How to manage your mental health in university

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Mental health can be a troublesome issue at any point in life, but it can be especially tricky for students to manage such challenges in addition to all of the other stresses that come along with being a university or college student. Post-secondary education can often be a stressful (although still enjoyable!) phase of life. As such, it is quite common for students to develop mental health conditions, or for pre-existing conditions to worsen in severity. However, self-awareness can be a valuable tool in managing your mental health during your time as a student. Being aware of your struggles is the first step in addressing those issues and restoring your mental health. So without further ado, here are a few tips and tricks for managing your mental health and stress while studying in university or college.

Schedule time for yourself

The first step to managing your mental health while in university should be a proactive approach to taking care of yourself in order to avoid the development of mental health conditions. If you take time out of each day to do something that you enjoy that will help you relieve stress, you will be better able to manage anxiety that can often creep up on students during the semester. Never underestimate the significance of self-care. Make self-care part of your routine just as you would make time for classes, assignments, and work. Self-care is just as important as these other commitments so be sure to make time for it in your schedule.

See a therapist at your school

As a student, one of the services that you will most likely have access to is free or discounted therapy. You might not feel the need to see a therapist right now, but if the semester starts too feel overwhelming and your stress level is too high, perhaps you should consider talking to someone. Alternatively, you could also start to see someone before the stress level increases so that you can learn effective stress management techniques. As with self-care, therapy can be a proactive approach to managing your mental health; it doesn’t have to be a reactive solution.

Talk to your doctor

If you have a history of mental health conditions, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about how you can manage these conditions while you’re in school. This could mean taking medication, exercising more (or less), eating right, or maybe even getting a referral to support services in the geographic area of your school (if you are moving away from home for school). Whatever your needs might be, your doctor is an essential resource in the management of your mental health.

Get enough sleep

Sleep sleep sleep!! Sleep is so important! How can you expect yourself to effectively manage your mental health if you are running on fumes? Exhaustion can often be a trigger for feelings of depression and anxiety so it is incredibly important to get enough sleep. It may seem like a good idea to pull an all-nighter and load up on caffeine; however, caffeine can often increase the symptoms of anxiety and the lack of sleep would leave you feeling fatigued and unable to cope with these feelings. Getting enough sleep not only helps you avoid adding more anxiety to your already stressful life as a student, but it allows you to more effectively cope with your pre-existing stress.

Avoid procrastination

While procrastination can seem like a good idea when you’re really looking forward to a night of netflix and pizza, it’s not always the best idea. Watching one episode of your favorite show could be a great self-care activity, but watching an entire season in one sitting when you should be working on assignments is not a good use of time. While it may seem like a relief to avoid an assignment for a night, you will inevitably feel more stressed when you are running out of time to complete the assignment the next morning. Try to start your assignments as soon as you get them so that you never have to feel the added pressure of not being able to complete an assignment on time. In other words, don’t create more stress for yourself. Do your homework on time.

Lean on your support system

University is bound to be stressful from time to time for even the most diligent of students; therefore, it is extremely important that you develop a support system of people who you can lean on when you need a hand (or a shoulder to cry on as the case may be…) Don’t be afraid to let others know when you are going through a difficult time and be sure to ask for help when you need it. This could be as simple as having your best friend come over for a girls night of pizza and wine or as structured as having a pre-set schedule of phone calls with your parents. Whatever it may be, just make sure that you let people know that you might need them more during your years as a student.

Take care of your physical health

A healthy mind goes hand in hand with a healthy body. This means eating right, exercising enough, and (again) getting enough sleep. If your body is not feeling it’s best then how can you expect your mind to perform at it’s best? Take care of your physical health as yet another proactive approach to managing your mental health. Feeling good physically can make a huge difference in how you feel mentally. So, take care of yourself!

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I hope that you find these tips useful and I would love to hear your thoughts! If you have any feedback or any additional pieces of advice to add, feel free to leave a comment below!

As always, thank you for reading and good luck with the approaching school year!

xo
Ayla

Reasons why it’s okay to not want kids

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If you’re a twenty-something female, chances are you’ve probably started to receive comments about your so-called “biological clock” tick tick ticking away and felt the pressure of people passing judgement on your childless life. But the scrutiny doesn’t end there, not even close! In fact, as soon as you so much as voice the idea of never having children you will be bombarded with people undermining your ability to make decisions for yourself with the claim that “you’ll change your mind one day, just you wait and see”.

Thankfully, I’m self-aware enough to know that people who make statements such as this are simply self-absorbed individuals who are trying to force their own beliefs onto me. Not wanting to have kids is not a selfish impulsive decision that I made as a careless teenager; it is something that I’ve carefully considered for years now without having the slightest waiver in my decision. For me, this means I have no desire to have my own biological children; however, in the event that I decide to have children in the future, I will adopt children who are in need of a loving home. While others may feel the need to have their own biological child, I see a need for thousands of children to find loving homes so I would much rather adopt one of these children as opposed to having my own. So while I am quite certain that I do not want to have children at all, I do have a backup plan in the event that I change my mind in ten years. People change, so it is entirely possible that one day I will want to raise a family, but as of right now I have absolutely no desire to raise any children unless they are pugs. Because I am just as certain about the fact that I will one day have a fur-baby as I am about the fact that I do not want a human baby.

So, without further ado, here is a list of reasons why it is 100% completely okay to not want to have children!!

Freedom to live the life that you want to live

A life without children is a life without nearly as many things to tie you down to one way of life. Maybe you want to travel the world or dedicate your life to your career. Some people might claim that this is a selfish reason to not have children, but if you’re only having kids to not seem selfish then you’re having kids for the wrong reasons. You should have kids because YOU want to, not because you’re afraid that others will call your selfish. If having children does not fit into the lifestyle that you want for yourself, then don’t have kids. And don’t feel as though you have to justify that decision to the judgmental dictators in your life.

No resentment

While some people who have children despite not wanting children will grow to love parenthood, others will grow to resent their lifestyle and –in some cases–even the children. Having kids that you don’t want can often be unfair to the child in the situation because the parent may subconsciously (or even consciously) resent the child for all of the things that they can no longer do as a result of their parental obligations. As awful as this sounds, it can and often does happen. Unfortunately, this can cause a distance between parent and child which would not exist in a relationship between a parent who deeply wanted children. So is it really selfish to not have children if you feel as though you would not be able to provide the love and support that every child deserves? I think not.

Independence

If you are someone like me, perhaps the idea of independence is important to you. You can make your own decisions for yourself without having to take into account how your actions will impact your offspring. Again, to some this may seem selfish but in actuality there is nothing wrong with wanting to live an independent lifestyle.

Finances

This one is a bit self-explanatory: kids are expensive. Therefore, not having kids saves you money. In my case, I can redirect this money for other purposes like fulfilling my desire to open a non-profit organization dedicated to providing mental health services to people who would not otherwise be able to afford treatment.

It is your body; you have the right to make your own reproductive decisions

At the end of the day, if you are a woman and you do not want to have children, then don’t have children! It’s your body and you have the right to whatever you want with it. Choosing not to have children is not selfish; nor is the decision to have children selfless.

Nobody else can live your life for you, so don’t feel as though you need to justify your decision to remain childless to anyone who will judge you for the decision. There is absolutely nothing wrong with not having kids and anyone who suggests otherwise needs to mind their own metaphorical beeswax.

Thanks for reading!

Ayla

Living alone vs. living with roommates in university

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As September approaches I am not only anticipating the start of a new school year, but also the start of a new living arrangement: I will be living completely alone for the first time. For the past two years I’ve lived with 1-2 roommates and I think it’s safe to say that I’ve learned a few things along the way.

First of all, living with a friend can be the death of the friendship. When you live with a friend, he or she might feel more entitled to cross boundaries than a roommate who you have no established relationship with. In my case, this meant that my roommate would regularly take my belongings without returning them to me and I would constantly have to chase her down to find my possessions when I needed them. This got extremely annoying and I ended up resenting her for it. Furthermore, living with a friend can mean that your roommate might not feel as obligated to pick up after him or herself because he or she might expect more leniency from living with a friend. While this may be true for the honeymoon phase, it gets annoying after a while which can cause added tension. Personally, I am hesitant to ever live with a close friend again following my current living arrangement.

With that being said, there are also downsides to living with a stranger. For starters, you don’t know the person well so you might not feel comfortable asking them to clean up their dishes or pick up after themselves. Additionally, you don’t know what their personality is like so you might end up clashing with each other. For example, in my previous apartment my roommates were both very social and liked to have large groups of guests over. I, on the other hand, am an introvert and I absolutely hate parties and large gatherings. Needless to say, the combination did not mix well and I spent most of my time in that apartment disliking my roommates.

In my experience, living with just one other individual lead to more conflict than living with two other people. Granted, in my current living arrangement I share a bedroom with my roommate whereas in my last apartment I had my own room. However, I believe that living with just one other person put a lot of strain on the relationship because there was never a third neutral party to help mediate conflicts. Living in a group of three meant that whenever there was a conflict we would have a roommate meeting to work things out. However, when living with just one roommate it was much more difficult to resolve conflict and disagreements were often much more heated.

So what did I learn? NEVER EVER SHARE A ROOM WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND. Never. It will ruin the friendship. Sharing an apartment is one thing; sharing a room is a totally separate level of living arrangement and it really is it’s own sort of mental torture.

Which leads me to my next point: living alone. While my relationship with my current roommate has drastically improved in the past few months, I am still relieved that she is moving out. I find myself feeling annoyed whenever we are home at the same time because it feels as though she is invading my space. So while it will cost me more money in rent now that she is moving out, part of me is still really happy that she is moving home to live with her parents after finishing university.

With that being said, I still have my reservations about living by myself. Won’t I be lonely living on my own? Who will I talk to? Who will help me if I’m having a bad day? Realistically though, my current roommate and I hardly speak to each other so she certainly does not help me when I’m having a bad day and if anything she makes me feel more lonely. Therefore, my fears are a bit nonsensical at the moment. While I don’t doubt that there will be moments when I’m lonely, I think living on my own will be the best thing for me, especially since I’m starting grad school in a few weeks. It will be good to alleviate the stress of roommate conflict and I think this will actually help me focus better on school than I would be able to if I was still having to share my room with someone who does not respect my space or my need for a quiet study space.

The moral of the story? If you find yourself constantly having conflicts with roommates and feeling miserable with your living arrangement, maybe it’s time to consider getting your own place. Having a space that is entirely your own may come with added responsibility, but it could also make a tremendous impact on your happiness and overall wellbeing. So why not give it a shot? I’ll be sure to make an updated post about my experience living alone once I’ve got some feedback about the experience!

Thanks for reading!

Ayla

 

 

5 Tips for Getting Grad School Ready (when you have a mental health condition)

It’s hard to believe that in less than one month I will be a graduate student. I’ve waited a year and a half to make this dream come true and now it’s finally here. Am I excited? Sure. But if I had to pick one word to describe how I’m feeling right now, I would say “terrified” is a better descriptor.

A few months ago I visited one of my undergraduate professors who wrote a letter of reference for admission into my graduate school program. While I was visiting she told me “if something both excites and terrifies you, you must do it”. Looking back on this conversation, I realize just how true these words of wisdom really are. When it comes to pursuing grad school, I know that I am not just pursuing a higher education; I am chasing my dream. Getting my master’s degree is the next big step that I have to take to become a mental health therapist. Recovery is another (although that has been an ongoing battle for the past few years…)

So, despite my fears and the incessant worried thoughts in the forefront of my mind, I know that I will push through the difficulty of this transition to make my dreams a reality. So without further ado, here are some of the ways that I’ve been getting grad school ready while struggling with anxiety and depression:

Plan ahead

If there is one thing that I know to be an effective way to deal with anxiety, it’s planning. Plan your schedule out ahead of time; get to know when your classes are, when you’ll be working, and when you’ll be able to have some free time. Also, plan your budget and finances so you’ll know what to expect in terms of cost, income, and any revenue or debt that you might incur.

Backpack with school suppliesPurchase your school supplies

If you want to feel ready for grad school, what better way is there than to actually get ready for grad school? Last week I went out to my local department store and picked up some composition notebooks to get myself ready for classes. I already have a stockpile of other necessary stationary, but if you don’t already have some then it would be a good idea to also stock up on pens, paper, sticky-notes, and a good quality backpack!

clean-up-grocery-cart-rules-healthier-shopping-ftrStock up on non-perishables

During my undergraduate degree, I often struggled to find time to go and buy groceries which meant that my cupboards were looking a little scarce towards the end of the semesters. In preparation for the inevitability of my hectic school schedule returning, I decided to go out and stock up on food products such as pasta, cereal, drinks, and other groceries to ensure that I’ve got enough supplies to last me for a while. If you’re going to be living in a dorm, you can probably skip this step, but if you’re going to be living off-campus and preparing your own meals then I highly recommend stocking up!

Make a list of reasons to keep going when the going gets tough

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety or depression, then chances are that you understand just how hard it can be to stay on track and keep going when you’re feeling your worst. As a preventative measure, I’ve written myself letters and enclosed them in envelopes labelled “for when you’re feeling sad” and “for when you feel like giving up” to remind my future self why she is going through the stress of grad school in the first place and to reinforce the goals that she is working towards. Sometimes it can be helpful to remind yourself that the struggle of the present moment won’t last forever and writing a letter to your future self can be a great way to do that.

talkingEstablish a support system

If you know that you’re going to have a hard time adjusting to the first few weeks or months of grad school, let someone who cares about you know that you are concerned. Talk to people about your struggles and let them know that you might need some extra support. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help when you need it and sometimes having someone to call for a quick pep-talk is all you need to get yourself out of a rut. Some people you might consider talking to could be a parent, sibling, close friend, or therapist.

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I know that major life transitions can be really stressful and they can often have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if you’re already struggling. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the way you are feeling will not last forever and there are things that you can do to make the transition to grad school easier. I hope these tips are useful for you and be sure to let me know if there are any other tips and tricks that you have for coping with transitional phases of life such as starting university or heading off to grad school.

Good luck in the new school year to all of my fellow students out there!

xo
Ayla

 

 

 

Lunette cup: Who says periods have to be a pain?

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Have you heard of menstrual cups? The unfortunate reality is that most of the females who I know that are old enough to menstruate are not aware of menstrual cups and often those who know about them are misguided by common misconceptions. As a result, I’ve decided to team up with Lunette to bring my readers accurate information about menstrual cups and all of the benefits that come along with them!

For those of you who may not know, menstrual cups are small, flexible silicone cups which can be inserted into the body in order to collect menstrual fluid. Unlike tampons and pads, menstrual cups collect the fluid rather than absorbing it which makes the cup a reusable and much safer option for women and girls alike. Furthermore, because the Lunette cup is made of medical-grade silicone and does not contain harsh chemicals like tampons do, there is no risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) which can be a life-threatening condition.

Why use a menstrual cup?

Menstrual cups are safe, reusable, and convenient alternatives to tampons and pads. There is no risk of developing toxic shock syndrome and because the Lunette cup is reusable, you will save hundreds of dollars that would otherwise be spent on disposable products. Furthermore, the reusable nature of the product means that it is better for the environment because it eliminates the need for disposable pads and tampons which end up in landfills, lakes, and oceans. Not to mention the fact that you can use a Lunette cup for up to 12 hours which means you can empty it in the morning and be leak-free for your whole day while you’re at work, school, or on the go! Just be sure that you’re aware of how heavy your period is because you may need to empty the cup more often on heavier days.

Lunette Cup vs. Diva Cup: Which is better?

Personally, while I have more experience with the Diva Cup, the Lunette Cup wins this competition hands down. I wanted to be sure that I was completely comfortable with using the Lunette cup before writing this review to ensure that my opinions are accurate, but I feel as though I got the hang of it relatively quickly so I’m writing this after only one cycle of use.

In terms of ease of use, I found the Lunette Cup much easier to get the hang of. Personally, I would say that the Lunette Cup would be a much better alternative if you are new to using menstrual cups simply because it is so much more comfortable than the Diva Cup and much easier to insert. While both cups are made of medical grade silicone, I find the Lunette Cup to be much more flexible which makes it a lot easier to fold for easy insertion.

Aesthetically speaking, the Lunette Cup comes in a variety of colours including yellow, purple, blue, coral, and clear. The Diva Cup, on the other hand, only comes in clear. While this may not be a deal breaker, it can make a difference in the appearance of stains on the cup over time. In my experience, the clear Diva Cup stains over time. While I have not used the Lunette Cup long enough to accurately judge whether or not the coloured cups retain their original colour better, I am hopeful that stains will at least be a little less noticeable on the coloured Lunette Cup. Of course, this will require proper care and regular cleaning so keep that in mind if you’re planning to get a menstrual cup.

In terms of the capacity of the cups, the Diva Cup does hold slightly more; however, in the grand scheme of things I ended up emptying the Lunette Cup at similar intervals that I would otherwise empty the Diva Cup. Realistically, the cups are intended to be used for up to 12 hours (depending on the flow) so either cup will give you the security to go hours without having to worry about emptying it.

Overall, the most important factor for me when using a menstrual cup is comfort. Personally, I found the Lunette Cup to be more comfortable during insertion, removal, and while wearing it compared to the Diva Cup. If you are a first time user, or you’re looking for a more comfortable option in place of the Diva Cup, I would recommend giving the Lunette Cup a try!

Let me know in the comments below if you decide to try the Lunette Cup or if you’ve already tried it! Also, let me know if you have any questions!

As always, thank you for reading!

xo
Ayla

Note: I received a complementary Lunette Cup in exchange for an honest product review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Don’t forget to live before you die

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Are you someone who lives for the future, anxiously going through each day waiting for something better? I know I am.

Today in a moment of boredom I found myself on a real estate website looking at photos of homes and trying to imagine making these spaces my own. I was imagining the day that I would have a stable job and the financial means to become a home owner and finally have the freedom to make a space 100% my own. But would owning a home really make me happier? Would it really be that fulfilling? Because now that I think about it, by the time I finally do own my own home I’ll probably be too focused on the next step or the next goal to appreciate the excitement that comes with owning my first home.

Another example of this is my education. In high school I couldn’t wait to finish university. In university I couldn’t wait to start my first adult job. When I secured my first adult job I couldn’t wait to go back to school to get my master’s degree. Now, before I’ve even officially started grad school I already have a countdown on my cell phone telling me that there are roughly 665 days until I will graduate. It’s like I’m never truly living in the moment because I’m living for the future; but when the future arrives in the present I never embrace it because I’ve already moved on to a new goal. The present is never enough.

While I think it is extremely important to have goals and be motivated in life, I also think that it’s not entirely possible to be happy in the present if you live only for the future. On the other hand, one of the reasons that I think I am so future-oriented is because I am so unhappy in the present that I need to give myself a reason to believe that things will get better. So in this sense, living for the future is a form of escapism.

While escapism can be a much-needed break from reality, it’s not the best long-term solution to a problem. In fact, avoidance is something that I’ve worked on extensively with my therapist so it’s a bit disheartening to realize that I’ve been subconsciously avoiding life despite all of the work that I’ve done to avoid avoidance. *sigh* With that being said, being aware of a problem is the first step in resolving the issue so now that I’ve realized that I’m using my goals for the future as an escape from the present I might be able to notice myself doing it. Conversely, I might be more aware of the things that I’m dissatisfied in the present which will allow me to make changes and hopefully be happier in the present; therefore, eliminating the need to always live in the future.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having dreams and aspirations; just remember not to forget to embrace what you have in the present.

xo
Ayla

 

Bookworm Bloggin’: And the trees crept in by Dawn Kurtagich

28449150Synopsis

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the “blood manor” is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too–the questions that Silla can’t ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that’s appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?

Filled with just as many twists and turns as The Dead House, and with achingly beautiful, chilling language that delivers haunting scenes, AND THE TREES CREPT IN is the perfect follow-up novel for master horror writer Dawn Kurtagich.

Review

AND THE TREES CREPT IN is the very first horror book that I’ve attempted to read and I have to say that I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to creepy/scary movies so it should be no surprise that this book absolutely terrified me. So if you’re like me and you scare easily, my first piece of advice is to not read this book alone, in the dark, in silence, near ominous looking trees/wooded areas, or just before bed. And now that we’ve got the advice out of the way, lets get into the actual review!

First of all, I want to commend the author for such a vividly descriptive book. In fact, I would argue that this particular element of her writing style is probably one of the major reasons why the book was actually so thoroughly terrifying. I could imagine the scenes in my head so vividly that it was as if I was watching the story unfold before my eyes; I felt immersed in the book and this factor made it that much creepier to read. I found myself needing to listen to a white noise recording in the background to keep me grounded in the real world while reading this book because otherwise it was just way too creepy for me to handle it!

One unique experience that I had while reading this book was this overwhelming desire to know what happens next while simultaneously being too afraid to keep reading. Reading this book became almost frustrating at times because I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen but I was too creeped out to continue reading. The book was a page-turner to say the least but I almost felt as though I had to weigh the pros and cons of continuing at some points because I actually hate the feeling of fear but I still wanted to read the book. In the end, I had to read this book in small bursts throughout the day. I could handle it in smaller doses…just barely.

As a genre, I don’t think I’ll be reading horror again anytime soon, if ever. While I realized that AND THE TREES CREPT IN was going to be a thriller, I don’t think I realized just how intensely terrifying it was going to be until I was laying awake at 3am unable to fall asleep because I was terrified. Evidently, this genre is not for me! However, the book itself is fantastic! If you’re looking for a book that will horrify you and keep you coming back for more, look no further! AND THE TREES CREPT IN will be out in September 2016 so if you’re a horror fanatic, be sure to add this one to your to-read list and pick up a copy. It will be sure to terrify you.

Ayla

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own. 

The importance of ‘Me time’ in university and avoiding burnout

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I’ve written blog posts in the past about me-time and why I think it is so important and necessary for mental health; however, I’ve decided to rekindle this topic in the spirit of the approaching school year.

When it comes to university, students are faced with endless hours of lectures, tutorials, labs, part-time employment, and mountains of readings and assignments. It’s exhausting to say the least! As a result, it’s important to take some time out of your day to relax and unwind. This could be something as simple as listening to music during your morning commute to disconnect from the world around you or spending an hour watching an episode of your favorite TV show. Whatever it is, taking time out of your day to relax is essential to avoiding burnout.

As an introverted individual, I find alone time to be the best way for me to replenish my mental energy (aside from sleep). This may not be the case for you if you are an extroverted individual so keep this in mind when deciding how you should go about treating yourself to me-time.

One of the most common misconceptions that I think people have about me-time is the idea that you have to be completely alone for it to qualify as “me time”. But I don’t think this needs to be the case. On the contrary, I would define me-time as spending time doing things that replenish you and relieve stress. This could mean reading a chapter of a book before bed each night or it could mean going for a coffee with a friend. How you choose to spend your me-time is entirely up to you! What matters is that you’re actually making time for me-time.

As someone who has completed an undergraduate degree, I think I have enough experience in the area of being a student to assert that me-time is absolutely essential to avoiding burnout. In the first few weeks of the semester you are dealing with the stress of transition and change but you may not have much of an actual workload when it comes to assignments which can cause you to let your guard down. Unfortunately, if you’re not making a conscious effort to relax and unwind when the semester is not crazy busy then it will be more difficult to make time for me-time when the assignments start to pile up. Therefore, it is important that you set a routine for me-time at the beginning of the semester and stick with it. This will make me-time become second nature and you will be more likely to stick to your routine breaks when the semester becomes more stressful. In turn, you give yourself more opportunities to relieve stress throughout the semester which can help you avoid burnout and perform better in your classes as a result.

I know that this is obviously easier said than done, but if you plan ahead and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t when it comes to stress relief you will be better able to stay on track and stick to your me-time routine. Remember, nothing is more important than your mental and physical well-being. Make sure that you’re giving yourself opportunities to recuperate and relieve the stress that builds up from school. Your mind and body will be better off in the long run!

Let me know how you spend your me-time. What tips do you have for avoiding university burnout? Let me know in the comments below!

xo
Ayla