Stuck in the middle. That’s where it feels we are right now. Not filled with excitement as we were when the school year began and not yet anticipating summer, which is quickly approaching.
Right now my classmates and I are in the heart of winter and schoolwork, struggling to find the drive to push on until spring break. We’ve all felt this before, yet it still seems new and foreign each time it comes around. It can be a difficult area of life to improve, but here’s how I try to break the winter blues.
Keep to a Schedule
For me, schedules are very important. So important that I actually work “rest” into my schedule. If I do not set rest and work/school boundaries for myself, then I will overwork myself and quickly burn out.
My current schedule, which seems to work pretty well with the heavy workload of first year, consists of 2 to 3 hours of studying per night, 1 to 2 hours of free time, and in bed by 10 pm. For some people this may seem pretty rigid or tightly regulated, but it works great for me and allows conscious rest without feeling guilt about not studying.
I would encourage anyone struggling with “third-quarter syndrome” to analyze their own personality and rearrange their schedule in a way that allows rest and doing things they enjoy.
Another area I work on to reduce the “stuck” feeling is my health. I have found it very helpful to try and move my body a little at least once a day. Some days that looks like a hard cardio and weight workout in the morning, and other days it may just be a walk around the building during lunch.
One of my favorite things to do on a nicer winter day is take a walk around Crystal Lake Park to get some much-needed fresh air. Being gentle with myself and what I am capable of each day is vital to a healthy mind-body relationship. For times when there seems to be unavoidable irritation or sadness, I turn to vitamin D3 to supplement the lack of sunlight in the winter and even kava kava, which I call the ibuprofen for anxiety.
Change Your Brain
Lastly, an area I have recently been experimenting with is the neuroplasticity of the brain. Now that may seem like a complex idea, but what it means is changing your brain through the things you experience. Specifically what I have found fascinating is Dr. Caroline Leaf’s work on the idea that you can use your mind to systematically direct your mind.
This is done by “hacking your brain,” where you form little habits to change the way you think about life and your experiences. For example, you give yourself a trigger phrase that you consciously implement when you are having a negative thought. Soon, a habit will form in which you are no longer consciously thinking about changing to more positive thoughts, but rather doing it without knowing. This is much like how we slip into negative thought patterns because we taught our brains to do it!
Diving into this practice has helped me create a more positive relationship with school, classmates, and difficult situations. My first thought is no longer, “I hate this!” but rather, “How can I learn from this?”
Have Grace Towards Yourself
While these tips and tricks were stated simply, the reality is they take a lot of practice and discipline that I have not fully achieved yet. A simple step is to take a different route to school tomorrow or try a new recipe for dinner to change up your daily routine (as well as changing up your brain’s neuroplasticity).
Have grace towards yourself and others, as we are all navigating this walk of life. I encourage you all to not sit in idleness waiting for change; get up and be the change!
By Annie Davis, Class of 2026