illustrations of students
October 24, 2019
6 mins read

5 ways to Thrive during midterm season

University comes with a lot of responsibilities—sometimes, it’s easy to forget to prioritize taking care of ourselves.

We get it. It’s midterm season, and every minute matters! 

Who has the time to go to the fitness room or think about eating actual vegetables when that to-do list already has WeBWorK review questions, 5 Canvas reading quizzes, Sample_MT2_E.pdf, and—

Sorry, we interrupted your stream of consciousness. 

No matter how much work you have, skipping out on self-care can take a toll on your mental health over time. Schoolwork and all your other responsibilities as a student are definitely important—but your health and wellbeing should always come first. 

By building in time to recharge, just like you might create a study schedule, you’ll not only feel better—you’ll also increase your ability to do better work. Self-care can be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk, or grabbing food with a friend. In fact, you can try incorporating self-care into your schedule this upcoming month!

November at UBC is Thrive Month, and it’s all about helping you take care of…you! Participate in events and activities that can help boost your mental health, and start practicing the Thrive 5, a handful of simple techniques—backed by research—that you can use to feel good every day.

The Thrive 5 consists of:
  1. Moving more
  2. Sleeping soundly
  3. Eating well
  4. Giving back
  5. Saying hi

You might be thinking: Is something as simple as saying hi to someone really going to boost my mood—during midterm season? As your resident lab rats, we tried one of the Thrive 5 components each day over a week, and here's what we found—maybe you’ll be motivated to try them out, too!

Day 1: Thriving by moving more

Jordan: I was running and cycling in the summer to stay active, but the fall weather makes me feel sluggish. Today I needed to buy groceries, so I walked to No Frills instead of bussing. It was only a 20-minute walk each way, but having a purpose to go outside (and the promise of food) made it easier to get going. My head cleared and my mood perked up for the rest of the day! 

Shawn: My schedule this year is packed, and finding the time to exercise hasn’t been at the top of the list—unless you count running from class to class. Today, I finally went to the fitness room and did the most basic gymming you can imagine. The result: the remainder of my day brightened up—I felt healthier than I’d have otherwise been!

student taking the stairs
3 fun and easy ideas to get moving:
  1. Learn to move your hands like this guy can.
  2. Dim the lights, put on your favourite playlist, and have a solo dance party in your room.
  3. Attend UBC’s Largest Spin Class on November 1 to kick off Thrive Month!

Day 2: Thriving by sleeping soundly

Jordan: I’m a night owl, and often go to bed way too late. Last night, I tried moving my morning routine to the evening. I made my food for today, planned my outfit, and showered so I could just wake up and get out of the house. I got to sleep longer without going to bed super early, felt more energetic, and didn’t start the day off panicking about having to get ready quickly!  

Shawn: Sleep isn’t always the priority it should be for me. Sometimes I’m up well after midnight, and then will sleep through my 3 alarms, feel moody, or start napping in my afternoon lectures. I had my genetics midterm today, so I slept at 9:00 pm last night. I woke up this morning (9 hours later!) with a sense of mental clarity and positivity, and felt better prepared for the exam.

student sleeping
3 ideas for better sleep:
  1. Get an old-fashioned alarm clock and turn your phone off.
  2. Adjust your sleep schedule by going to bed 10 minutes early, and see how that turns out! Can you go even earlier?
  3. Prep your favourite breakfast food (whether that’s pancakes or fresh fruit) so you’re eager to get to bed and wake up ASAP for a tasty breakfast.

Day 3: Thriving by eating well

Jordan: I eat pretty healthily, and arrange my budget so I can buy lots of fruits and vegetables. I’m also trying to eat more plant-based meals. I see “eating well” as “eating to feel good,” and sometimes that means treating yourself. So, I baked myself a cake! Spending time baking and not looking at a screen was a nice break, and I got to share the cake with my roommates (after a healthy dinner, of course).

Shawn: I don't always manage to fit in 3 healthy meals a day, but today, I made it—and I even got to try a new snack! After my last class, I went to Blue Chip Café and grabbed a PB&J sandwich (yep, it’s new to me), and reviewed organic chem with my program-mates. Treating myself after a long day and getting to eat every meal made me more energized and motivated to get work done!

doctor giving student an apple
3 tips to healthify your food:
  1. Add more vegetables to your meals, and check out these other healthifying hacks!
  2. Instead of going to a burger chain 3 times a week, pack your lunch or pick healthier food options on campus.
  3. Try cooking once a week with friends, using a healthy and tasty new recipe each time.

Day 4: Thriving by giving back

Jordan: A friend asked me to walk her dog for a couple of days because she had some work commitments and wouldn’t be home until late. It was a super easy task (and I got some much-needed dog time), but being able to make my friend’s life a bit easier gave me an extra little “oomph” of purpose that stayed with me all week. 

Shawn: This evening, I emailed all 13 students in my Imagine Orientation group to see how they were doing in their first term at university! I noted upcoming UBC Science events and campus resources, both of which could help these students manage stress. Writing and sending these emails helped me feel more connected to the campus community and gave me a sense of purpose—and I felt a dopamine rush when I got a reply!

student walking with older adult
3 ways to be great at giving:
  1. Make a care package for a friend who may be facing challenges.
  2. Give back to your friends by being an intentional and empathetic listener and remembering details about the conversations you have—your friends will appreciate it!
  3. Give back to the Earth by reducing your consumption through shopping at eco-friendly stores and eating fewer meat products!

Day 5: Thriving by saying hi

Jordan: Today, I FaceTimed a friend I made while I was on exchange. We hadn’t spoken for months, but we had a great conversation that reminded me how resilient friendships can be. Even though everyone gets busy, it only takes a bit of effort to catch up and feel connected again. Spending time with friends, even over the phone, always relaxes me and helps me to not take the grind of school and work too seriously.  

Shawn: Today, I went to UBC Quizbowl’s first tournament of the year, played solo for most rounds—and got wrecked pretty hard. But overall, it was mentally stimulating to play competitive trivia. Moreover, Quizbowl has actually shown me that it’s not really about winning, but more about being somewhere I felt I belonged.

students talking
3 easy ways to renew or make new connections:
  1. Invite a friend for ice cream at Rain or Shine (and enter UBC Life's contest to win $15 worth of ice cream)!
  2. Remember that nobody will be offended if you told them you want to spend time with them—it can be nerve-wracking to ask a new friend to hang out, but they’ll likely be flattered you were thinking of them!
  3. Talk to someone new in class—you may just find your next great study buddy/BFF/SO.

The verdict

As simple as it sounds, adding the Thrive 5 to our week really did make a difference. You don’t have to incorporate every component every single day, but interspersing them throughout the week (in the comfort of your dorm room/Evo/favourite campus study spot) can improve your mood and boost your mental health.

Jordan: I found the idea of “giving back” had the most impact on me. I tend to get kind of caught up in my own life and it felt really good to connect with someone that way. I like that self-care can include caring about someone besides yourself, too!

Shawn: Saying hi and checking in with those around me made me feel that each day is just as full of opportunities as any other: always new conversations to be had and emotions to be felt and shared—being with people lets me know that I am never as alone as I may feel at times.

Be sure to take care of yourself and prioritize your wellbeing during—and beyond—Thrive Month. Try out the Thrive 5, check out the Thrive events, and take the time to explore the many ways you can support your mental health.