How to start using your brain again: getting back into studying after time out

Is it just me who occasionally forgets how to write legible letters on actual paper and make it resemble handwriting? If it’s been a while since you’ve had any need to whip out your pencil case and do something that requires a few more brain cells than watching YouTube videos, it can be overwhelming when you first get back into the routine of work at uni. Whether it’s been a summer off, a whole gap year, or even just a long weekend of doing nothing, sometimes it feels like your brain needs a reboot.

I had a year out in between Sixth Form and starting at Sheffield, spending my time working and taking much needed rest after A levels. It’s fair to say I don’t think I opened a word document or even glanced at a text book all year.

Now, fast forward to the first week of lectures and try to imagine the shock my poor brain had now being faced with seemingly endless reading, essays waiting to be written, and a tonne of new content to try to absorb in lectures.

After much trial and error (featuring many wasted hours watching Netflix with a packet of chocolate digestives), here is my survival guide for kick-starting your brain if like me, you forgot what it felt like to hold a biro:

  • Set realistic goals. Plan out your week to work out how many hours you need to do each day to manage your workload, and monitor your progress so you are more likely to achieve what you intend to do. Leaving things until the last minute will almost certainly make you feel like you’re struggling to keep your head above water!
  • Reward yourself – getting half way through a chapter means you’ve earned yourself a cuppa.
  • Don’t forget to take time off. Panicking and attempting a twelve hour library session tends to leave me lying in bed for the next few days recovering. Not productive.
  • Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a power nap, but overdoing it and sleeping five hours every afternoon will only leave you feeling sluggish.
  • Remember everyone is feeling at least a little overwhelmed (especially if you’re a first year like me!)
  • Ask for help if you need it – make the use of emailing your lecturers, using online resources like MASH, talk to friends… there will always be someone who can help you.
  • Create good working conditions – if working in your bedroom always ends in a nap, get yourself down to the library ASAP. Plus, look after your health so that you actually have the energy to work.
  • Take the plunge – get stuck in and remember why you loved studying the subject in the first place!

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