Friday, September 22, 2017

Students and Wellness

Below are a few wellness tips, with a focus on student life. I didn’t do all, or even many, of these things consistently well when I was in school, but I was better off when I did, and I paid for it when I didn’t. Many of these things are obvious, but many are also ignored.

Consistent Sleep. Sleep is incredibly important. So many of the things we do during waking hours depend on getting good sleep. Shoot for going to bed at a consistent time and waking up at a consistent time. This might be difficult with roommates and you may need to request new roommates. All-nighters, either from studying or social events, are relatively common in college and law school, but all-nighters almost always produce more poor results than if the studying or social events were more evenly distributed across the semester. Sadly, I see too many students sleep walking through the day, armed with caffeine to self-medicate.

Eat Well. I am always in search of fast, healthy, and inexpensive meals. The options are not plentiful, but I can really feel it when the quality of my food slips. Thankfully, most colleges, like Belmont, have a well-stocked cafeteria, but students still have to make the right choices within the cafeteria.  

Exercise Regularly. I definitely ignored this tip for my first year and a half of law school, but making time for regular exercise is important for wellness.  (Shoot for 2 ½ hours a week)

Intentional Quiet Time. Carving out time that is intentionally quiet and reflective is a constant struggle, but it can really improve the day, even if it is just 10-15 minutes.   

Distraction-Free Studying. Sometimes students who did poorly on an exam claim that they studied for “48 hours straight” for my exam. As discussed above, this is a bad idea because it interrupts consistent sleep. I also ask where this studying was done. Often this studying was done in a noisy dorm room, with the TV on, which simply isn’t a very efficient way to study. Students may not read many physical books these days, but the library is still a great place to get in some focused, distraction-free studying.  

Quality Social Time. During my first two years of college I had much more social time than during the last two, but I had more quality time during the last two years. Too much of social time is unintentional and low quality – playing video games comes to mind. Better, I think, is to spend social time creating memories, taking trips, having focused conversations.

Extracurricular Focus. Opinions will differ on this, but I think it is better to do a few extracurricular activities really well rather than being involved in fifteen different things, on a very surface level. Personally, I am more impressed by someone who was a captain of a sports team or president of a serious organization or founded and grew their own organization or worked dozens of hours a week or started their own business than I am by someone who just showed up for a plethora of somewhat unrelated organizations. That said, college and even graduate school can and should be places to explore, so, by all means, check out many different extracurricular activities, but try to just pick a couple, relatively early on, to do with excellence.

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Comments

A number of my students have told me that they are working from the time they wake until the time they sleep, with no time for socialization/exercise/etc. Their problem is not that they don't want the things you recommend but they are having trouble efficiently utilizing their work time. Do you have thoughts on how to be a more efficient student, so that you have time to do these other things that you recommend?

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Sep 26, 2017 7:52:28 PM

I am the last person to offer any wellness advice, so I probably shouldn't even comment - but have you suggested that when they work, they turn off their devices (email, web access)? I believe there's research showing that students really aren't aware how much time they spend surfing/distracted, which means work takes longer to complete. (She said, while procrastinating on a draft...)

Posted by: Ann Lipton | Sep 27, 2017 11:20:05 AM

Yes, Ann, I definitely think that is part of distraction-free studying, and I do advise them to turn off their devices, even though I have a hard time putting my phone down. I also ban laptops in my undergraduate classes, and I have been very glad that I do.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Sep 27, 2017 11:31:15 AM

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