Replace Bad Habits With Healthy Activities
The school year is well underway and the luster of new courses may be waning in the face of term papers and final exams. For students who are juggling careers, families, and coursework, daily demands can be daunting.
It's easy to fall into old ways of dealing with stress — watching TV, surfing the Web, snacking on junk food, and countless other activities that we hope will rejuvenate and refresh — but they typically have the opposite effect and make us fall flat.
To help you meet your academic goals, here are seven habits to give up NOW.
1. Waiting for a Big Chunk of Time
People say it all the time. "If only I had more time, then I could…" People put their dreams — and their responsibilities — on hold while waiting for the magical gift of time.
But ever-elusive time keeps on ticking while we wait for it to slow down or multiply. The fact is, if you're a working parent and a student, then you'll be waiting a long time for "more time." Learn to make the most of time you DO have.
Tip: Sit down with a calendar and record how you spend your days. Many demands on your time are non-negotiable:
- classroom volunteering,
- household chores and more.
Write down how many hours you spend on these tasks and make a note of "free hours." Plan how you can dedicate some of these available hours to your studies.
2. Taking Time-wasting Breaks
Online learners must be able to identify and eliminate time wasters — TV, Internet, and phone calls. But don't go overboard cutting out all TV shows and all Internet time.
Just select and look forward to your favorite TV shows each week. Avoid aimless channel surfing — which can be a real time-hog and not give you the boost you're looking for.
Similarly, avoid purposeless Web surfing and gaming. Zero in on your favorite websites and reward yourself with limited online relaxation after you've spent a couple hours focused on homework.
Finally, don't allow phone calls to interrupt your study time. As with the TV and Internet, save casual phone calls for study breaks and as rewards for finishing immediate goals. Friends and family will admire your dedication, and your hard work will pay off.
3. Shopping/buying Things You Don't Need
You're on a budget now and you need to stick to it.
Don't combat your efforts with impulse purchases that you don't need. Shopping can be an important source of self-definition and self-expression, but it can easily spin out of control and cause or add to financial debt.
In our culture of consumption, shopping is viewed as a pastime, and it is encouraged everywhere we look. Advertisements, coupon mailers, and billboards all persuade us to spend, upgrade, and keep up with the hottest trends.
Compulsive spending on material goods, however, doesn't change us on the inside and doesn't bring us closer to our academic and professional goals. In fact, it can erode our feelings of self-control and self-esteem.
Try to think big picture, and save big-ticket or expensive items for later down the road after you've earned your degree.
4. Bottling Up and Keeping Stress Inside
Once you jump on the hamster wheel, it's hard to stop. You're in perpetual motion — running from place to place — trying to keep up with the demands of work, school and family life.
It's easy to neglect yourself and let stress build, which can lead to fatigue and health problems.
Tip: Once you feel yourself getting stressed, take a little time out. Ask for help from friends or family. Arrange a "babysitting swap" with a friend so that you can catch up on reading or an assignment. Then return the favor for her. You don't have to do it all on your own.
Tip: Identify activities that relax you. Walk on a nature trail. Listen to new music. Garden, read or cook. Recognize what you need and then do it.
5. Skipping the Important Stuff like Good Nutrition and Exercise
Although carving out enough time to tackle online studies is a challenge, it's equally challenging — and important! — to secure time for good nutrition and exercise.
Tip: Grab a friend or put your child in a stroller, and get out and walk for 30 minutes. It will clear your mind of workday stress and prepare you for focused studies. Or wake up a little earlier and try a yoga videotape or television workout.
Tip: Remember good nutrition and avoid drive-through fast food. Opt for apples or bananas rather than a bag of chips. Fruit is fast, filling and nutritious. Choose whole-grain pastas and grains rather than plain varieties. You'll benefit from more fiber, protein and iron, and you will be setting a good example for your kids.
6. Making Excuses
Pour yourself into making reasons why you DO have time to study. After all, it's always easy to find reasons for why you don't have time to finish the task at hand:
- a sick child,
- a holiday,
- an out-of-town visitor,
- a work deadline,
- a spouse's conflicting schedule.
The excuses are endless.
Yes, you will have emergencies. But if emergencies occur frequently, then they are excuses, not emergencies. Make it happen. It's your choice.
7. Spending Time With "Haters"
Avoid anyone who effectively stands in your way of your goals. This could be people who encourage your bad habits … or people who put you down or make you doubt yourself.
Tip: Cultivate friendships with individuals who share common goals or interests — online classmates who are struggling with similar issues or mothers at your children's school who juggle work and family. Read books or blogs written by individuals who share your challenges and experiences. It helps to know you're not alone, so tap into rich and varied sources of support.
When trying to kick a bad habit, it's important to cut yourself a break and not expect perfection. Start out with short-term, realistic goals and avoid "all or nothing" ultimatums, because they won't stick.
The next time you start to flop into a chair to channel surf because you feel too tired to study, STOP. Sit on your balcony or front porch and take a deep breath.
Pour yourself a cup of tea and stare at the night sky, read an article from a magazine, or play with a pet. Do something healthy to stop your impulsive bad habit. Draw an invisible line that separates you from your normal routine and start something new.
Giving yourself the time to develop healthy habits will get you well on your way to kicking the bad ones.
Ronni Rowland is a writer based out of Orange County, CA. She regularly writes for eLearners, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, and San Diego Family Magazine. Her work has also appeared in Nick Jr. Family Magazine, Daughters, Montessori Life and the Orange County Register.