How To Survive Studies: Get a Hobby, Get a Stress-Reliever

I hum quietly, earplugs playing classic rock in one ear so I can hear the sizzle of carrots, mushrooms, and beef in my frying pan in the other. I sway side to side, watching the meat brown, and every now and then turn my attention to the pasta cooking on the other side of the stove, making sure not to overcook my dinner. I mouth the lyrics and close my eyes as a guitar solo comes on, allowing myself to forget about tomorrow’s midterm exam.

I never intended for my hobbies to become stress relievers or tools to help me stop procrastinating. I picked up cooking because I was broke and wanted to save on food while in Tokyo. I started playing guitar to start a band with my cousin in Canada, who was going through a tough breakup at the time. I’ve done Creative Writing since first grade, and DIY craftwork was a slippery slope when I fell down while trying to fix a broken zipper on my favorite jeans. But now? Those little activities have become some of the strongest supporting pillars of mental health and productivity in my life.

Whenever the studying concepts are too difficult or the reading too dense, I throw them aside and whip out the guitar. I’ve been playing for two months. I strum along to “Bad to the Bone” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and I miss most of the beats, mess up for 90% of the song, bite my bottom lip and growl in frustration sometimes. But then I reach the 10% of the song I can play properly, filling my chest with accomplishment, pride, and strength. If I can learn the guitar, I can learn the difference between longitudinal and transverse waves. I cook myself lasagna whenever the pre-test anxiety hits too hard, and my bacon mac-and-cheese has thus far impressed all my dates.

Hobbies improve our “self-concept,” give layers to your identity, according to Psychology Today.

They provide us not just relief from stress, but they make us more interesting, passionate, more active in pursuing things we want. They make us feel interesting, nuanced, they give us safety nets to fall back on, bastions of self-love.

Before? If I finished studying, I’d open Netflix or Youtube, drain hours into shows and videos. Now? I take out my guitar, or I stretch my fingers over an empty word document, imagining how I might fill it up. And I still have time for all my work, too. According to Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” So I cut forty minutes out of the six-hour block I gave myself to study. Then I come back to the table fed, entertained, happy, and well challenged.

If you want to improve your quality of life, if you want to be happier, more passionate and driven? Find a hobby, and get good at it.

 


By Victor Galov

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