How to Keep Yourself from Feeling Like a Hamster
You’re busy, busy, busy, but you’re always doing the same things. Here are six inexpensive ways to break the monotony.
By Riley Heruska, Austin College
Get up, gulp down some caffeine, rush to class, hurry to work, cram in homework, try to get some sleep eventually and repeat repeat repeat.
Sometimes, college can feel like a never-ending cycle of stress and routine. In times like these, it can be easy to feel like a hamster in an exercise wheel: Running quickly, but also doing the same thing over and over again.
The thing is, everyone is only young once. Days and weeks might slip by, but at the end of the semester, all students want to feel like they’ve made the best of their time. So, how can a student who is drowning in homework and commitments find time to embrace new experiences?
In reality, it’s actually not that arduous to spruce up your routine a little. Here are some ideas as to how you can add a dash of delight to an otherwise standard week.
1. Get Out into Nature
Even if you live in an urban area, there’s always somewhere beautiful to explore.
Maybe that park you’ve always heard about but never visited finally deserves a chance, or perhaps that long sidewalk bordering your school could use a friend. Stretch out on a sunny hill to devour a mystery novel or ride your bike down a shady path you’ve never explored. Campfires are a great way to get out at night if you can’t catch some sunlight.
The important thing is to simply get out. Enjoy the breeze and let your body detox from glaring indoor lighting and stuffy dorm rooms. Trust me, a little bit of time outdoors will help even the biggest problems feel at least a little bit more manageable.
2. Revitalize Your Surroundings
Have you had the same dingy bedding since freshman year? Are there pretty noticeable ramen stains on the cheap rug you purchased years ago?
Even it doesn’t seem to be a problem, the atmosphere in which you live out a daily routine can have an immense impact on your psyche. Psychologists have found that simple things such as cleaning your room and making your bed can boost happiness levels and alleviate stress.
Although cleaning might seem like an obvious step to take, there’s more to this idea. Make some innovative changes to your living space. See if you can rotate the bed in a new direction or throw up some inexpensive but fresh curtains. If the closet is bursting at the seams with clothes that rarely see the light of day, consider donating some items. Personally, lighting candles always makes me feel a little bit better about my home. I often pair the soothing scent with some fairy lights around my bed or doorframe. Switching things up always leaves me feeling refreshed, as if I’ve somehow cleansed my mind and made myself feel more at home.
3. Change Up Your Look
Don’t worry, I get it. Most college students don’t have the funds to undergo a Hollywood-style makeover. However, no Mia Thermopolis transformation is necessary; instead, consider making one significant change.
A daring haircut can make anyone feel refreshed, or maybe a few highlights would bring a smile to your face when getting ready in the mornings. Even purchasing a pair of jeans that makes you feel confident can color your week a little more brightly.
With a hectic schedule and intense workload, it’s ridiculously easy to slip into the habit of throwing on sweats and rocking that messy bun, and that’s perfectly fine. Still, don’t undervalue the effect a new look can have on your semester. College provides a perfect environment for testing out fashion choices, and it would be a shame to let that go to waste.
4. Finally Read that Novel You’ve Been Meaning To
You know the one I’m talking about. It’s been sitting on your nightstand for ages, and even though you found ten hours to binge-watch “Bob’s Burgers” on Netflix last weekend, you can’t seem to find a spare moment to crack the spine. Well, now’s the time. By switching off the TV and reading recreationally, the brain has a chance to wind down.
Believe it or not, a novel can sometimes be just the thing to spice up an otherwise ordinary week. Pick one that interests you. Want something to raise the hairs on your neck? Check out Stephen King. Need something heartwarming and sweet? Visit the bookstore’s romance section. There’s undoubtedly something for every reader out there.
Recent statistics have suggested that about 42 percent of college graduates will never read another book after graduation. How incredibly tragic is that? I cringe to imagine a world where this number continues to surge. Don’t let yourself be one of those people. Trust me, I know how difficult it can be to start a novel during the chaos of the school year, but if you give that best-seller a chance, you won’t regret it.
5. Find a Seasonal Event
Nothing makes a week feel more unusual than participating in a once-a-year activity. Even if decorating for a holiday isn’t your thing, there’s always something unique going on.
In fall, there are pumpkin patches to photograph and haunted houses where you can finally let out the screams you’ve been holding in all semester. During the winter months, drive around neighborhoods with hot chocolate and look at the holiday lights.
Spring might seem pretty bland, but as the weather warms, there are trails to hike and zoos to visit. Most seasonal activities won’t leave your wallet bleeding, but they will help that week stand out in your memories. It can be as simple as putting on a Halloween or Christmas movie marathon with the roomies.
6. Plan a Weekend Getaway
Once again, college students aren’t made of money, but a mini-vacation doesn’t have to leave you eating 99¢ mac-and-cheeses for a week.
Pick a place to set up a tent and camp for free (or perhaps a small fee). Visit that friend from high school who goes to college a couple of hours away. The destination doesn’t have to be exotic to ignite wanderlust and give your brain a much needed break.
Research has repeatedly found that travel can reduce stress levels and improve people’s health. There’s really no reason to stay holed up on campus every single weekend, so pick at least one or two times during the semester to journey somewhere new or visit someone special.
Whether you choose to make one of these changes or to do something else, there’s an idea out there that can help add some flavor to your semester and help you climb out of any ruts you land in. College is a time for adventure, so don’t let your course load and extracurricular activities cloud your experience completely.