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Beyond the Books: Upgrading your Downtime

by Julia Reed on 2023-09-12T11:35:00-07:00 | 2 Comments

It's that time of year again...and no, I don't mean the return of the pumpkin spice latte. It's the season of shorter days, leaves changing color and (somewhere) cooler temperatures. It's also back-to-school season. You, yourself may have signed up for fall classes and are excited (but maybe a little nervous) about a new school year starting. You've got to get organized, plan your weekly schedule, and make sure you have everything you need. And if you have kids, those same tasks are multiplied! Here in the library, we've put together a few resources to help you out and also have some ideas for fun study breaks.

  • Back to School Toolkit - Discover resources in the library that will help you brush up on your study, organization, and communication skills.
  • Get Started in the Library - This guide is a perfect starting point for those new to using the University Library. It explains the services we offer and where to find content and resources.

You may have some late nights ahead of you, and your weekends could be curtailed by papers, assignments and discussion posts. As important as academic success is, we also know the importance of avoiding burnout. You've got to take care of yourself before you can take care of your classwork (or anything else, for that matter). So, we also thought we would offer a few fun ideas for taking a quick break and mental refresher!

reading an ebookRead a good book. We're librarians, so of course, we had to include this on the list! And we mean a fun book (textbooks or anything with the word 'handbook' in the title don't qualify). Visit your local public library and ask if they have any ebook apps (they most likely do). Check out the Goodreads app or website to find all kinds of lists and recommendations. You can even make your own lists to track what you've read and want to read. If your local public library doesn't have anything that piques your interest, check out BookBub for personalized recommendations and links to low-priced ebooks from other sites.

Start watching a new TV show. Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, and countless other streaming video services, we know there are thousands of choices. I often spend more time just deciding what to watch than watching the actual show. But I've found that watching something new helps me "snap out of it" and clear my mind when I'm feeling a little down or stressed. Try looking for a new comedy, nature documentary, or spy thriller - something you've never tried before.

Play a game.board game pieces This is another fun diversion that has an overwhelming number of options to choose from. We all know how much time can get wasted playing games on our phones! If you're part of the Appleverse and subscribe to the Apple Arcade (found in the App Store), you can download games to play on your Mac or any Apple device. (I assume there are equivalent options if you're part of the Androidverse, but I'm not, so I'll leave that to you to investigate.)

But if you've had enough screen time and can't stand any more of that blue screen light glare, play a game the old-fashioned way with a board and cards! Have a game night at home with friends or family. I'm sure they could use a mental health break, too. If you haven't bought a board game in a while, the prices might give you pause. Thrift stores and used bookstores are great places to find affordable games. And did you know that there are lots of single-player tabletop games you can enjoy if you've done enough "people-ing" for the day? Check out these lists of single-player tabletop games from Tabletop Gaming News, IGN, and The Gamer.

Find a creative hobby. A silver lining of the pandemic the past few years is that many people were able to discover (or rediscover) creative hobbies.  Baking banana bread, knitting, and tie-dying provided a boost to mental health.  But now that life is slowly returning to normal, you don't have to push aside hobbies and creative outlets. Or perhaps you've decided it's time to retire or upgrade your pandemic-era hobby. Check out this recent article, 5 Ways to Find Your New Favorite Hobby, for guidance on where to start. Hobbies are a great way to boost mental health when dealing with everyday life stresses (and more importantly - they're fun!). You don't even have to be good at the hobby; the important thing is just to find something creative you enjoy doing. For example, in the past few years, I have gotten pretty into Legos (yes, there are Legos for adults) and have been learning about digital design and illustration. I'm not good at it yet, but seeing something I made myself is fun.  

wooded dirt road with fall leavesSpend time outdoors. I've started doing this the past year, and I've found that it's a great way to start or end the day. Spending time outdoors doesn't have to be a big production that requires gear and planning. It can be as simple as walking in a nearby park or around your neighborhood every morning (like I do). Observing nature, even in an informal way, can be very calming and grounding. It can help remind you that it's a big world out there, and you're not alone in it. You can even download a nature app to identify birds, plants, flowers, butterflies, and other things you observe. Try the Merlin Bird ID app or iNaturalist.

So yes, get organized, get focused, and get motivated. But also get creative, get relaxed, and get unplugged. Studying is a demanding process, and being deliberate about how you use your time to recharge your batteries can be critical to your success. So make the most of the season with a pumpkin spice treat and, as always per our library blog, use the library resources to make the most of your academic journey.


Julia ReedJulia Reed is the systems librarian and focuses on technology development and maintenance. In her free time, she’s into graphic design, photography, and spending time outdoors.

 Add a Comment

Posts: 7
Danielle Chaffin 2023-09-13T08:33:03-07:00

Thanks for this fun read, Julia! I didn't know there were solo board games out there; I clicked the link and there are a few that sound right up my alley! I also love jigsaw puzzles for non-screen time and just started learning how to crochet too. Thanks for further inspiration! 


Posts: 23
Julia Reed 2023-09-13T08:55:41-07:00

We're so glad you enjoyed it, Danielle! Yes, I want to check out some of the solo board games, too!


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