EducationHealthSkills

Most parents seem to sign their children up for sports hoping that they’ll learn the importance of dedication, teamwork and responsibility, while “staying out of trouble.” Though these are realistic intentions, few people realize the true value of athletics. By picking up a tennis racquet, I wasn’t preparing myself for college athletics; I was preparing myself for life.

After nine years playing tennis and two playing for the University of Nebraska, I’ve come to recognize some of the most important things that I’ve learned over the years:

How to Handle Adversity

You may be strapped with homework, your coach is screaming at you and you’re running on four hours of sleep, but you still have to play tennis. Right? Well, I can tell you that the ones that choose not to don’t make it very far. So the answer is yes. Though being an athlete has its perks, the initial description I just gave is the life of an athlete. Something is bound to go wrong on a daily basis, but you have to keep picking yourself back up. You’re bound to forget about that day that your boyfriend wouldn’t speak to you, but you’re likely to regret the hours you spent worrying about it instead of giving yourself the chance to grow.

Choose the High Road

After you’ve played a sport at a certain level, you begin to see that hard work pays off. You’ve put in the hours and you’re now beginning to reap the rewards. So the next time you’re given a choice, you’re going to choose the harder path. Whether it’s doing sprints after practice, taking extra time to study for a test, or making amends with a friend even when you did nothing wrong, you understand what it means to take the difficult route. And you become a stronger, better person because of it.

How to Make Tough Choices

I’m ashamed to admit it, but when I was trying to choose which college to go to, I spent an entire evening crying on the couch. There I was, with several scholarship offers, bawling my eyes out. Most of my friends had had their “moment” where they “suddenly knew,” and I was distraught, simply waiting for mine.

But not everyone has that “moment.” In fact, I sometimes think it’s better if you don’t. I’m a realist and a planner. I had my pro-con lists down to every nitpicky detail, from strictly academics to which school had a Starbucks on campus. Though the lists may not have made my decision for me, they definitely guided me along the way. Not to mention, I conducted an extensive amount of research that I’m sure few student-athletes did.

But when it came down to it, the ability to make the decision was innate. I knew enough about myself, and the school, to make a decision I could live with. My friends were right about one thing, and that’s to treat it like any other relationship. It was the right combination of using my head and following my gut.

Self-Reliance

None of the benefits I just mentioned would be possible if it weren’t for one thing: self-reliance. This perfect combination of confidence and independence is what drives you to make tough decisions, run extra sprints and keep your head high. Throughout your entire life you’ll have people telling you 25 different ways to do something, but you have to stick to your guns. There is not one specific path to success, and it’s definitely not a straight line.

Courage

When Hemingway defined courage as grace under pressure, he hit the nail on the head. To me, this is the most important of them all. Being an athlete, you learn to handle high-stress situations, often when they are least convenient. You’re under the pressure of your coaches, professors and parents to do well, and it all begins to add up.

If I’m on the court, playing the #1 position for my team in a conference match against Northwestern, I can’t break down. It’s simply not an option. As an athlete, you understand when the situation is more important than your emotions. You understand the consequences and are able to register that it’s only temporary. To be able to evaluate all of these things in a matter of seconds can only be defined as one thing: grace under pressure.

I can’t imagine trying to summarize the lessons I’ve learned over hours of training on the court. Dedicating my life to athletics not only benefited my health and my college experiences, but also made me grow as a person.

Being an athlete forces you into the tight, uncomfortable crevices of life that most people aren’t familiar with. But in reality, everyone is pushed out of his or her comfort zone at some point in time. Athletes just face it earlier than most; sometimes earlier than they’re ready for. So the next time around, they’re more than prepared. Behind the braided ponytails, bruised shins and tired eyes, they’re becoming something bigger than themselves.

CultureEducationInspiration

We’ve all been there. We’re checking our phones before we go to sleep, in the middle of the night, and as soon as we wake up. We glance at our phones to see if we have any new emails or text messages even when there isn’t an alert or notification. We send texts, scroll through Instagram, read new status updates on Facebook, and get lost in the black hole that is Reddit. From our waking moment until shut-eye, we live a good portion of our day through small screens. It’s easy to get burned out from technology and the constant access to one another. The information available is overwhelming, and technology never sleeps. It is a 24/7 beast that never loosens its grip, that is, until you make it. This leads us to our trick that has helped us recharge when we feel consumed by cell phones, apps, laptops, tablets, and other gadgets that have monopolized our attention.

The trick to recharge yourself is to unplug. Unplug from the constant communication and attention hog that is technology. Obviously we’re not saying to give technology up forever, but press those ‘Off’ buttons on your laptop, cell phones, tablets, and other gadgets you might use, for an afternoon, an evening, or even for an entire day! Without distractions in the form of buzzing, beeping, and red flashing lights, you can actually enjoy the present moment and let your mind power down for a short while. To unplug, simply switch the off buttons on your devices, put them in a drawer or another room (out of sight, out of mind), and plan activities that will keep you active and away from technology. When you allow yourself to step away from being constantly accessible, give yourself more ‘you’ time, and choose to engage in-person rather than on text or Instagram, you’ll feel recharged and ready to go.

Besides recharging and preventing burnout, here are some more examples of great benefits of unplugging if you still aren’t convinced to give up your iPhone for a couple of hours:

More You Time

Instead of spending most of your time reacting to phone alerts, use your time to focus on yourself. Maybe that involves going for a jog, listening to music, cooking, reading, or just catching up on some much needed zzz’s. Listen to your body and give yourself more ‘you’ time.

Build In-Person Relationships

A TIME mobility poll showed that 17% of all poll respondents said they check their phone at every meal regardless of whom they’re dining with. Instead of being distracted and glued to who is trying to reach you by phone, pay attention to the people physically around you. Get to know people in-person rather than through text. These relationships you build face-to-face will be much more valuable than the ones you build online.

Feel Less Stressed

You hear a buzz or beep and immediately reach for your phone. Whether it’s an email or a text, you might feel the need to respond to someone or take care of the issue immediately. If multiple texts or emails come in, there are more responsibilities now added to your plate. The stress and to-dos add up quickly.

Experience the Present

You’ve seen others do it and you’ve done it yourself: walking and texting. When you walk and text or just spend a lot of time on technology in general, you miss out on the amazing things happening around you. You miss the beauty of a flower garden, a potential new friend walking by, and awe-inspiring architecture. When you need directions, instead of asking someone for help and engaging with another human, it has become far too easy to use an app to locate your Point B. Join and experience the present sans technology, and who knows what you’ll see and discover.

Sleep Better

Try sleeping with your phone not next to your head. Instead, charge your phone in the kitchen or bathroom. This way you won’t be tempted to roll over in the middle of the night and check your text messages. This might also help prevent your phone from being the last thing you see before you get some shut eye. Furthermore, the light from phones and laptop screens affects the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, in our bodies. In turn, your sleep will be delayed and you will feel tired, cranky, and unproductive the next day.

Be Happier

Live your own life. Stop comparing your life to the highlight reel that you see on your friends’ news feeds and statuses. Remember that people post only the best photos and updates on their profiles, and what you see are edited and curated portions of their life. You’re not seeing what’s behind-the-scenes. Social media can make us feel lonely and jealous, both of which do not make us happier. When you experience the present and stop living your life through your screens, you will feel happier.

Be More Productive

Without the constant distraction of technology, information, and communication, you just might get more done. Unplug so you don’t have to worry about multitasking or responding to anyone. Focus on your tasks. When you don’t have beeps and buzzes pulling your attention in other directions, you will accomplish more.

Have you ever tried unplugging for an afternoon?

EducationSkills

With the holiday break so close, studying for finals may not be the most exciting thing on your to-do list. However, exam week is critical and because of its importance, it can cause major stress. For us during finals week – as much as procrastination tried to distract us – starting to study early was super helpful. That way, when our finals test date crept up, we didn’t need to cram all night and we had a little more confidence. As painful as finals week is, you have the power to take control. There are many little useful tricks to help you study – hopefully one of these works for you!

Create a plan.
Before you dive in to your mounds of paperwork, old tests, and study guides, create a clear guideline for the most important topics you’ll need to know for each test. This way, when you spend hours studying, you will be studying the material that will be most useful. Also, set aside hours of your day for studying for each class/test instead of just studying when you feel like it. When you have a clear plan, you’re more likely to follow it.

Take 5-10 minute breaks.
For every 55-60 minutes that you study, take a 5-10 minute study break. Whether you are transitioning between topics or just need to clear your head for a bit, do something completely different to take your mind off of what you spent the last hour reading and practicing. Don’t be fooled, break time is not wasted time.

Designate a study area for a certain period of time, then change it up.
Spend the morning studying history at the library, and then move to a cafe to study English in the afternoon. When you’re back in your dorm or at home that evening, round out your day by practicing math equations at your desk. If you sit in one place all day long, you’ll start to get distracted and bored. Everything will feel like it is blending together. Switch up your environment for a change of scenery and for the walking breaks.

Start studying early.
As hard as it is to avoid procrastination, starting to study early is the best thing you can do for yourself. Since it is no surprise as to when finals are in the year, you can plan out your study days accordingly. Try to give yourself at least one month to study before finals week. During your first week of studying, you won’t necessarily need to buckle down and study as hard as you will in the third and fourth week. Use the first couple of weeks to review all of the material, start from the beginning, and refresh your memory.

Find a focus point.
Designate something to be your source of comfort. For instance, a favorite family photo, your childhood teddy bear, a soft tennis ball to squeeze, or a funny comic strip. Then, when you get anxious or nervous before your test, pull out your little object to bring some laughter, happiness, and focus back into your mind.

Walk/Jog/Dance.
Get those endorphins going! Cardio is good for your memory and health, and a quick dance break might be just what you need to remember a tricky equation or definition.

Laugh. A lot.
Just as you need your cardio break, you also need to laugh! Laughing relives tension and stress, so don’t be shy. Laugh away. Watch a hilarious video your friend sent you, listen to your favorite comedian, or crack a couple of silly jokes with friends.

Talk to your professor.
If you start studying early, you can create a list of questions you may have to ask your teacher. Swing by his or her office hours and discuss anything you might find confusing. Also, be sure to ask in class or during office hours what exactly will be on the test. Your teacher might not be willing to share that information, but it never hurts to ask. When you start early and arrive prepared, you will be more confident come test day.

Memory aids.
Maybe writing equations or definitions down on flash cards will help you remember them. Maybe acting out a Shakespeare scene will help you better understand the themes and major plot points. Turning the capitals of countries you need to memorize into a song or poem will definitely spark a reminder during the test. Do what works for you and be creative!

Study with friends/classmates.
But only if it makes sense for you. You want to study with people who are motivated to learn the material and who have been paying attention in class. Everyone should equally contribute to the conversation or that time spent with a group is just not worth it. If you find a good group to work with, divide up the material between your peers and have everyone come to the study sessions with their sections filled-in with useful information. When the group can help each other and maximize time and be efficient, it is a win-win for everyone involved.

Avoid the dreaded all-nighter.
It might sound tempting to stay up all night before the test to cram that last bit of information. However, if you stay up all night, you’ll be exhausted for your exam the next morning. What you study last-minute the night before will have little impact on your overall knowledge of the content, so it’s better to get eight hours of sleep so you feel refreshed, quick, and comfortable.

Enjoy healthy snacks.
Want to munch on something while you study? Snack on carrots, apples and peanut butter, popcorn, and almonds. Avoid sugary sodas, energy drinks, and too much caffeine, as that will just give you a sugar crash that you did not need.

Breathe.
When you feel your heart starting to race when you’re studying from the anxiety about test day, put everything down and just breathe. You’ve taken tests before, you’ve done the work all quarter/semester, and you’ve read the material. Breathe deeply for a count of 10 seconds, think about positive outcomes only, take a break if you need it, and then get back to work with a more relaxed attitude.

Good luck with your finals! You got this!