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Phoenix Forward magazine

How to stay focused during the holidays

Tips to stay focused

It’s holiday season — time for parties, shopping and family get-togethers. But for many students, the season also brings the challenge of meshing all the festivities with their work and study schedules, according to Kathryn Garcia, a licensed clinical social worker who holds a Master of Social Work degree, and is an instructor in the general studies program at the University of Phoenix Sacramento Valley Campus.

Garcia offers six tips to help you balance fun with your schoolwork during the holidays:


Make a schedule.

Keep track of post-holiday exams, application deadlines and assignment due dates. A whiteboard, online day planner, app or plain paper and pen will allow you to document upcoming dates so you can see what you’ll have time for and what you’ll have to say no to.

“Check your list every day,” Garcia advises. “And don’t forget to leave room for relaxation and holiday-specific preparations. Your schedule won’t be helpful if you don’t keep a close eye on it. Cross things off once you’ve done them.”


Get your rest.

If you’re accustomed to pulling all-nighters to complete a paper or cram for a test, you might be tempted to celebrate late into the night during a holiday respite.

“Shoot for seven or eight hours of sleep every night,” Garcia recommends. “Otherwise, you’ll be [returning to class] exhausted, and your schoolwork will show it.”


Plan for exercise.

Make time for a daily 15-minute walk, Garcia says, or if you have a regular routine at the gym, stick to it.

“It’s easier to stay focused on any task,” she notes, “if you’re healthy and feeling good. Exercise is a good first step.”


Eat well.

It’s hard to stay away from sweets at holiday time, so indulge, but just eat smaller portions of your favorites, Garcia advises. Balance those treats with healthy meals that include fruits, vegetables and protein, she adds, and drink a lot of water.

Most cultures celebrate with food, especially at holidays. Garcia suggests challenging yourself not to eat everything that looks tasty at a party. “Think down the road about those 12 pounds you’re likely to gain,” she warns. “Then ask yourself, ‘Will it be worth it to gain weight I may have to lose later?’”


Stick to your routines.

OK, so you’re on vacation. But cracking the occasional textbook, if only to review where you left off in each class before returning to your weekday class schedule, will keep you in the habit of studying.

“Even if it’s only picking up a textbook for a few minutes a day,” Garcia says, “a daily study routine … is a way of reminding yourself that you’re a student.”


Be choosy.

You don’t have to attend every holiday event you’re invited to. Keep your dance card half full, Garcia suggests. “Go to parties every other night,” she says, “instead of every night.”

Weigh the importance of each event before agreeing to attend. “If it’s a family party or a visit with someone you love and haven’t seen in a while, make it a priority,” Garcia says. “But if it’s hanging out with friends from school, there’s plenty of time to do that when you return.”

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