When starting your university career, you quickly learn that time management is an essential skill that can mean the difference between academic life or death. The student life can be very stressful. The sheer volume of information you have to absorb can be dizzying, especially while accumulating more work and adult-life responsibilities. With what feels like million things to do, students at every level will often ask themselves if they should keep up the fight or just give up and let the fires of scholarly stress consume them.
With many competing priorities, it can become difficult to focus on what is important. This article is for students who feel like their schedules are just a little too cluttered. This is a quick guide to the 3 hobbies you NEED to keep to help you get through university. Consider giving the rest the “Kondo treatment”.
Hobby 1: The Fitness Hobby
This is the hobby that gets you moving and keeps you active through your studies. Physical activity and exercise have so many benefits. It helps you maintain healthy body composition, reduces your risk of developing the entire roster of chronic diseases, boosts your mood, boosts your energy levels, helps you sleep regularly, helps keep you focused and helps memory.
The key here is to find something you truly enjoy doing and that will keep you exercising regularly. Don’t try to drag your body out of bed for a 6am spin class when you would rather hit the yoga studio in the evening. You’ll drop that spin class faster than a barefoot jack rabbit on a hot greasy griddle in the middle of August. Personally, I enjoy powerlifting since the goals are simple, there are plenty of resources to help me train, my gym has a good powerlifting community, and I can train with my partner, Heidi.
If you haven’t yet found your fitness hobby, I would recommend sampling a few classes. Your university fitness center will have many available fitness classes you can sign up for, and often free of charge. Carleton University Athletics hosts over 40 classes:
Finally, I strongly recommend planning time for this hobby in your schedule. Plan the time and stick to it. The fit hobby is often the first one to get cut out when the demands of student life get tough. Then one missed fitness session quickly snowballs into weeks away from the gym, studio or classroom. Stress just seems to compound then as the mood, attention and sleep benefits of exercise fade. Keep up with your exercise as best you can. And hey, if you miss a week in the gym, don’t sweat it. The first few sessions back to the gym may feel a little tougher but it really takes about a month of inactivity before you really start to lose any gains.
Hobby 2: The Social Hobby
Do you feel lonely? The chances are you do, and you are not alone. Although communications technology is developing faster than ethical and regulatory oversight, people feel cut off from each other, now more than ever. This has even been named the loneliness epidemic.
Loneliness can leave you feeling a little down in the dumpy-dumps, sure, but it can also affect your sleep, creativity, memory, motivation and satisfaction with your studies. Moreover, loneliness can directly impact your health by increasing you risk of developing mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, and increase your risk of developing chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease and dementia.
This hobby is a constructive activity that gets you out and gets you real face time real-life people. This can be tricky to get right. Maybe you’re studying in a new city, maybe your friends only gather for some good ol’ binge drinking. It can be daunting to find a new activity that you have to do with strangers and integrate into a new social network. Thankfully, there is always lots going on in your campus and it just take a quick search to find something that interests you.
Consider getting involved in your student associations, check to see if your student associations are hosting any social events, look for regular social events at campus social hubs, look for meet-ups in your city, consider volunteering. Whatever you choose, make it a regular thing, make sure it’s something you can be proud of. It’s also an opportunity to network with other students, make connections with people in your area and make some new friends.
Hobby 3: The Hobby that Helps you Master your Craft
This last hobby is something you can do which helps you sharpen your skills that can be applied in your field of study. This can be a skill you learned in class or a skill essential to your career of choice that you don’t otherwise have a chance to practice. It can take a bit of creative thinking to find this hobby, so I suggest you do the following: think of the skill you would like to improve, then think of what you can do to practice that skill, finally think of projects you can do that would apply the skillset to produce an end-product.
For example, if you want to develop your research skills, consider conducting scoping reviews of topics you find interesting and writing blog posts about what you’ve found. If you enjoy working with data, consider downloading open source or publicly accessible databases and learning to analyse them with a statistical package (your university usually offers licences to these programs, otherwise R is free!). If you enjoy knowledge translation, consider making and sharing infographics.
Pick a skill, do something you find interesting, share your products. This hobby helps you learn and develop marketable skills that can be added to your CV, and helps you become a stronger student in your field of study. As with the above hobbies, plan to make this a regular thing, make time for it in your schedule.
University studies are challenging for many different reasons. Personally, I found it really difficult to organize my personal and social life when I started my studies. I still find it difficult to focus on what’s important when life gets noisy. I hope this quick guide will help you, new or seasoned student, pick the activities you spend your limited time on. Try to keep to that keeps you fit, social, sharp but more importantly healthy and motivated.
By: Daniel Cousineau-Short