If your school is like mine, it waits a solid month after the end of each fall semester before starting up with the spring semester. It's nice because if you don't take classes over the short January term, you get a break from the constant stream of homework and tests.
Problem is, this month off was just a little bit too short. I feel like I'm headed into the new semester completely unprepared for the wave of stress that's about to overcome me. If you're feeling it too, join me in some preparation for the new semester with this to-do list:
1. Clean your room/apartment
If you're anything like me, this makes a huge difference. It's really easy to leave at the end of a crazy semester and care little about the literal mess you've left behind. My roommates and I tried to clean our apartment before we went home for break, but when we got back, it wasn't nearly as nice as we wanted it to be.
This week, I vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen appliances, and cleaned the bathroom. My roommate reorganized the kitchen cabinet and cleaned out the fridge. We all worked together on the massive pile of dishes that had amassed over our lazy winter break. It may not last, but it's nice to start the semester with a nice, organized apartment. It feels like we're one step ahead of the stress.
2. Read the syllabi and order textbooks
I'll preface this with a disclaimer: it's not always smart to order textbooks before you've attended the first class. But if you know for sure you're keeping the class on your schedule, it's worth it to start the bargain shopping before everything gets crazy. If your class already has a syllabus posted, that's even more reason to get this out of the way. Don't forget to compare prices: Amazon, Bookholders, and your school's bookstore are good places to start.
3. Organize binders, folders, and notebooks
However you organize for your classes, now's the time to do it. My method of choice is color coding, so I set aside an hour the other day, picked out my folders and notebooks for each class, and labeled them. It feels good to feel like you're ahead of the game before class even starts.
4. Double-check your schedule and calendar
My weeks are pretty crazy. There are a lot of meetings or appointments that only happen every other week, so it's hard to keep track of where I'm going. I went through old emails and calendars to make sure that I could keep track of it all and wrote it all down in my agenda. I also printed out and colored in my weekly schedule to refresh my memory on when all my classes and work shifts are...otherwise it's definitely possible that I'll double-book myself. Going over what my days and weeks will look like for the semester makes me feel a lot better prepared for what's to come.
5. Remind yourself what you love about what you're doing... even if it's stressful
We're exhausted and stressed. It's easy to forget why we're working so hard when we're so burnt out! But don't forget why you are doing this. What about your major, program, and classes do you love? How do you want to use it someday? What makes you happy enough about your future plans to continue to work this hard?
For me, I know how much I love working as an academic advisor or overall helping other students. I also know that I really love working in the Speech and Debate community. Sure, I'm busy and stressed out, but at least I love the things I'm doing. If you relate, take some time to reflect on that. You may be busy, but at least you've got a lot of good things happening.
6. Clean up the messes left behind by last semester
Left behind piles of paper, uncleaned messes, or books you didn't get around to reselling? CLEAN. IT. UP. Seriously! Leave last semester's stresses where they belong...in 2018. If you don't have a chance to go through everything completely yet, relocate everything until you do. At the very least, don't let that old stuff get in your way. You'll have new things to worry about soon enough.
7. Go grocery shopping
If you live in an apartment and you've just moved back in, you've got to be prepared to take care of yourself in this space. Part of that includes being able to cook and eat, and you can't do that without the right supplies. Plan a time to go grocery shopping so you're stocked up for the start of the semester. Don't wait until the first day of classes to get set back up.
8. Set aside some time for self care
We all know the semester is going to get stressful and we're going to be overwhelmed. So enjoy a moment of peace before it gets crazy again! Get a face mask, turn on a TV show or movie you love, and relax on the couch. Whatever relaxes you, do it, and feel refreshed at the start of this semester.
9. Relax, unwind, and have fun
Watch a movie, catch up on your favorite TV shows, and play video games. Let yourself have some fun with the things you may not have time for when the semester begins. Whatever you do to turn off your brain and chill out, do that now!
10. Remind yourself about the things that WON'T stress you out this semester
Failing everything else, there must be at least one thing you're excited for this semester. Maybe you're excited to be reunited with your roommates and other friends, happy to be living independently, or maybe just counting down the days until spring break and summer vacation. Whatever! Focus on the things this semester that will be more fun than stressful.
We shouldn't have to live like we're just waiting for time to pass. Even if we're overwhelmed with the bad, we can still enjoy the good that we'll have this semester.
It's been a short break and we're about to embark on another long semester -- but we can face it like champs. We'll make it through this semester, and it's all about feeling put together. Even if we're not.