Scheduling Self-Care

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            Now that we are entering our mid-semester period here at the University of Pennsylvania, it is easy for us as students to start feeling busy and pressed for time. Sometimes the first thing we cut out in our schedules is the time we make for ourselves. In reality, as our schedules get busier and our workloads get heavier, it is more important than ever to keep time in your schedule for yourself!

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It might sound ridiculous to schedule your ‘relaxation’ time, but if we don’t make it a priority and set aside time for self-care, on our busy days it won’t happen. Making self-care part of your everyday routine will make you a better, happier, and healthier student, friend, and person.

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            Self-care can be defined as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health” (Michael, 2016). For each of us, these activities can vary. However, because we spend so much time in front of computer and electronic screens as part of our workloads, I recommend taking a break from the screens when scheduling your self-care time (This means binge-watching a show on Netflix doesn’t really count as self-care). Here are some suggestions for ways you might want to self-care:

  • Head outdoors! Some fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for yourself. Go for a walk around campus and appreciate the foliage on campus as we head from summer to fall. Or head down Spruce Street to the South Street Bridge and walk on the trail along the Susquehanna River.
  • Participate in some physical activity. Whether you like to go for a run, head to the gym, or take an exercise class, getting your blood pumping and your body moving is good for your physical, mental, and emotional heath.

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  • Find some quiet time! Campus and college life can be busy. We can feel like we are constantly surrounded by people and that we always need to be ready to go, appearing like we have it all together. Find a quiet space to journal, meditate, do yoga, or reflect on your week. The peace can do wonders for your health, even if it is just for 15 minutes.

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  • Do something creative! Whether you enjoy crafts, music, or coloring, doing something creative helps us use our whole brain. Even if your definition of art is filling in an adult coloring book, make time during your week for it!
  • Get enough sleep! Make sure you are getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Do this in addition to your 30 minutes of self-care during the day. All the studying in the world won’t help you reach your potential if you’re not getting enough sleep. Athletes know this. It is time students remember it too!

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  • How do you take care of yourself? Comment with your suggestions! We will discuss more about self-care topics as the semester goes on.

Remember to make time for yourself every day during this semester. Doing so will make you a better student in the long-run. Scheduling self-care isn’t being lazy or saying you’re not tough enough to handle your work load. What it shows is that you care about yourself and well-being. It will make you a better student and person in the long run!

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Reference:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/08/10/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/

Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

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Sleep and Success, Part 1: Productive Sleep

One of the more pertinent results of productive sleep is consolidation of memories. Let’s unpack, shall we?

Without delving too deeply into the specialized vocabulary and evolving hypotheses in sleep research, we can, for the sake of simplicity, concern ourselves with a few basic concepts: Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) rapid eye movement (REM) and sleep cycles. To go any deeper would lead us into a clash of competing scholarship, where researchers have it out with each other Hunger Games style in a battle for academic and intellectual supremacy. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only a little.) For now we’ll just focus on what the experts agree upon, but by all means hit Google Scholar and look up the work of your favorite sleep researcher.

Productive sleep, in order to be productive, has to include the right amounts of both NREM and REM state sleep, and in the right order. We commonly associate REM with dreaming, the last stage in a sleep cycle. A full sleep cycle takes roughly about 90 minutes, with REM taking up about 20 to 30 minutes.

NREM and REM seem to have different functions in the memory consolidation process during sleep. Learning that involves motor skills or procedures – think of practicing a piece of music or learning some type of protocol that involves steps – seems to be strongly linked to NREM, even though test subjects do better in procedural tasks if they’ve been allowed REM sleep. In other words, memories don’t really get consolidated until we finally sink into REM state. Oh, and by the way, going through the whole cycle five or six or seven times is necessary for sleep to be productive.

So think of it this way, we do not actually fully learn a procedure or fully analyze anything until we’ve had the opportunity to sleep on it.

Sleep deprivation has become a grotesque badge of honor. How many people have you met who brag about how they need only three or four hours of sleep a night in order to be truly awesome, tacitly implying you should be deeply ashamed of yourself if you sleep more? This is based on a fallacy not supported by research, and that fallacy states that sleep time is time wasted. Decades of sleep research refute this notion. From a purely physical point of view, sleep time is certainly down time. From the standpoint of learning and sharpening mental processes, for long term problem solving as well as critical and creative thinking, sleep time is production time, if you allow it to be.

For more sleep tips and wellness consulting, visit Student Health Services:

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Pete Kimchuk
Senior Learning Instructor