For the past three months of summer, I was surrounded by wide open spaces. I fell asleep to the peaceful serenity of the Irish countryside and woke up to the same tranquility. Well… except for the sound of my cat meowing at 5am. The only thoughts that occupied my mind at the end of the day is what the next adventure would be tomorrow, whether I’ll be exploring causeways or beaches, sunbathing in my backyard or relaxing under starry skies.
For the past two weeks, my mind has been racing. As soon as I wake up I immediately check my phone, think of what classes I have to get ready for and the assignments I need to work on that day. As soon as I walk outside and the humidity hits me, I crave the fresh coastal air of Ireland. The wide open fields of greenery have been replaced by bustling city streets. My long days at the beach have transformed into 6 hours worth of lectures. And I would give anything to wake up to the sound of my cat rather than the noisy garbage truck outside my apartment.
I do love life in this city, don’t get me wrong. There will never be a time when seeing the Toronto skyline for the first time in months doesn’t give me butterflies, or being immersed in the incredible energy on campus doesn’t make me feel like the luckiest person alive. I am so thankful to be in this city as I know a lot of students are too, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to feel overwhelmed sometimes. At the start of the school year I always find it a little tricky to find my routine again, to get back into the fast paced life in the city and most of all, to let go of summer. So, I came up with a few tips that encourage me to approach the changing of the seasons with a more positive mind, that keep me motivated in my schoolwork, and that enable me to transition back into my hectic city life a little bit easier.
1. Don’t let technology take over your life
When I go home, it’s crucial for me to feel present when I’m with my family because I don’t get to see them as much as I would like to, and this made me realize the importance of knowing when to put my phone down, turn the TV off, and be present. There were days during summer when I wouldn’t look at my phone at all or turn on my laptop, which felt incredibly liberating. Even though I wasn’t documenting every moment of my summer on social media, I was fully immersed in those moments when they were happening. Since being back at school I’ve noticed that I’m back to always looking at a computer screen or my phone, and so it’s important to me to take a few hours of my day to shut off from technology. Whether it’s turning my phone off when I’m having dinner with a friend or leaving it behind when I run a few errands, I’ve found that being present is crucial in order to give my mind peace from the noise around me.
2. Plan ahead
From the amount of course outlines to go through, assignments to complete and textbooks to buy in the first weeks at school, it almost feels like you’re drowning in work when just last week you were soaking up the sun. This transition is never an easy one, but it becomes much less anxiety-inducing when you can visualize when exactly you’re going to tackle each task. Invest in an agenda that you’ll actually want to use (maybe a quote of the day one or one that includes sweet stickers) and plan out not only when assignments are due throughout the semester, but when you’re going to complete them. This way, the work ahead of you won’t look so overwhelming and it will diffuse the need to procrastinate and leave everything until the last minute. Also include what you will reward yourself when you complete the work, so that when you’re flipping through your to-do lists they’ll look less daunting and more attainable.
3. Give yourself something to look forward to
This is an important one. Whether it’s a crazy fun adventure or a peaceful bubble bath at the end of the long day, make sure there are things in your life that are going to make you feel hopeful when you feel overwhelmed, especially at this time of the school year. I like having big events planned months ahead of time such as a vacation or a concert, so that when reading week ends and I’m thrown back into a busy schedule, I know that I still have something to look forward to. But it’s just as important to give yourself something small to look forward to each day, whether it’s taking a break to go to the movies or indulging in your favourite dessert. Treating yourself is so important, but it also feels even better when it’s earned. Don’t book that ticket until you’ve finished that project and maybe hold out on that cake until you’ve finished your readings. I guarantee it will taste better.
4. Make time for yourself in the morning instead of at night
As a TV nerd, I love staying up into the wee hours of the night binge-watching my favourite shows, which was particularly hard to avoid when Stranger Things was released this summer. I find that when I return to Canada I transition from a morning bird into a night owl because it always takes me a few days to get used to the time difference. I find that when I give myself more time in the mornings to relax rather than at night, I am more motivated, productive and altogether in a very positive mental state. I’ve managed to discipline myself to stop binge watching at night and instead save an episode of one of my favourite TV shows for the morning. This motivates me to get out of bed earlier so I have time in the morning to relax, workout and get a few assignments done early in the day, which experts say is the best time for your brain to read and retain information.
5. Find your escape
We all need a break from city life from time to time. Over the past week I’ve started to work out by myself and spend more time exploring the city alone, which has made me realize that enjoying my own company has become my own personal escape. One of my favourite places to go is the rooftop of my apartment building, where I have a great view of the city but I also feel removed from the world below me. It’s important to find a place, mentally or physically, to escape to every once a while. Whether it be a place in the countryside, a piece of music or your best friend, hold onto whatever makes you feel completely removed from the world around you.
Ryerson, how do you get back into the swing of things when the new fall semester begins? Let us know @RUStudentLife.