By Kat Studley, Contributing Writer. Published April 1, 2011
So you’ve made it through mid-term week and you’ve hopefully slept off your Spring Break fun, but now you may find yourself returning to yet another spring semester slump. I may not be able to speak for the entire McKendree population, but I am surrounded by many fellow students plagued with writer’s block and debilitating procrastination habits. Seriously, it’s been so perky outside (in between those lame cold fronts) that I’ve completely daydreamed my way through too many lectures and study times. When you’re freezing your butt off outside, it’s easy to stay focused on the warm and cozy classroom instead of the surrounding gloominess.
Now, I find myself dragging myself up those steps, promising myself ice cream sundaes if I can make it through just one more class. The more classes I dream through and the more papers I put off writing, the more knots collect in my stomach. It’s pretty much torture. I really want to finish this semester off right, but the great outdoors calls my name! I want to be playing with puppies at Spencer Animal Shelter, playing Frisbee with my friends, taking drives through the country with all the windows down, camping, biking… But here I stand, shovel in hand, digging my own grave of unfinished schoolwork. It sucks.
However, I happen to be a very experienced procrastinator. I know these funks very well, and I am no longer afraid of them. Every year, the funks get funkier and I still have a back-up plan- a fool proof, creative, and even fun way to get out of this grave. And, lucky for you, I am going to share my secrets. Here is a list of activities that take less than one hour to do and, if done correctly, can really help the creative juices flow out of you and onto paper. Also, they may lead you to actually rediscover your studies in a more inspirational and compelling light!
1. Feng Shui (pronounced “fung schway”) your living quarters: It’s an ancient Chinese practice of re-arranging to improve the positive energy, or Chi, flow in your life. The traditional practice get’s pretty tricky, but I’ve always found that simply living in a different set up dramatically changes the way I study. So roll up those sleeves, grab a friend and make those mattresses roll! Get a little creative, there are many possibilities, even in the dorms! (Don’t forget to give your roommate a little heads up…)
2. Get funky wit‘ it! When it comes to studying, some like to have music on and some don’t. There isn’t adequate proof that any kind of music really makes a clear difference in memorization and cognitive abilities- it’s more of a personal choice. But it is proven that students who can play a musical instrument are more focused and practicing music can actually curb ADD symptoms. If you play an instrument that’s not quite portable, you may be at a loss. I definitely missed the keys late at night with my nose in the books. So I picked up the ukulele. Totally easy to learn and there are so many instructional videos and blogs like YouTube.com and UkuleleHunt.com that can help you (And I can help you!) Don’t play an instrument? Just dance! Studies do prove that physical activity stimulates brain activity and creativity. So next time you’re feeling unimpressed and uninspired, get up, put a funky groove on and dance it out or lay out a little tuneage of your own. Especially if you play drums, you can do a little bit of both! I’ve learned a new song for pretty much every major paper I’ve written and, in fact, I’m learning I Will by the Beatles at this very moment. And my brain is quite stimulated, thank you.
3. Reminisce: Read your own writing from at least a semester ago, read your journal or diary from a while ago, or old papers or assignments you wrote at least a year ago. This will remind you of your voice and also of your progress. Also, I find that reading old Facebook posts really get’s my juices flowing (just try not to get sucked in!) Reflecting and getting into a nostalgic state of mind really makes me feel more excited and inspired to explore what my future holds.
4. Meditate: If you can truly reach a state of relaxation for at least a straight 30 minutes, you will find your brain will thank you for the break. For many students here at McKendree, yoga practice is a great way to transform into a clearer and more active mind. I definitely agree, but I find that sometimes I can clear my mind by simply taking a twenty-minute drive through the county roads of Lebanon. I really like that our school as such great access to the open road. The fresh air really relaxes me and it’s a great way for me to spend a quick time with my friends before hitting the books again.
5. Volunteer: Not only will it bring good karma into your life, it’s a great way to get inspired and to feel more confident. Not to mention it’s an awesome way to pursue your passions or outside hobbies. There are so many ways to get involved- most are emailed to everyone with a McKendree email account so you’re bound to find a great opportunity right in your inbox! Also you can pop into Carnegie 110 or simply visit the website for the weekly volunteer schedule. It’s never as hard as you think it will be so just do it. It’s may be just the change you need!
The anxiety students feel when they’ve reached a slump is intense and from time to time it can feel hopeless. Sometimes it’s staring at a dismal mid-term report. Sometimes it’s feeling guilty for calling in sick on the day that paper is due. They feel buried and sometimes the stress can drive them into a serious sickness perpetuating a vicious cycle. Recent reports by the American Institutes for Research show that in 2010 almost $6.2 billion tax dollars was forfeited on students who did not return to their second year of college. Much of these students had financial difficulty, though many also suffered from poor study skills and lack of motivation or confidence.
My friends, it’s hard to catch a break sometimes, so I genuinely hope this advice helps. What you learn at a university is supposed to enlighten and inspire you, but often our brains become too discouraged. Since I’ve researched and implemented these activities, I find that I have picked up a very important skill- the ability to self-motivate. This skill forces me right back into the open minded, inspired, sponge of a student that I start off every semester with. These are only my personal top 5 things to do when I’m slacking on my homework, but there are so many other options for you to explore! Our professors challenge us every day and work hard at their jobs, so it’s time we prove what we can do. This slacker is getting started right now!