Feeling apprehensive and unsure about how to get back into study mode after the holidays? You are not alone.

It takes effort and courage to move out of our comfort zone and face our fears. Why is this so? Our human body and brain likes to save energy and do things that do not demand effort. It keeps us safe and protects us from having to deal with uncomfortable feelings.

During the holidays, we could let go of our work routine and take a well-deserved break after a busy term. We all need downtime to restore our energy as well as spend time with family and friends.

Studying for a degree is hard work, and getting back on track requires extra effort to overcome the resistance we feel when we know we have to work, but would prefer a more relaxing day.

Looking after your health is fundamental to have a sense of wellbeing and the the motivation to pursue our goals.

Here are some things you can do to make a good start to the year: 

Prioritise your health: It is essential for our health that we maintain our energy level to manage the demands of work and study, so eating well, doing some exercise, and connect with others are essential.

Focus on what matters: Keep in mind what you value, what you find meaningful and worth it. Focusing on what is important will boost your motivation and desire to move forward towards your goals.

Develop a structure: Create a flexible routine, so it allows for unexpected events or a change in your plans . Structure reminds us of the things we want to do in our day, keeping our priorities in mind, saving time and energy.

Set realistic goals: Identify what goals you want to pursue this term. Then, break them down into small steps. Identify the specific actions you will need to take to make progress. Noticing we have completed a task, no matter how small it is, will boost motivation to continue with the next one.

Be proactive: Do you notice how we say “I have to write an essay/write a report/work on dissertation?” It produces tension as it becomes a demand. Instead, ask yourself a yes or no question. For example, “Will I write a paragraph/read notes or go to the gym today? “ If our answer is “No, I will not go to the gym/write/study”, it feels uncomfortable because it contradicts how we see ourselves. Our behaviour is going against our goal. However, when we answer the question with a “Yes, I will go to the gym/write/study”, we make a choice. It increases the likelihood of us following through with our intentions.

View mistakes as part of the learning process: Often, we delay starting our work because we do not want to get things wrong and want things to be good the first time we try to do it. However, to do something to a good standard requires repeated efforts and accepting that mistakes happen during the process of developing knowledge and skills.

Be kind and understanding: As we are understanding of our friends and the people we care about; it is also important to be kind to ourselves. This is to acknowledge that we are human beings and that we get tired, frustrated, and worried.

Take time to reflect: When stressed, our body goes into protection mode. It is difficult to focus on alternative perspectives to problem-solve and find solutions. Take a moment to breathe and give yourself space to acknowledge your emotions. View the stress response as your body protecting you from a challenge. Mindful breathing is our body’s natural resource to restore balance.

Notice the good: When dealing with ongoing challenges, we tend to focus on what is wrong and anticipate negative outcomes. Practise the skill of noticing what is working, even the smallest thing. Noticing someone smile, or pausing to hear the birds sing, can give us a moment of relief and we can gain perspective as we pay attention to something in our environment.

Join a Life Tools webinar: In the various webinars, we discuss various topics that provide information and strategies to build knowledge and skills. When discussing ideas that are relevant to studies and life in general with others, it makes studying manageable and fun.

If you are not sure what to expect, here are some details to give you an idea:
They start with a presentation (on Blackboard), and students can comment on the chat or on Mentimeter (an anonymous audience participation tool). You can sit and listen without the pressure of assessments. You will soon notice the informal and relaxed environment where students ask questions that you can relate to and have a sense that what you are experiencing is shared by other students.

Here are a few comments of what students have said:

  “The Life Tools Programme exceeded my expectations.   (3rd year student)

  I work more productively in a shorter amount of time.  (1st year student)

  You can interact with international students… which makes you have more of an open mind.  (2nd year student)

  After the webinars I felt very inspired and motivated, which I loved! (1st year student)