As the semester wound down (or, more fittingly, wound up) to a close, I could not help but feel tight-limbed, frustrated, and constantly in need of a nap. That third coffee hadn’t done anything but add a tremor to my fingers, the work hadn’t gotten any easier, I’d taken my third nap that day with no extra bursts of energy — and, gosh, that paper wasn’t going to write itself. My body was quite literally shutting down; I couldn’t keep my eyes open. What should I have done?
I opened my closet, dug all the way in the back for my only set of workout clothes, and dragged my behind to Dillon Gymnasium.
This may sound counterintuitive, seeing as I was already tired — how could I handle a workout? Believe me, it worked.
A quick run on the treadmill or some aerobics on the mat will get your blood pumping and those creative juices flowing. Exercise is like a jump-start for your brain, and it doesn’t hurt your body either.
According to Heidi Godman, executive editor at the Harvard Health Letter, regular aerobic exercise improves memory and the ability to focus on the task at hand, thanks to those helpful endorphins. Speaking from personal experience, that’s true. A steady workout routine keeps me awake and active throughout the day — I need fewer and fewer naps. Then, when it’s finally time to crash, I can count on a good night’s rest to carry me through the next day.
So why is it that I can take a workout study break and still function enough to hammer out an essay? Well, exercise does a lot for our brains. And at Princeton, we need our brains, don’t we?
I know we’re all busy and it can seem like there’s never any time to take care of ourselves. A quick workout, however, can come at anytime and study time does not have to be sacrificed. I’ve seen a girl studiously marking up a text on the StairMaster — it’s possible.
Following in her footsteps, you should make time for the important things: the body and the mind. At the end of the day, I know I’d rather be healthy and active, able to bounce back from any setback, than stressed and lethargic, obsessing over a 10-point Blackboard post. This mindset is hard to maintain, even for me, but we must constantly re-evaluate ourselves, ensuring that we always put our best selves forward.
As for the issue of keeping up with the routine, bring some friends! I will be the first to admit that working out rapidly becomes boring: It’s repetitive, hard, and a bit smelly. Having a group of people to toil with you turns a boring task to a lively and even fun one. Blast some tunes, add a little competition, and before you know it, working out is like a game.
Now, we don’t all live near Dillon Gym, and it’s a bit too cold to go on runs — unless you’re Superman or that guy that runs through campus in shorts — so take a stretch break. Sitting in the same position with your eyes glued to countless words that haven’t made sense by the fourth time you’ve read them can tighten up your eyes and your muscles. Spread out, stretch for a bit, and restart your mind.
Remember, taking care of yourself is important, and if that essay just isn’t coming out right, take a break and reset. Your body and mind deserve it, not to mention your essay.
Makailyn Jones is a first-year from Sharon, Mass. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.