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Back to Basics: Tips to Start the School Year

By Sandra Santana
Now that we have said goodbye to summer vacation, it’s time to get back into the school year swing. For some students, this is the first time away from home. For others, this is a long awaited return to Mount Ida after virtual learning. No matter how you got to Emma, one thing stays the same: the need for healthy habits.

What does it look like to establish a game-winning strategy at Emma? Director of Counseling Jamie Murray believes it starts with the basics, or the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory of motivation which states that five categories of human needs dictate an individual’s behavior. Maslow's theory presents his hierarchy of needs in a pyramid shape, with basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid and more high-level, intangible needs at the top. A person can only move on to addressing the higher-level needs when their basic needs are adequately fulfilled. The first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the most basic human survival needs. 

How does that apply to an Emma Willard student? In more ways than one. Now that we have transitioned back to in-person learning, we are caught in the hustle and bustle of campus life. While your morning can begin waking up in the dorms, you may need to visit multiple buildings throughout the day. Running around campus to meet your daily academic obligations requires quality fuel to keep you going. Here are a few ways to stay ahead of the game.

Eating balanced meals throughout the day ensures that you have the right gas in the tank to get where you need to be. Get a jump on planning meal time with the weekly schedule from the dining hall in MyEmma and follow the Emma Dining Instagram account for more tasty ideas.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water helps to regulate body temperature, prevent infections, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood. Consider purchasing a reusable water bottle or tumbler from the school store to refill at one of the water distribution stations throughout campus. 

Make wherever you call “home” a comfortable one. Decorations don’t fill up a space, they help create an environment, from fun and whimsical to relaxing and calming. A little homesickness is completely normal when you arrive at school, especially during the first few weeks. Decorate your space with items that bring you happiness and relief, like pictures of family and friends. You will spend a lot of time in your room throughout the year, so choose decor that keeps you cozy as you nestle in to write a paper or grab some shuteye before that big test. 

Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Without enough rest, the brain cannot function properly. This can impair your abilities to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teens (14-17 years) aim to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night. For most adults, at least seven hours of sleep each night is needed for proper cognitive and behavioral functions. An insufficient amount of sleep can lead to serious repercussions. Some studies have shown sleep deprivation leaves people vulnerable to attention lapses, reduced cognition, delayed reactions, and mood shifts. Establish a realistic bedtime and stick to it every night, even on the weekends. You may even consider a “screen ban” on televisions, computers and tablets, cell phones, and other electronic devices in your room to help you wind down. Refrain from caffeine and large meals in the hours leading up to bedtime.

It’s important to remind yourself that you are not alone through all of this change. There are three hundred other students making the same adjustments you are. Making new friends is a great way to keep yourself in good spirits. Research shows that friendships are more important to our psychological welfare than we may think. Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, and prevent loneliness and isolation. Developing close friendships can also have a powerful impact on your physical health. One Swedish study found that, along with physical activity, maintaining a rich network of friends can add significant years to your life.

Don’t forget that there is a network of adults at Emma ready and willing to guide you throughout your journey. By using the resources offered through the health center, all students have access to private 1:1 guidance with Ms. Murray and School Counselor Erica Brockmeyer. You can make appointments through the Schedule an Appointment tile in MyEmma

Finally, remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Adjustment takes time, and you are not expected to know the path to success on your first day. Allow yourself some grace as you navigate your new environment. Check in with family and friends, and reach out to an adult when you need a hand. There will be bumps in the road, but as Ms. Rao mentioned during opening convocation: just keep swimming.
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    • Director of Counseling Jamie Murray and School Counselor Erica Brockmeyer

    • Maslow's hierarchy of needs are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.

    • Health Center Hours

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