Readjusting to student life

by | Oct 15, 2022 | Campus, Education | 0 comments

The school season has commenced, and many students are figuring out how to transition from “hot girl” summer to studious girl fall successfully. Getting back into a healthy routine right for your schedule and lifestyle can be difficult, especially if your September got off to a shaky start.

Re-building a routine is an essential step toward re-adjusting to in-person student life. Meal prepping, commute mapping, schedule planning, and everything in between must be considered to have a prosperous semester. These practical to-dos are helpful, but checking in with our mental state is crucial.

Most classes will be operating in person this year, so parts of our online-learning routine may alter significantly. Such a quick, pace change can take a toll on our mental and physical well-being if we’re not equipped with the tools to take proper care of ourselves.

If you’re anything like me, you start off every semester feeling motivated to make it the best. Then, the first couple of weeks go by, and you’re already feeling overwhelmed and defeated. This happens because I don’t set out a plan that requires steady endurance and commitment.

There is an essential difference between staying motivated and staying disciplined. Motivation can quickly fade once the assignments seem like too much to bear. Discipline helps you to push through the lack of motivation. So how do we stay disciplined throughout the school year?

I spoke with Craig Gnauck, a registered psychologist and counselor with MacEwan University’s Wellness and Psychological Services. He imparted his wisdom regarding using resources, maintaining an academic life balance, and setting realistic goals. “This is the first time in two years where people are actually getting used to the idea of being back on campus,” Gnauck says.

Yes, the lifestyle of students isn’t always the healthiest. “Academics take a lot! People forget to sleep, eat, and go outside,” Gnauck explains. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Being in post-secondary is exciting and should be enjoyable! He shared some constructive and practical tips on setting yourself up for success for the school year so that you can enjoy yourself and all that student life has to offer.

Familiarize yourself with the campus!
COVID prevented lots of campus exploration. There will be first years and some returning students who have never set foot inside the university. Gnauck advises students to orient themselves with the different buildings, classrooms, the library, and resources around the Office of the University Registrar. “Take tours whether those are formally organized tours or not,” Gnauck suggests.

You can sign up for an organized tour with a small or large group through the Welcome Centre. For more, visit macewan.ca/contact-us/visits-tours/.

Ask for help sooner rather than later.

It’s a common student habit to procrastinate and wait on vital questions. Don’t let that be you this year! There are countless resources available to MacEwan students year-round to answer questions you may have. “It’s really important to consider that when things arise, it’s a lot easier to take care of when they’re small,” Gnauck adds, “but if they linger and grow, then there’s the chance that it will become a little more complicated.”

Gnauck emphasizes that writing everything down in a planner or calendar is essential to student success. “In the spirit of being organized, that means generating a monthly calendar of what’s ahead so that people are always oriented in their courses, assignments, midterms, and exams. Again, no surprises! They’re all written down,” he goes on. “Depending on what those assignments look like, we’re back to resources again, such as the Writing Centre, which is marvelously staffed because academic writing isn’t easy. (Don’t be afraid to) really (capitalize) on the resources that are available.”

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. There are wonderful people on campus who are here to help you flourish. Establish an organization system that works for you, whether that’s jotting assignments down in a physical or digital calendar, creating to-do lists for the week, or setting up post-it note reminders all over your workspace. Choose what works best for you!

Prioritize a healthy school-life balance.
Although it is crucial to stay on top of due dates and work ahead when possible, it is equally as important to take yourself out of student mode and do things you enjoy. Practice your hobbies! If you don’t have one, pick one up! Having something fun to turn your attention to after a long day of classes can be very relaxing, and it serves as a reminder that you are a human being, imperfectly you, before being a student.

Doing things you enjoy can help you to feel centered and grounded. “Take a step back from that monthly calendar of due dates to identify periods of downtime and going to Sport and Wellness, going to work out, going to the swimming pool,” Gnauck says. “An academic life balance would be ideal because that would help so much in terms of stress and anxiety so that people are engaging in their lives and are not drowning in their academics.”

Remind yourself to get up from your desk and stretch, remember to nourish your body, and to go to sleep when you’re tired, not when you’ve hit the 2000
word count. “All of those types of things (eating regularly and physical activity) really help and contribute to studying, concentration, focus, attention span, and sleep,” Gnauck exclaims.

Separate your workspace from your home space.
I don’t know how your workspace was set up to accommodate online learning, but my desk is two steps away from my comfy bed. The number of times I have been tempted to climb into bed at noon instead of listening to my professor and the lecture is embarrassing. Now that we are out of isolation, if I am not already working on campus, you’ll find me at a nearby coffee shop because there is no way I am getting any work done in my room.

“We have been working, living, and eating out of our own bedrooms or home spaces. Now is a really good time to rethink that since we’re not in isolation anymore,” Gnauck points out. “I really thought about places and spaces that encourage learning. One of the hazards if you’re at home is that the refrigerator is way too close, the TV is way too close, and there might be some other conveniences like beds and pillows that are way too close.”

Various quiet study spaces on campus fos-
ter learning and concentration. My personal

favourite space is the quiet study cubicles in the library. Take your work to campus, a local library, or a café where your bed is nowhere in sight. Being in an environment that encourages studying is incredibly motivating.

Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself.
It can be easy to set out unrealistic expectations for yourself at the beginning of the semester. We all want straight A’s while managing a full course load. Gnauck conveys the importance of setting goals with breathing space rather than fixed outcomes. “(Keep) expectations of what we’re capable of doing at this point in time in check,” he says. “(Expectations) need to be reasonable because if they escalate and get too high, they will only be a source of chronic stress.”

Easier said than done, I know. How do we keep these expectations in check, practically speaking? Give your expectation a name. Instead of saying, “I want a 95 per cent in this course,” Gnauck suggests we “open it up to a range of acceptability.” Give yourself some margins to work within: “I’ll aim between an 80 per cent to a 95 per cent grade.” This way, you can still achieve your goal of getting a high grade in that class, but you have made it more attainable and, therefore, more reasonable.

Gnauck suggests checking in to ensure that your goals actually belong to you and not to someone else. “When it comes to expectations, I think it’s always important to name them, but also take a step back and reflect on where the energy around this comes from,” he adds. “Is it something that I want to do for myself, or is it something I want to do in the name of pleasing someone else? In other words, who owns the expectation?” Sometimes we take on pressure from our family members, peer group, or other societal expectations. These pressures can sometimes push us into pursuing a goal that’s not really our own. So check in with yourself and assess if this goal is really yours.

In summary:
• Keep it reasonable
• Exist in ranges rather than absolutes.
• Ask yourself, who owns your goals?

Resources for students

These resources include the Writing Centre, located in the library. If you’re having trouble with an essay and need a professional to review it or go through it, they have got you covered. You can book an in-person or online appointment with one of the tutors or drop in during the available times posted on the library’s website: library.macewan.ca.

Peer Support, run by the Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU), is a confidential, safe space where students can talk to trained volunteer students about any problems they are experiencing on or off campus. Peer Support is offered through video calls and private chats.

Counseling and psychological sources are available on campus in Building 7. They also offer counseling online or via telephone appointments. Find these hours of operation at macewan.ca/campus-life/mental-health/counselling/.

Of course, Sport and Wellness is available to all MacEwan students. Exercising is proven to regulate stress levels and can improve energy levels. Instead of reaching for your third cup of coffee for the day, try switching things up and go for a short run on the treadmill. Hours of operation can be found at macewan.ca/campus-life/sport-and-wellness/contact-us/.

If puppy or kitty love is the only cure for your exam blues, Pets Assisting with Student Success (PAWSS) has your back. PAWSS is a non-profit organization that uses animal therapy to help mitigate stress in students of all ages. Drop ins are located in both Building 7 and Allard Hall. You can find drop-in dates and times on the PAWSS website at sites.google.com/prd.macewan.ca/pawss/home.

Remember, you’re not alone in your academic journey. MacEwan is filled with safe spaces and friendly faces to help you prosper this year and every school year after that.

Aajah Sauter

The Griff

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