Although we’ve just barely finished our second week of classes, the middle of September marks the end of the first round of weekly homework assignments, during which your eyes were glued to the screen, your butt stuck to your chair, and your spine becoming more doubled over by the second.
During the school year, the damage done to your back and neck muscles is often gradual, and often goes unnoticed until you start unconsciously cracking your neck between study breaks. Eventually, you may find that that occasional crick in your neck is becoming slightly more frequent, and that the pain is starting to slowly creep into your shoulders.
Although I wasn’t able to shed the shackles of sore shoulders in a day, I have been able to quantify a few things that helped me study for last term’s finals relatively pain-free.
First and foremost, I made sure to take a 2 minute study break every hour to stretch and relax. Setting alarms on your phone is a good idea to keep track of time without the distracting temptation of checking your watch every 5 minutes. Don’t restrict yourself to just study breaks, though! Most of these stretches can also be done sitting down, so you can stretch during your seminars without skipping any material.
As a bike-less student, I was trekking from Thunderbird to Hennings three days a week with four hardcover textbooks, 5 different notepads, and a 15” laptop. Just stretching alone wasn’t going to loosen my shoulders; I needed to lighten the load. Getting rid of what I thought were “school essentials” was pretty difficult for me — what if I had some emergency textbook readings that day, or needed a laptop to access a forgotten online quiz?
Enter the Library.
The most obvious solution for me was to separate the materials I needed during the day from the textbooks I was using at home. If you haven’t purchased your textbooks yet, UBC Library generally stock multiple copies of textbooks from which you can scan problems and small sections for your own reference. In the event my text was already booked (ha) by another student, I’d place myself on the hold list and scan a few additional readings at once when the book became available.
For those of us who can’t study without caressing the silky pages of a new, mint condition textbook, I’d also suggest checking with your department to see if they offer locker rentals for the year.
If you’ve never taken advantage of the computer workstations at the the Irving K. Barber library, I suggest you do so as soon as possible. Not only are they free to use, they get bonus points for helping you fight the slouched posture we usually assume to look over our tiny laptop screens.
So there you have it: the routines I’ve been keeping to help me sit up straight and hold my head up high. If you have any other strategies for maintaining a healthy back and shoulders amidst the flurry of assignments and endless lectures, let us know in the comments below!