The end of the semester is upon us, which means work is crazier than ever. I started the semester with 175 students, and I'm ending with 174. You read that right: 1 student dropped this semester. Needless to say, I've had a full load on my plate. However, despite this being my most challenging semester to date, I feel pretty calm. Here are some techniques I've been employing that might help you too, whether it is the end of your semester or just the end of your year.
I know, it sounds so obvious, and I read it in many magazines, but honestly, this is the first Fall semester that I've actually kept up my workout routine from start to finish (we usually do better in the spring). I talk about my workout plan here, but honestly, the important thing is just that you stick to your workout routine. Don't use shopping or feeling overwhelmed as an excuse to skip the gym because workouts help you feel physically better and mentally saner. Keep it up. I am exercising 4-5 times a week and instead of feeling like I have less time (which I worried about initially), I feel like I'm just using my time more productively. I promise you, the grading (or whatever you need to do) gets done. No student in my class has waited longer than 2 weeks to get a paper returned this semester.
2.) Take Time to Connect
I don't just mean with the people in your life, but with your pets too (fun fact: I am holding Lola right now as I type this). Obviously, you know the benefits of connecting with people: Brendan and I try to set aside time to just talk and catch up even on the busiest of days. When times are stressful, the last thing you want to do is neglect your friends and family or be crabby and stressed. Take time to meet up for lunch and do all the activities you normally enjoy. As for pets, keep in mind the holidays are stressful for them too. During Thanksgiving, we leave town without the cats, and for Christmas, we'll leave them with my parents (which means a road trip to Austin). I know they appreciate when I take time to cuddle and play with them. I think it helps reassure them that everything is okay, despite the change in their schedule.
3.) Deck the Halls
I've heard people say they skip Christmas decorating some years when they are busy. I think this is crazy! I am even sending out cards this year (despite the fact that we're already sending out so much wedding related mail). I am VERY much looking forward to decorating this weekend. Seeing the tree in my living room just brightens my mood. I'm also throwing a Christmas party on Sunday. No matter how busy things get, it's important to still let yourself enjoy this time of year.
4.) Shop on Line
As much as I love the joy of the holiday season, if there is one thing I can do without, it is crowds and long lines. Whenever possible, I order my gifts online. This saves you time and frustration.
There are 15 days of the semester left, and you can bet I know it! Counting down to whatever you are looking forward to is always a wonderful thing. It keeps you feeling uplifted and encouraged.
6.) Be Giving
It uplifts your mood. Buy little presents for co-workers and friends, give a Christmas bonus to someone that works for you, or invite everyone you know to your Christmas party. The spirit of giving is what the season is about and including and remember others always makes me feel just as happy as when they include and remember me.
7.) Meditate or Do Yoga
See item 1. Yoga has SERIOUSLY improved my moods. I have an awesome teacher that pushes me to do what I never thought possible, and taking time to connect my breath to my movements and to be mindful of my thoughts and practice always leaves me feeling more calm.
8.) Make Reasonable to-do Lists
If my plan for the day involves teaching, office hours, lunch with a friend, a trip to the grocery store, and a workout (this was my actual Tuesday), I am only going to plan to grade about 6 papers that night. Don't "bite off more than you can chew." Budget your time so that all of your projects can be accomplished in the required timeframe.
Despite my crazy workload, I've never neglected sleep. Sure, there have been a few nights I only have had 6 hours, but I often get 7 or 8.
10.) Have a Silent Night
Tomorrow, Brendan and I are decorating the tree, cooking dinner together, and disconnecting from distractions. We'll put on a movie and just spend time together. I call it a "Silent Night," and this weekend, you owe yourself one.
No matter what you do, we hope these tips help bring you a peaceful end to the year!
<3 S, B, L&Z