Editorial: Semesterly Advice

Winter break never seems to last long enough, does it? One week, it seems as if exams just finished up and we can finally rest, but then time starts to speed up and before you know it, the middle of January is staring at you and syllabi are flying across campus.

It’s easy to go through the motions and ride out syllabus week, but there are things that you can do to make your life at Case Western Reserve University easier and to lighten the workload, starting by taking care of business during this first week of classes.

Having a thorough calendar and a daily to-do list can help you stay organized and on top of your new classes. Timed, annoying phone reminders also work wonders for projects you really need to get done. If you’re trying to focus, try concentrating on one task for 25 minutes with no distractions, take a five minute break and repeat. The technique is called Pomodoro and helps you stay away from distractions like social media and group chats.  

In new classes this semester, branch out and talk to new people and make new friends. Start a conversation with someone and introduce yourself; it can be used as an opportunity to expand your social network beyond its current length.

Aside from talking to new students, you can also use the first few weeks of classes to get to know your professors. Don’t wait until you don’t understand some of the material to get to know them. Drop by office hours to speak with them, or email them to set up a meeting that works for both of your schedules. There’s no better way to get familiar with a course in the first week than to talk to the person who developed it. Plus, they may know of various academic and job opportunities around campus.

Along with setting yourself up for academic success, taking care of your health is even more important. Healthy sleeping habits are a rarity among college students, even though it has been shown to help maintain a balanced life and keeps stress away. If you have an iPhone, try utilizing the night shift setting. The normal lighting was designed to be visible during high-sunlight times, and looking at the screen with these sun-designed intentions can cause your brain to be thrown off its sleeping schedule.

As college students, a lack of sleep can cause us to be irritable, develop concentration and memory issues and weaken our academic performance. The average adult needs more than eight hours of sleep, but often gets less than seven each night. College students are amongst the most sleep deprived populations, with 18 percent and 30 percent of college men and women who have self-reported having insomnia.

Now would be a good time to establish a sleep schedule to follow before professors start assigning large projects and enormous amounts of work. Without the pressure to pull all-nighters, try going to sleep at an appropriate time. After establishing a sleep schedule, you can create a schedule around the classes and other events in your day.

Just like actually getting the sleep you need, exercising is another habit that if established early in the semester, a few times each week, it will become easier to incorporate it into your schedule for rest of the semester. It can lead to improved memory, as the connections between neurons are strengthened. Exercise also results in an elevated or relaxed mood due to the release of endorphins during the activity, an increase of energy, better sleep, and greater ability to concentrate. While the number of gym goers shrinks as the semester moves forward, you could find yourself in the staying population if you make exercise a habit, rather than just a sporadic extra activity.

It may be intimidating to make your way over to Wyant Athletics and Wellness Centers, especially with the New Year’s resolution wave, but it could provide a rewarding experience. Keep in mind that working out does not necessarily have to occur in the gym. While the abnormal above-freezing weather continues, walking and running outside is still an option.

While exercise is shown to have benefits to mental health as well, it should not be used as a sole treatment for any mental illness. If you feel that you are having trouble sustaining your mental health, do not hesitate to use any of the campus resources. University Counseling Services is available in Room 220 of the Sears Building. Making an appointment with them earlier in the semester will ensure that you aren’t scrambling to make an appointment during midterms. Around that time, the stress levels across campus increase and the resources for students become more limited. Then, when everyone else becomes stressed out, the therapists will already know you, so they can provide resources or advice that is better suited to you at that time. While therapy may not be for everyone, if you know you have a tendency towards anxiety, depression or overstressing, it’s worth investigating the option before those feelings overwhelm you. It’s also easy to schedule an appointment; their office hours are from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

For anything you currently do, don’t be afraid to ask for a little time off to regroup with your studies. As CWRU students, we see all of our peers doing a ton of work, and we feel that we have to do even more because of that. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Work hard, but work smart. The end of the semester will be here quicker than we expect. Let’s think beyond the possible, again, and remember that summer break is waiting at the end.