One of the main things we want to write about here at No Place Like College this year is staying motivated.
We’ve got tips and tricks for the beginning of term, the middle slog, and the final push to finale. We have ideas for how to make sure that your motivation issues aren’t due to simply not being in the right place and we’re gearing up to talk about how anxiety affected us and our motivation to study throughout our university careers.
But before we start the nitty gritty, I wanted to share a few overarching tips that really help with motivation… using examples from my pet bunny’s exploits.
A little backstory
My husband, baby, and I were living on a horse and alpaca farm which was also home to many furry woodland creatures, geese, chickens, a barn cat, and a lovely dog. We were moving in a few weeks to town and I knew I’d be horribly sad to leave all of my animal friends. One day, out on a walk, we saw three separate baby bunnies playing in the grass. My husband had grown up with bunnies and so I asked, with no hope of him agreeing it was a good idea, if we could get a pet bunny. He said yes. Despite the bad timing, I immediately started looking online for rabbits.
A week before we were moving, I found an ad for the perfect bunnies – they were a mix of the two breeds I wanted and they were little babies. We went after church and came home (gasp!) with our very own baby bunny. She was immediately beloved by all of us and has become a wonderful part of our family, though we experienced some major growing pains.
We named her Roa, but it doesn’t suit her, so now we just call her “bunny” and we trust that once the baby can talk a little better, bun will hopefully get a cute little moniker from the little human. Or we might start calling her Karen. Who’s to say.
1. Find a friend and relax
Bunny has become the definitional “cuddle bunny”. She hops up to the person she wants to be cuddled by and will sit in perpetuity with you if you’ll agree to pet her head and stroke her ears. In fact, stopping will get a reminder nudge and she’s even been known to shove her head underneath the hand she knows ought to be giving her pets.
Look, I know firsthand that college can be super overwhelming and stressful. I spent my 20th birthday studying so hard for an organic chemistry midterm that my roommates had to force me to go out for ice cream.. and I struggled the whole time not to think about the test. That’s honestly no way to live.
Studying for exams doesn’t need to mean you never see friends. Try to make time for breaks that bring you life again!
Taking breaks to do things that help you to relax will make you more productive in the long run. Do 10 minutes of yoga, watch Bob Ross paint a mountain, take time to pray or meditate, get a massage at the rec center, whatever works. Burnout is a thing and protecting yourself from burnout means making time to relax.
2. Maybe what’s bothering you isn’t really what’s bothering you
While bun and I are on fabulous terms right now, it wasn’t always that way. In folly, I switched her shallow litter box for a new, higher walled litter box. She hated it. I was oblivious.
What followed was 6 weeks of her not allowing me to pet her, hiding under the furniture, and running away from the room where she lives at every opportunity. I was so frustrated and I felt like I’d been a fool for getting a bunny.
But here was the problem: I needed to groom her since she was blowing her coat and I thought that the grooming was what was causing the bad mood.
When I wised up and switched out the litter box, within a week she was the snuggliest, sweetest bunny you ever did see.
Sometimes we humans are like that, too. During law school, my husband was really stressed and so he used video games as an escape. It took us a long time to realize that the excessive gaming was a symptom, not the problem itself.
Fixing the underlying problem didn’t actually change his GPA, but it did make him a better person. We should all stop and consider whether what we think our issues are in staying motivated and what other causes could be underlying them.
3. We all have to do hard things, what carrots and sticks can you use to get yourself to do them?
Bunnies love to dig. It’s a major part of what makes them rabbits. Our bun is no exception… and she’d love to destroy the couch. It would be, she tells me, her magnum opus.
Given her lack of couch-respect, I can’t let her free range without supervision and even when being watched, she often jumps up onto the couch to dig at it. I’ve tried taking her off the couch, I’ve tried telling her “no” in a firm voice, I’ve tried sprawling on the couch myself to prevent her from coming up. Nothing worked and she always ended up mad at me and hiding when I took her down. Ugh.
My husband recently cracked the code: bunny understands that a thump means “I don’t want you to do that”. I get thumped at if I run the vacuum cleaner, if I pick up the bunny, and sometimes if I try to get her to go to bed. And so, if we find her on the couch, we take off our slipper and hit it onto the floor, in an approximation of a rabbit thump.
We do it far away from her, so it isn’t a threat of violence, we’re just trying to articulate “please don’t ruin the couch” in terms she’ll understand. And yep, one thump and she’s off the couch and back for another cuddle. She’s motivated by the thump, not by vocalization.
When you have been successful at staying motivated, what were the reasons you were able to do it? The same tactics that worked for a friend might not work for you and that is totally fine. Figure out how to feed your soul so that motivation is easier to muster.
4. Take joy in your life
College is a stressful time, but it’s also a very free time in your life. You have options, time, and fewer obligations than you’ll have shortly. Enjoy the stage. My mom likes to say “this too shall pass”, and she means it both positively and negatively.
The hard things of this stage will pass, but the good parts will too. So focus on enjoying college as much as you can. Bunnies do twitchy hops called “binkies” when they’re happy and they do “zoomies” of sprints around to show their delight. They’re unabashed in their delight at the world around them.
Staying motivated to study is tricky, and college is definitely hard work, but there’s so much joy to be found. Seriously, how often is some group or other giving out free pizza in the student union? (This is a lovely perk!) So enjoy the season for all you’ve got!
What is one of your best de-stressing tips for college? What has helped you put things in perspective and stay motivated? Share your tips in the comments below!