back to school

Beat the Back-to-School Blahs

Photo thanks to bofh

So. You had a long, luxurious break spent gorging yourself on food, friends and free time. You wasted away the days sleeping in, watching movies and making sandwiches, leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. You had a wonderful, lazy, ridiculous few weeks off.

..Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and school has presented itself as an inevitability that you are suddenly dreading with every fiber of your being. You have begun your goodbyes: “Goodbye, social life! Sayonara free time! Adios fun!” and begun your hellos: “Hello boring academic reading! Bonjour exhaustion! Ola junk food!”. Suffice to say you’re probably not feeling great about the coming semester. Visions of sugarplums summer vacation are dancing in your head.

Never fear! Your guide to beating the blahs is here!

1. Make it easier for yourself

Photo thanks to cfetcher

Get organized! Pick up some colourful binders, label them and keep your notes filed away where you can easily find them. If possible, take an interesting, easy course. Re-arrange your schedule so that it fits your life: for example, eliminate early classes. Stock your freezer with quick, easy meals like perogies, lasagna, edamame, pizza, burgers, bagels, frozen dinners, etc. Make it easy for you to eat whole, balanced meals instead of skipping them or ordering food (expensive!). Stock up on essentials like toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, toothpaste, etc, so that you don’t have to always be running to the store for more.

Anything that you can do now, up front, to make it easier for yourself in the long run, I encourage you to do! That way, later on, when you’re running out of energy, time, and any essentials, you’ll be grateful to yourself for having cleared away some of the muck and creating a slightly easier existence.

2. Inject fun into your routine

Photo thanks to mlr

Brighten your note-taking with colourful pens and/or paper. Schedule a study/textbook reading/cooking gourmet food date with a friend once a week. Make time for your personal special activities: turn the computer off one hour earlier and spend the time reading, writing, drawing, dreaming. Take the scenic route to class. Create elaborate meals whenever you have time. Dress up for school. Take a bubble bath instead of a shower. Watch part of a movie every time you finish a reading/assignment. Reward yourself for doing annoying tasks (laundry, dishes, toilet-cleaning?) with candy, a magazine, a new eye shadow, etc. Resolve to wind down with a glass of wine once or twice a week. Listen to music while you’re getting ready in the morning.

I know people who say they just don’t have any time for fun. That’s nonsense! As long as you make a small effort in your day to stop and smell the roses & appreciate the little things, you’ll be happy at the end of every day, rather than burnt out and depressed.


3. Fix what’s broken

Photo thanks to daviddoctorrose

Replace that old towel that never dries you off properly. Buy a shoe rack so that it’s easier to find and organize your shoes. Write yourself a reminder to water the plants, take out the garbage, etc, etc. Pick your clothes up off the floor. Move that table that you keep running into. Re-organize your kitchen cabinets so it’s easier to reach the things you use most often. Hang up that picture that’s been leaning against the wall since March. Buy a timer for the oven so that you stop burning things. Re-arrange the furniture so that you feel more zen. Get to class earlier so you don’t get a bad seat.

By ‘broken’ I mean not working. Take a good look at your life, your home, your daily routine, and hone in on the things that annoy you every day. There are most likely several things that bug you on a daily, weekly or occasional basis that only require a few minutes of effort to change. In order to have a successful semester, try tweaking a few things in your life to keep you running smoothly and happily throughout the school year.

4. Make your space beautiful

Photo thanks to missvu

Buy new linens for your bed and make it a cozy, nest-y haven. Keep photos of friends and family around all the time. Clear the clutter off your desk or workspace. Cover the walls with magazine cutouts, photos, murals, collages, artwork. Keep all your favourite things in plain sight. Colour-code your bookshelves. Paint the walls your favourite colours. Hang up a blackboard and write inspirational quotes on it in colourful chalk. Buy scented candles. Have living things: pets, plants, flowers. Always have soft music playing.

Make your house a home, a place where you love to be. Make your bed just for sleeping so that when you cozy down into your fluffy duvet, it feels luxurious and comfy. Light candles, play music, keep beautiful things all around you. When exams roll around, it will be nice to have a special, comfortable place that relaxes and calms you.

5. Cut back on time-wasters

Photo thanks to balakov

 

One of the things I’ve never understood are people who complain and complain about how exhausted, burnt out and stressed they are, who complain about having absolutely no free time, and who spend several hours a day on facebook. Huh? I don’t get it. Unless your desired use of what little free time you have is to creep people on the internet, than this whole statement doesn’t make sense. The sad part is, I know people who say that no, they have no free time and no, time spent on facebook doesn’t count as free time. Wait, what? So they’d rather be doing activities that they actually enjoy, like reading a novel, riding their bike, hanging out with friends? And they can’t do those things because they don’t have time? But they have time to log into facebook for hours at a time? Confusing.

I’m not exactly a saint on the social media front, and I have logged a good chunk of time on facebook, but I would never claim that I had no time for activities I enjoy. I simply chose to spent that free time online instead of engaged in interesting activities. One of my resolutions for the new year is to cut down on time wasters. Force yourself off of facebook, off of twitter, off your blog reader, stop watching tv shows you don’t even enjoy, quit checking your email 340 times a day, and focus. Force yourself to find other ways to spend that time. Force yourself to do a more mindful activity. It won’t be easy, since your brain would initially prefer to be on autopilot skimming through pictures of that weird kid from high school’s family reunion, but your soul will thank you in the end. Pump up the creativity!

And Breathe Deep!

Find joy in the little things. Always plan so that you have something to look forward to. Put in the work every day so you don’t have to cram at the very end. Spend some time every day re-centering yourself, relaxing, and breathing deep. Work hard, play hard, focus in class (my very best advice to myself, it’s the single best way to spend less time reviewing at the end of the course), don’t procrastinate. Make time for the special things. Get enough sleep and good food. Don’t burn yourself out. Smile.

And banish those blahs!

xoxo,


101 Great Stress Busters & Pick-Me-Ups

[This post is the second in my Back to School Series]

Photo thanks to saranv

Down in the dumps? Crushed with stress? Falling apart?

Well, no. You’re probably not quite there yet.

But since it’s back to school season and the stress will soon be (unfortuately) starting to pile up on you, (and since I really don’t want that to happen to you!) I decided to compile a list of things to do when you feel sad/stressed/lonely/bored/boring.

Whenever you feel like the world is coming down around you, I hope that looking at this list and picking one or two ways to treat yourself ends up soothing some of your woes.

Got the blues? Here are 101 things to do!

  1. Have a bubble bath, while listening to your favourite music, while reading your favourite book or magazine.
  2. Paint your toenails, just because (preferably in a very vivid tone)
  3. Skype with your best friend.
  4. Drop Everything And Read time! (DEAR!) For an hour, forget your stress and unwind with a book.
  5. Dance!
  6. Make yourself an elaborate dinner in bed, and watch a favourite movie.
  7. Take a long hot shower and change into some comfy clothes.
  8. Meditate!
  9. Do some exercise – the endorphins will pick you back up.
  10. Eat some chocolate and drink some wine.
  11. Disconnect: turn off your phone, computer, and Facebook, and have some ‘me-time’ to do whatever you want.
  12. Smile, as big and bright as you can. It generally makes you feel happier.
  13. Make plans! For a dinner date, or to go to the movies or the gym, or to watch a tv show with a friend.
  14. Stretch!!!
  15. Give yourself a massage.
  16. Curl up on the couch and have a heart-to-heart with a friend.
  17. Take a nap, and wake up relaxed and refreshed!
  18. Gussy yourself up! Do your hair and makeup, and put on some clothes you feel great in. It’ll give you a nice little confidence boost.
  19. Make yourself a green drink or fresh fruit smoothie, to hit your body with a yummy load of antioxidants and vitamins.
  20. Sit up straight!
  21. Do something indulgently luxurious: cook in heels, buy a gourmet lunch, write all your letters in cursive, put on a face mask and cucumbers, buy a whole bouquet of flowers for your apartment, only wear silk, sip champagne..
  22. Treat yourself with something small and beautiful: a new eyeshadow, fresh notebook, a pair of earrings, a  new book..
  23. Write yourself some affirmations, and repeat them! Believe them!
  24. Drink lots of water and flush out all those bad feelings.
  25. Take a glamourous self portrait (or 50).
  26. Journal about your frustrations.
  27. Get takeout from your favourite restaurant.
  28. Take a walk and marvel at nature.
  29. Do a cartwheel or a somersault.
  30. Cry.
  31. Have a tea party.
  32. Have breakfast for dinner!
  33. Laugh!
  34. Pretend you’re seven years old, and write a letter to yourself from the seven-year-old’s perspective. Chances are, you’ll seem pretty perfect to her.. If this is too odd for you, just write yourself a love letter.
  35. Colour with crayons. Make art. Use a colouring book if you so choose.
  36. Start writing your Life List!
  37. Cradle a warm drink..mmm.
  38. Get some sun!
  39. Go out on a weeknight to have a beer and a long conversation with a friend.
  40. Watch a Spanish soap opera and dub in your own words.
  41. Play a game! Monopoly, Clue, Twister..
  42. Lie flat on your back and listen to your favourite music, LOUDLY.
  43. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing.
  44. Do a puzzle to get your mind off your issues: crosswords, sudokus, word games..
  45. Cuddle with a stuffed or real animal!
  46. Get a haircut, manicure, pedicure, massage: something to make you feel transformed and uplifted.
  47. Make some music! Play an instrument or sing your heart out.
  48. Plan a vacation, even if you can’t afford to take it. Plant the seed in your mind!
  49. Change your bedsheets.
  50. Read 1000awesomethings.com.
  51. Create a plan of attack for your upcoming assignments.
  52. Sketch, draw or paint!
  53. Smell something citrusy or minty to perk you up.
  54. Play hooky for the afternoon and watch the Price is Right.
  55. Start dreaming big: write down all the things you’d love to do one day!
  56. Get some hugs!
  57. Write down seventeen things that make your life absolutely awesome.
  58. Do a few small tasks that are causing you stress: clean up your desk, return those emails. Get some of that stuff out of the way and you’ll feel much better.
  59. Acquire a pet or a plant, and get some life into your life!
  60. Bake some cookies, brownies or cupcakes and decorate them elaborately.
  61. Read some inspirational and motivational quotes from special people throughout history.
  62. Go window shopping.
  63. Visit websites like Textsfromlastnight, FailBlog, or FML to get some giggles.
  64. Eat your absolute favourite food.
  65. Watch some trashy reality tv or cartoons!
  66. Put on some brightly coloured clothing.
  67. Escape! Go explore your neighbourhood, go to a museum, walk around downtown..
  68. Eat some ice cream.
  69. Seek out the nearest sauna (local pool/gym?) and release those toxins!
  70. Smile at babies! Make them smile back. :)
  71. Take a book out of the library that isn’t school-related!
  72. Build a blanket/pillow fort and sit in it, eating junk food and reading with a flashlight. Be defiant if anyone tries to get you out.
  73. Make a mind-map of all the different things on your mind. Very therapeutic.
  74. Re-arrange the furniture in your room. Feng shui it if that makes you feel any better.
  75. In the shower, perform a stellar scalp massage and get those nerve endings tingling! (or buy one of those head massagers for $5 at Chapters or Urban Outfitters)
  76. Walk barefoot in grass, sand, mud or water..mmm
  77. Write a to do list (getting all your worries out on paper) and then prioritize your tasks. Then only do the really urgent/important ones.
  78. Have a tv marathon! If you can’t afford to not do any schoolwork, alternate between watching an episode and doing work for equal amounts of time (or until Megavideo lets you keep watching..)
  79. Buy some lingerie. The frillier and prettier the better. I don’t care if you have nobody to wear it for! Wear it around your apartment.
  80. Go swimming: excellent exercise, and it’s so soothing.
  81. Jump on your bed like a small child.
  82. Do karaoke in front of your mirror.
  83. Start a blog/tumblr. (I’ll read it)
  84. Read some tabloids for supreme distraction
  85. Find a friend and go play on a play structure/swing set
  86. Sign up for a class of some sort! Yoga, tai chi, pottery throwing, painting..
  87. Sit underneath a tree, preferably a great big willow tree.
  88. Invite friends over to cook dinner with you.
  89. Go to bed early. Way early.
  90. Stop and smell the (literal) roses.
  91. Look at old pictures of you and your friends, smile and reminisce.
  92. Make some resolutions.
  93. Call your siblings/parents.
  94. Help someone else out! You may not feel like it, but it might put your problems in perspective and also make you feel good too!
  95. Spend some time getting yourself organized!
  96. Take a break and just get clean. Take a shower, brush your teeth, change into fresh clothes, tie your hair back. You’ll come back to your work feeling refreshed and ready.
  97. Vent, rant, scream, punch your pillow, yell. Get it all out!! Then take a break and cool down.
  98. If you have access to a car, go out for a long drive with the windows down. Sing loudly.
  99. Write a song/play/novel/story. It can be as silly or serious as you want!
  100. Do all your homework with the goofiest pen you can get your hands on. I have one with a multi-coloured pompom at one end!
  101. BREATHE. Relax. Calm down. Get some perspective. Take a step back. Breathe, and focus.

That’s all she wrote..

I would honestly love to know: what do you do when you’re having a bad day or are frazzled with stress? Please, please let me know! (Because I too, have bad days and can always use inspiration!). If you leave a comment about what you do in times of stress, I’ll add it to this post so we can all benefit!

Don’t be afraid to beat your stress over the head with a stick.

Much love!

xoxo,


The Non-Believer’s Guide to Easy Organization

[This article is the first in my Back to School Series]

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So your days of summer laziness are numbered. In a week or so, your precious freedom will be no more, and you’ll be thrown back into the cruel world of early mornings, late nights, and more assignments than you can count on both hands.

[pause for screams of horror]

Never fear!

Even a very minute amount of planning and a teensy bit of organization can save you bucket loads of stress and end up translating into mountains of free time for you to get on with..stuff that isn’t school.

But maybe when it comes to organization, you’re a disaster. Maybe it bores you, maybe you think you don’t need it, maybe you prefer to be frazzled and stressed all the time because that’s when you ‘do your best work’. Yeah, right. In fact you might even say that you don’t believe in organization, or that it wouldn’t work for you.

If so, I have an answer to your woes:

Easy Organization for Non-Believers!

I promise I’ll make it easy! Just adopt a couple of these little methods and you’ll be golden, baby. Your whole life will be spread out in front of you, you’ll be able to prioritize, you’ll never forget anything, and you’ll be cool as a cucumber. Sounds good to me, so let’s get going!

1. An agenda/hipster PDA/smartphone.


In my opinion, the number one way to get and stay organized is to have your choice of a portable calendar with you at all times. It can serve as a headquarters for your other organizational systems (like to-do lists or budgets, see below) and it really couldn’t be simpler to use. The most important features are:

  1. Daily slots for filling out homework or readings
  2. Monthly calendar pages (you can avoid this by using a wall calendar, see #2)
  3. Space for extra notes

Millions of people swear by this system, because it is as easy as falling off a log. Seriously! You get homework? You write it down. You write in appointments for the future, dates of important events (like exams..ugh) and plans you have with friends. Then, every day it’s easy to see what’s upcoming and what needs your immediate attention.

And there are tons of different options for every type of personality:

  • Loose-leaf binder-style daily planners: Filofax, Day-Timer, Franklin Covey, Staples Brand, etc..
  • Bound-page planners: Moleskine, Quo Vadis, etc.. (Chapters carries tons of styles)
  • Phone with calendar function
  • Hipster PDA (if you have dated pages, otherwise it’s just more of a to do list!)
  • DIY! Some people are unhappy with all the styles of planner, so they buy a regular notebook and draw in the calendars/dates/spaces for writing. Time consuming, but at least you get it exactly like you want!

Okay, are you sold yet? I promise if you actually start using a portable calendar (it takes 21 days to form a habit!! Give it a shot!) your life will become simplified. It’ll take some of the stress out of school. All your readings and assignments will be in one centralized location, not scattered on scraps of paper. There’s no need to turn on your computer, the information is always right there!

Plus, there’s customization. Buy pretty pens in a rainbow of colours, decorate the outside with magazine collages or bumper stickers, draw and scribble over all of the blank pages! Dress it up! Make it look like you. :)

I have always used, and always will use an agenda. What would I do without it!? This is my #1 pick for organization!

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2. A great big wall calendar.

Photo thanks to courtneybolton

If the idea of carrying around your life in a day planner sounds too ‘Type A/anal” for you (it’s not! ..is it??), my next best suggestion is a wall calendar, hung front and center in your room.

It’s the same idea as an agenda, but requires a bit more organization up front. It would entail: at the end of the day, collecting all the little scraps of paper/vague memories of your professor saying what your homework is and writing the important dates up onto the calendar. This system would be excellent for people who like to see the big picture, right in front of them. Since the boxes on most wall calendars aren’t very big, this wouldn’t work too well for small, day-to-day things you have to remember, but this combined with a notebook of to-do lists could work quite well!

Actually, I think a great system is to have both an agenda and a wall calendar. That way you get the best of both worlds: you make it easy for yourself to remember things that cross your mind, and you can see clearly and unambiguously when things are due.

An alternative to having a physical wall calendar would be having an electronic calendar. Again, it would serve better as a big-picture kind of thing, but would be a nice alternative to the wall calendar. Two great online services are Google Calendar and 30Boxes, but you could always use the one that comes with your computer. And with the magic of technology these days, you can even sync it with your phone and have an electronic two-in-one system!

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3. Some kind of simple filing system.

Photo thanks to macbeck

I know, I know. You’re like..”Filing? Who do you think I am?”

Look, I’m not exactly the filing type either. In fact, I’m exactly the opposite of the filing type, making me prone to losing important stuff like reference letters, Visa bills and my copy of the lease. Which forces me to become the filing type. Vicious circle. Anyways, if you adopt what I like to call “pretty much the easiest thing ever” (aka filing) then life is simple! Except when you can’t find the aforementioned documents from before you started filing. Damn!

Steps to becoming a Filing God:

  1. Acquire an accordian/drawer/filing cabinet/box and some file folders.
  2. Label said folders with headings like: Bills, Important Documents, Reference Letters, Old Essays (heehee), Letters, etc.
  3. Sort what little documents you can find, and then vow to always use the filing system from now on!

Again, why not make it pretty? Choose a bright pink accordian or a stack of boxes in bright red and yellow, with purple folders and yellow labels. Have fun with it!

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4. An assortment of to do lists!

Photo thanks to notahipster

Okay, okay. I know my crazy is coming out. What would you say if I told you I used all these methods? Oops. I’m crazy. But I promise they do help me to control my chaos. To do lists are probably my all-time favourite method of keeping my sanity. They are the greatest invention, period.

You already know what they are. So here are some new ways to do them:

  • Make a grid list: the headings being your classes or other commitments, and listing your tasks underneath
  • Prioritize the tasks with your own system of numbers, letters, coloured highlighters or stickers
  • Do it on your computer with Doomi, Simple Task, Evernote, or Anxiety; or on your phone with all sorts of free apps
  • Include other important things like exercise, calling your friends, and things you find fun. That way, you won’t get burnt out by all the work you have to do, and you’ll make time for those things
  • Get a pretty notebook and divide it into sections (school, apartment, friends, fun, etc) for ongoing to do lists; or write a new to do list for every day

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Other Helpful Tips:

  • Set alarms or reminders on your phone for super-important events
  • Use Google Docs for long-term organization of things like doctor’s appointments, your budget and your life list.
  • Write notes to yourself for daily reminders, like ‘eat your veggies!’, ‘call your mom’, and ‘sit up straight!’. Always have post-it notes around for this very purpose!
  • Try and have a place for everything you use on a daily basis, and always put things back into the places they ‘belong’. Try keep those spaces uncluttered! That way, you won’t misplace anything important.
  • Keep an ideas book if you’re so inclined: mine is a big fat basic Hilroy that I carry everywhere to write down inspiration, things to look up online, ideas for blog posts, quotes I like and facts from articles. It keeps my head clear, and gets everything important down on paper. Instant memory!

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Go forth with organization inspiration!!

There you have it folks. Tons of ways to make organization fit into whoever you are. Because it really doesn’t matter what type of person you are, not many of us have an elephant’s memory! So if you’re an artist-type, design and paint your own wall calendar, big and bright on the wall. If you’re a prepster, you shouldn’t have any problem adopting a sleek Filofax (maybe like that one from 27 Dresses?). If you’re indie/hipster, get yourself a stack of index cards and get to work making your perfect system! Any way you slice it, people need a place to permanently remember their thoughts on paper.

So I urge you: go forth with organization inspiration! Blow yourself away with your newly found memory and creative outlet (in decorating your planner, using it as a sketchpad, drawing with pretty pens, etc!) and time will open up for all sorts of other adventures.

And let me know: how do you stay organized? What’s your special system, trick or habit? Write it in the comments section or drop me a line, and I’ll add it to this post!

Until next time, organization gurus…

xoxo,


Introducing the Back To School Series!

Hi guys! Today I’m going to share with you something I’ve been working hard on for next week: my first ever blog series! Starting Monday and going through until Friday, I’ll be posting every day on various topics about going back to school. I chose to do this series next week, because that’s the week before I actually go back to school, but I apologize if you go to school in Ontario and your school starts a week later than mine (lucky things).

Anyways, here’s a sneak peek at some of the possible topics I’m considering!

  • Making, sticking to and loving your budget!
  • Kick-starting your search for the perfect note-taking style
  • Stress-busters and special treats
  • Creating a dynamite routine
  • The non-believer’s guide to easy organization
  • Dorm + Apartment staples
  • Fall fashion!
  • And more…? :)

Click here to see all the posts so far in the series!

I have a few posts already in the works, and I’m getting really excited about this! It’ll be a way for me to:

a) share my hard-won knowledge about getting into the university groove and

b) diminish some of my own stress about second year!

If you have any topics you’d love to see covered in the series, email me and let me know! Or just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to incorporate it into the series.

I’m really looking forward to hearing your ideas, and sharing mine!

xoxo,

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