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This week marks the halfway point of second term and many of us have no timetabled classes. It is important to allocate time this week to focus on recharging and enjoying other activities as well as studying.

Reading week is an excellent opportunity to catch-up with leftover work from week 5 or to get prepared for week 7. It is, however, very important to not convince yourself that you must spend every hour of it studying intensely. Productivity can take many forms and is not necessarily isolated to just academic study. Spending time focusing on yourself and what you need is beneficial to your studies as it allows you to come back to work with a fresh perspective, one that is rejuvenated and creative.

Whilst studying is essential to success and a crucial part of your degree studies, extra-curricular activities/hobbies can contribute positively to your health, mental health and well-roundedness as a person. Those extra-curricular activities/hobbies can help you to meet new people, build relationships and develop skills that would be beneficial for your future (i.e. in searching and applying for jobs). Variety is important and can increase motivation for studying. Taking time to do a hobby you enjoy for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon might help you to wake up feeling motivated to study on Sunday morning.

Here is a short list of some ideas and/or things to try this week to give yourself a break and let your mind and body recharge:

1. Reflection

This halfway point is an excellent time to reflect on what has happened so far in the term. It is important to recognise achievements and progress- whether these be big or small. Acknowledging small successes can aid motivation and positivity, whilst also helping you to identify potential areas for improvement. Reflecting on the first half of the term can help you to set goals for the second half of the term and encourage you to achieve them.

2. Friends

Whilst studying, catching up and getting prepared, this week it is also a good time to catch up with friends. Make time to have a coffee with your housemates/flatmates or a zoom call with your friends from other households. Through this catch up, you may find that the things you have found difficult this term, your friends have too. These experiences then become shared and you may feel relieved to know that others feel a similar way.

3. Hobbies

When concentrating on studying, it is important not to neglect the other things that you enjoy in your life too. Allocating time for the other activities you enjoy doing is important. These activities act not only as a crucial form of stress-relief, but also help you develop skills that are beneficial for the future. I enjoy baking in my spare time and sometimes I feel guilty for allowing myself time to enjoy doing that. However, it is important to acknowledge that these activities are equally as productive and beneficial just in a slightly different way. Actively making time for your hobbies can aid you in developing skills that you can write about in job applications (for example) and if those hobbies are group/team based they can allow you to build new friendships and develop socially, too.

4. Exercise

Exercise is another important stress-reliever and positive contributor to both physical and mental health. Take regular breaks whilst studying and during one of those breaks try going for a walk in the fresh air. This can help you relieve stress and return to studying with a fresh and more relaxed perspective. Completing exercise early on in the day, before you begin studying, can help increase your motivation and positivity toward the day ahead.

5. ‘Spring Cleaning’

This week is also a good opportunity to organise the work you have already completed and prepare for the term’s remaining work. Keeping your notes organised and your work environment clean can help you to clearly visualise the topics you have already studied and understand how the rest of the term is likely to add to that. It can also help you identify anything you have missed and which topics you have struggled with the most.

6. Just simply, relax.

Above, I have focussed on ideas on how to be productive but in ways other than just studying. But, here, I want to highlight the importance of giving yourself a complete break and simply relaxing. It is important to not make yourself feel guilty for taking time off to enjoy reading a book, or watching the TV or waking up a bit later. These things are all extremely important, and are often signs that your body needs a break. When you have lost motivation and just feel like doing something relaxing- it is important to listen to yourself and do so. Taking time to have a break and recharge means that you can return to your work with increased motivation that comes from being well-rested and relaxed. Everyone needs to take breaks and it is important to do so regularly- especially when your body is sending you signs that you should.

As I said, this week is an excellent opportunity to focus on your academic studies whilst having no timetabled lectures. But, it is important to understand when to take breaks and listen to what your body and mind need. This is important throughout the rest of the term as well. Studying is a fundamental and highly important part of a degree, but your physical and mental health is more important. Therefore, it is crucial to make time for yourself and the things that you enjoy on a regular basis. The list above is just a few ideas of things to try to take a break from intensive study and focus on giving yourself time to recharge.

Written by Caitlin Davies, Vice President of EILS

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