as summatives built up and everything got more hectic. Last term I made the mistake of getting a train home the evening of the last day of term, and it did not go well! I was exhausted, slept on the train (waking up after that’s always stressful!) and was not in the greatest of moods when I finally arrived! I didn’t really let myself have a break either, and started working straight away.

This time, I stuck around for a few days. I had time to celebrate the end of term on the Friday evening and have a proper lie in on Saturday. I had a really lovely chilled day on Saturday, featuring a picnic in my living room, a film and a walk with the boyfriend. I felt rested and ready to get myself sorted before I left.

I spent the next three days making notes from some of my lectures so I wouldn’t have as much to carry home and to make a start on revision. I got packed up, had cosy evenings in with a film or the Wii (I’ve never played on a Wii until this term how crazy?! It’s really frustrating and I hate it). I got home yesterday evening, in a much better mood and ready to have a proper chat with my family, and carry on working today.

I decided not to have a lot of time off at the beginning of the holiday because we’re visiting my grandparents over the Easter weekend and I’m visiting my boyfriends dad later on in the holiday so I’d rather have them off. It gives me slightly over a week off this holiday, which I think is a reasonable amount of time to have a break but get loads of work done for my exams, which are in eight and a half weeks…..

Being ill at uni

Freshers’ flu was over months ago, but now’s the time those midterm blues hit and everyone’s immune system seems to take a break!

Being ill at uni, especially in your first year or for your first time, can be much harder than you expect. All you want is to stay in bed and be waited on hand and foot, and no-one’s there to do it for you! Not to mention loud parties in the evening keeping you up, a cold house to save on bills and having to actually go out and buy your own soup and drugs.

Having had a very bad cold for the last week, feeling exhausted and freezing all the time, I’ve realised how much having a back-up supply of paracetamol and a few little luxuries can do to keep you going. I think it’s also important to try to keep up on work. Even if I couldn’t make it to lectures I tried really hard to get the notes sent to me and go through them every time I felt vaguely human. In these tough summative times it really helped me stay less stressed, which made me sleep better and feel a lot better emotionally.

Now I’m on the mend, and while I’m still somehow sleeping 11 hours a night, I know how important that sleep is and I know how much better I feel because of it. In the past I’ve neglected sleep as I’ve had so much to do all the time, and now I still have demands on my time but much more of it is more flexible about when I do it, which I’m very glad of.

I was also very lucky having my boyfriend come over a couple of times a day to make sure I was okay and to make me food! Hopefully you have someone in your life who’d do this for you too.