Engaging the mind outside of school

Partial to poetry: Junior history major and pre-law student Mika Schmelzle takes a break from her usual studies to read from a poetry book. Changing up your study habits from time to time can help boost your brain power.

Lectures, tests, labs, cram sessions and more consume our lives. When we make the shift from high school to college, we have the tendency to exchange past hobbies for an ever-expanding list of tasks. However, revisiting former interests or finding new ones can serve to improve our success and health, contrary to what our busy schedules may be telling us.

“One big pillar of well-being is having engaging activities,” said clinical intern Abbie Welch of Counseling Services at Washburn. “The importance of having those activities is to maintain that well-being and to feel like we're not burned out by the end of the day.”

Burnout is a topic many of us are familiar with. Being proactive about preventing burnout can look like studying a new subject, like reading a book for fun or taking a minute for yourself.

“Self-care is something that everyone can probably realistically work on a little bit,” said Welch. “In a culture where we are supposed to be constantly busy and constantly working, it makes sense that self-care has taken a backseat.”

Engaging our minds in hobbies or activities outside of class is continuously more accessible at Washburn; through the many resources and staff willing to help us get there, such as Sean Bird, the Associate Dean of University Libraries and the Center for Student Success and Retention.

“I think it's normal for people to want to wish to focus on just a handful of things at the exclusion of some other information or some other experiences,” said Bird, “but we know, in part by brain science, and in part through our experiences, that being broad and being willing to accept new experiences is a benefit.”

Fresh information can open our eyes to new perspectives and allow us space to breathe separate from the demands of college life. First year law student, Whitney Clum, has found reading for enjoyment to be grounding and helpful when stressed.

“I was told by many people that once I got to college, my insatiable love for reading would dry up, that the required reading would suck up all my passion, and that it would probably be years before I would be able to dive into a book for pleasure. While it is certainly true that I can't bust through five books a week anymore, I made it through an undergraduate degree and am currently working on my J.D. because of my twin addictions to stories and beautiful phrases.”

Don’t be afraid to tap into the things you’re passionate about, even if they’re not a part of your coursework.

“I think that science tells us that changing what our brain is being used for in a moment is a benefit,” said Bird. “Changing it up helps us retain information. It helps our brain, in our alternative activities, find places for that information to reside and to build those connections. Plus, it allows us to learn what our passion really wants us to do and connects us with those around us.”

Edited by Hannah Alleyne, Jason Morrison, Diana Martinez-Ponce

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