YOOHYUN PARK/MULTIMEDIA COORDINATOR

Viewing reading week strictly as a break or as solely a time for revision can be harmful for students' wellbeing

For Canadian university students, reading week is likely the most anticipated week of the semester. It is standard for most universities to give their students a week off classes and other academic engagements. For the well-being of their students, many universities promote this break as a time to recharge, catch up on missed work or even get ahead in classes.  

This messaging helps to increase the appeal of this weeklong recess. However, some students have a different take on reading week. Come reading week, students may be so burnt out from the first half of the semester, from assignment after assignment, midterm after midterm, they view reading week as a complete break. They use this time to fully relax and refreshen. As I have done this every reading week I have experienced, I would also argue there are many downsides to this approach.  

For some people, this approach can contribute to a sense of overwhelming guilt for not working and simply taking time to relax instead. This kind of guilt is often driven by anxiety, particularly what is known as "time anxiety.” Tim anxiety refers to the feeling of unease created by time passing and believing that it is too late to accomplish certain things.  

Time does not halt while we may take a step back from our studies during the week. In fact, it goes by faster if anything. So it's important to be mindful of the extent to your relaxation as readings will continue to pile up and you will once again fall back into the perpetual cycle of burnout. 

Time does not halt while we may take a step back from our studies during the week. In fact, it goes by faster if anything. So be mindful of the extent to your relaxation as readings will continue to pile up and you will once again fall back into the perpetual cycle of burnout. 

Additionally, for several students, the majority of their midterms fall after the break. With no classes to attend, they may choose to cram for the back-to-back midterms that wait for them the next week. However, this leaves little room to truly recharge and can lead to students feeling even more stressed than they might during their normal schedule.  

As humans, it can be hard for us to find a balance at times. In the short run, we find it much easier to commit to one or another extreme, but this can result in long-term dissatisfaction and, in this case in particular, further burnout. Students must force themselves to find a balance during this period as that is the only way they might genuinely be able to take the opportunity for relaxation that reading week is offers, all while remaining successful in our studies.  

Students must force themselves to find a balance during this period as that is the only way they might genuinely be able to take the opportunity for relaxation that reading week is offers, all while remaining successful in our studies.  

To start developing balance, students could set up a short to do list for yourself every day and resist the urge to pile on more tasks than you can handle. I find that at times I overestimate how much I can get done on a day free of classes. But in reality, I easily get distracted from the tasks at hand and long to do something more relaxing, especially since I have a free day.  

Reading week can set students up for the gruelling two months that follow it, but it is also capable for setting students up for success for the rest of the semester. If we just try to find a school-relaxation balance during the break, we would be able to not only enjoy the break itself, but achieve much more throughout the remaining part of the semester.  

C/O Elena Mozhvilo

While the value of a work-life balance may be well known, its individuality is of supreme importance

By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor

Students and professionals alike are often encouraged to find a work-life balance to avoid burnout and maintain motivation in the long run. However, while we typically think of a stereotypical scenario of this balance being achieved, for example working diligently during the week and relaxing for the weekend, approaches are unique to every individual. 

It is important to reconcile this concept of individuality in our approach to a sustainable lifestyle to avoid feeling like an outlier and remain confident in how we spend our days.

For most people, striking a balance between our responsibilities and our hobbies and passions often comes with general recommendations. Taking breaks from sitting at our desks, making sure to exercise and making time for social activities are only a few such suggestions

However, in looking to apply such recommendations to our lives, we may find them difficult and unsuitable for our particular lifestyles. For example, students may have days completely full of class; on such days, they truly do not have time for more leisurely activities. 

Moreover, busy professionals or parents with children may have to lean more towards work than life — or vice versa — depending on what the day brings. Adhering to such standard suggestions may be doing more harm than good, in that not being able to live up to them can be disheartening and deleterious to our confidence levels. 

A more suitable approach to finding balance in our lives should involve reflection on our priorities at a given moment in time. Each individual will likely have varying primary concerns at each stage in life. 

For students, achieving success in school and related endeavours may mean that their idea of “balance” is more focused on work at the moment. For example, one could find solace in running every day, whereas another person could consider that more of a “work” item in their version of balance. 

Such comparisons should be avoided as, ultimately, one needs to focus on what is best for their objectives and interests over what they feel society expects of them. 

One must also understand the dynamic nature of their life in considering work-life balance. Although one could easily balance work and leisure on a given day, the same is not promised for the following day. 

We need to let go of such perfectionist expectations and instead approach each day with a flexible mentality — one that is adaptable and takes into account both a person’s happiness and goals. 

Letting go of such expectations and the need to fit into societal expectations of the perfect work-life balance is the only way to truly foster individuality and maintain motivation to work for what makes one feel most alive. 

There cannot be a uniform approach to such a concept that is deeply personal to our lives. 

Similar to how we all have different approaches to our education, health and professional life, our unique balance should be perceived in a similar, distinct fashion. 

Photos by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

If you’ve ever read Mac Confessions, you’d know that sometimes students can have a tough time balancing their full-time load, but when you add a couple of hours of practice per day, things can get particularly spicy. Not only do student athletes deal with the typical difficulties of being in university, but they also devote large amounts of time and effort to their teams in order to continue performing at high levels. 

However, playing sports at a university level isn’t all work and no play; it has its benefits. Being able to access high-level physical training, connect with teammates and develop a social network early on in university are just some of the perks that come with the lifestyle. Being a part of a university sports team can also develop many life skills, such as understanding commitment, organization, time management and teamwork. 

However, playing sports at a university level isn’t all work and no play; it has its benefits. Being able to access high-level physical training, connect with teammates and develop a social network early on in university are just some of the perks that come with the lifestyle. Being a part of a university sports team can also develop many life skills, such as understanding commitment, organization, time management and teamwork. 

With that being said, no one can understand the student athlete experience more than, well, the athletes themselves. For that reason, we sat down with Holly Connor, a first year student on the women’s water polo team; Andrew Davies, a second year student on the men’s cross country/track team and Brandon Chong, a fourth year student on the men’s baseball team. They shared how their lives are different from regular students, how they deal with their struggles and what they’ve learned from their experiences. 

As a first year student, Holly Connor just went through a major transition from high school to university-level sports. 

“At the very beginning of the year when everything was so new, it was difficult, but once you get into the groove of it, it worked out better,” said Connor.

Despite the time management struggles, Connor does not regret her decision to play university-level water polo, as it has its upsides. 

“Playing the sport itself helped me in so many different ways. I made so many friends through it, some of my best friends. [Waterpolo] helped me in my health because I was initially very concerned about eating habits and my exercise I’d be able to get while transitioning into university, and it really helped me stay on top of it. It was also really nice to have that outlet to go and relax and not have to think about school all the time,” said Connor.

Athletes like Connor love the opportunity to play their sport and work on their craft. They take on the mentality of getting to go to practice, rather than having to go to practice. Practices and games are a release for athletes like her. Not only do they act as breaks, but they help maintain physical health while in the company of teammates and friends. Chong has had a similar experience as Conner. 

“You take your mind off school, you get to hang out with your teammates and play baseball. They always like to have fun, so it gave me a place to take my mind off school. A release for me,” said Chong.

One of the most important parts of a team is of course, its teammates. The bond between the players on the roster is so much deeper than just being on the team together. Relationships that stem from these teams can be extremely helpful for new students coming in. 

“A lot of my teammates are in the same program that I’m in, and all took the same classes, so it was really nice to be able to get together and do some work together,” said Connor. “It worked really well having that unit, who I not only spent all my time in the pool, but also spent a lot of time outside, getting to know them.” 

“A lot of my teammates are in the same program that I’m in, and all took the same classes, so it was really nice to be able to get together and do some work together,” said Connor. “It worked really well having that unit, who I not only spent all my time in the pool, but also spent a lot of time outside, getting to know them.” 

Davies also touched on the academic benefits of having teammates, saying, “There’s definitely some people on that team that are good for advice, who have done it before and are really good role models to follow in school and an athletic sense.” 

Being a second year student, Davies has picked the brains of upper year students, which made his transition much easier. Despite not being in the same program as his teammates, Davies still experienced significant benefits from the mentorship provided by his teammates. They helped him transition into university sports, assisting him with the ins and outs of time management. 

Time management is critical for student athletes.

“We practice three days a week, then weekends are just double headers each day (during the season), so probably about 24 hours a week maybe. Sometimes you just fall behind because it’s a lot of hours. It’s very hard to balance, but it’s doable,” Chong said. 

The support system of coaches and fellow teammates helps ease the struggle of time management. 

“I would say to know your schedule and your workload and everything,” said Chong. “If you need help, talk to someone, a teammate, talk to a coach, say that you’re stressed out about something. Let him know, he’ll understand. Just make sure you have a good scheduling system for yourself.” 

Chong mentioned that being a part of the team significantly improved his leadership and time management, which are critical life-long skills. 

The busiest time of the year for these athletes, of course, is the regular season. Currently, all three athletes are in the midst of their off-season, but that doesn’t mean they have it easy. The off-season grind can be as strenuous as the regular season.

“Practices are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday,” said Connor. “We have to keep up with our diets, and make sure we are eating enough. The off-season is from mid-December to June, and it is the same practice schedule. However, we are less focused on skills that would apply right away, rather long-term techniques. It’s still the same amount of practicing, so it still affects me in similar ways that it did previously, but now I have better abilities to cope with that. In the summer, we have workout programs that we are supposed to do on our own, where we focus on strength and cardio training.”

According to Davis, when it comes to the off-season for cross country and track, things get a little different. Davies has to deal with longer seasons, competing during the majority of the school year, so training intensity stays up there fall and winter terms, meaning he does not get to slow down and take a break from his heavy schedule. 

“We have both cross country, and track seasons, we are competing almost the whole school year. We train right from the start of the semester, up until near the last few weeks. We have competitions going throughout the year,” Davies said.

All three athletes feel that although student athlete life can be challenging, the positives outweigh the negatives. Being able to make friends through their team, receive advice from upper years and develop life skills are why they would recommend sports to future students. 

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Photos C/O @forkinprogress

Rachel Katz often shares her cooking and baking with other people. After a time, people began to tell her that she should start a food blog. While Katz decided a blog would be too much to handle whilst being a full-time graduate student, she figured Instagram would be a manageable platform. So last summer while she was working one job and had relatively free evenings, she started her food Instagram, Fork in Progress.

On the account, Katz shares photos of the recipes that she’s tried. Unlike many other food accounts, her unfiltered photos project accessibility and make anyone scrolling feel like they could get in their kitchen and make the same meal.

The recipes that Katz tries are not necessarily easy, but she believes basic kitchen confidence can be applied to make more complicated recipes. She looks for recipes with very specific instructions that she can follow along with. She also looks for versatile recipes that she can add her own flavours to. In her captions, she highlights her innovations and provides tips.

One benefit to Instagram for her is the interactivity. It is easy for her followers to ask her questions and provide feedback. The platform also makes it possible for her to share step-by-step videos that break down the recipes into easier steps. This is to prove to people that anyone can learn how to cook delicious dishes.

“I was frustrated with a lot of students… saying ‘oh I have no time to cook’ or ‘I don't like cooking’… [But] food is so important, food is delicious and there's a kind of pride that you get from making your own food that you don't really get from anything else,” Katz said.

Katz understands how difficult balancing food with student life can be. The McMaster grad lived in residence in her first year where the meal plan limited the choice she had over what she ate. In her second year, she shared a six-person student house with a tiny kitchen. In both years, she didn’t feel like she had a fully functional space where she can cook her own meals.

For Katz, this resulted in patterns of disordered eating. In her second year, she committed to recognize these patterns in herself so she can create healthier eating habits. Preparing her own meals has been one tool in repairing Katz’s relationship with food.

In her third year, Katz moved into a two-person apartment with a nice kitchen. In her new kitchen, Katz explored cooking more. Working at the Silhouette also encouraged her as she began to regularly bake for the office. This practice allowed her to receive feedback on her food and grow as a baker.

 

“I don't use words like clean… or like detox, cleanse… [T]here are all of these other food bloggers out there who use those lines and a lot of recipe bloggers who have these crazy extravagant recipes. But there wasn't really anyone to fulfill the student niche for people who wanted to cook actual meals but didn't really know where to start,” Katz explained.

While developing a healthy relationship with food is important to Katz, food is also a tool that she uses in her relationships with others. Cooking is an activity that she likes to do with family and friends. Her food-related memories stretch all the way back to her childhood.

Katz grew up eating a lot of homemade meals. She is inspired by her mother, who is an accomplished home chef and baker. Not only does she adore the chocolate chip cookies that she grew up eating, but she also admires her mother’s diligence. Her mother can spend months trying to perfect a recipe.

 

Now an adult, Katz is making her own food memories, many of which include food she’s made for others. For her, cooking for people is a way of shaping their experiences for the better. By making a caramel corn cake for her partner’s birthday, she was able to make the day more memorable. When she makes her mother’s birthday cake this year, she will make that day more special.

However, as the name of her account indicates, Katz is still growing her skills in the kitchen. She wants her followers to continue learning, experimenting and trying new things.

“[H]aving a name that has associations of things that are not quite perfect, that I'm still learning but it doesn't mean that I don't know anything, I think… that embodies the mentality that I'm hoping I can encourage people to take with food and feeding themselves,” said Katz.

For this reason, Katz is not focused on monetizing Fork in Progress, as she and her followers operate within a student budget, she does not want to promote products that are inaccessible. While she would consider a column in a publication, she believes the account can only remain authentic by staying fairly small.

As long as she’s a student, Katz wants to continue spreading positive messages about food and cooking. She wants Fork in Progress to show students that they can make their own cakes and eat them too.

 

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Graphics by Sukaina Imam

By: Jackie McNeill

When I had friends over as a kid, I would pull my mom aside after a few hours and ask, “When are they going to leave?” It’s not that I wasn’t having fun — I loved seeing my friends, but this time with others never failed to become draining and leave me with a need for some alone time.

While I once thought this desire to be alone was abnormal and unhealthy, as I got older I learned to take advantage of it to promote self-improvement. Left alone with just my thoughts, I’ve had the opportunity to think critically about who I am as a person, what I like about myself and what I want to do better.

Learning about who I was, both outside and inside of my relationships with others, and working to better myself has helped to increase my self-esteem exponentially over years of self-reflection.

I’ve experienced how this increase in self-esteem has aided my relationship with myself, but studies show that it can also benefit the way we interact with others.

Megan McCarthy, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Waterloo, suggests that people with low self-esteem are more likely to stay in unhappy relationships with others, resulting from their resistance to recognize and address problems.

“People with a more negative self-concept often have doubts and anxieties about the extent to which other people care about them,” explained McCarthy.

The self-concept is our idea of self, constructed through a combination of our own beliefs about ourselves and how others respond to us. A negative self-concept, then, can cause someone to assume negative reactions towards them and therefore avoid confrontation or conflict as a defense against these assumptions being actualized.

So, an increase in self-esteem can certainly improve romantic relationships, but those are not the only relationships we experience. Every interaction we have, be it with friends, family, or even our co-workers, can benefit from the practice of self-love and self-care.

Time alone also increases communication with the self through self-awareness. When I spend time alone, my own thoughts, feelings and desires become my priority. This has helped me realize that communicating with myself should remain a priority throughout my life, including when I interact with others, paving the way for honest and open relationships.

In addition, being self-aware has allowed me to be more receptive of others’ thoughts, feelings and desires, which may reflect similar concerns or insecurities that I possess. By reflecting upon the self, we can become more sensitive and considerate towards the people we build relationships with.  

It is important to note that my idea of alone is not one size fits all. Spending time alone can simply mean loneliness for some people, and as a Psychology Today article explains this can lead to anxieties, depression, or reminders of loss and abandonment.

McMaster University’s Prof. Tara Marshall illustrates this idea through the example of a breakup.

After a breakup, people who are more secure in relationships and have higher self-esteem are more likely to desire some time alone,” explained Marshall.

“They may engage in some personal growth-enhancing experiences. People high in anxious attachment, on the other hand, desire to go on the rebound after a breakup,” she added.

Marshall went on to explain that humans are social by nature and we have a need to belong to social groups as our survival has depended on it throughout history. So it is important to balance time spent alone with socialization, just as it’s important to get to know yourself and what will work well for your own self-esteem.

The point of this time spent alone is to improve your feelings about yourself, but also to use this to positively affect your relationships with others. What works for me won’t work for everyone, but maybe by sharing my experience others will venture to learn more about themselves and how they interact with others.

Of course, when trying to self-reflect as a student several issues present themselves. Our days are packed with studying, interactions with peers everywhere on campus, trying to balance friends, a job, finishing that essay and visiting family; our minds never get a break.

So how do you get some quiet time in a busy day? Try the silent study in Mills— it’s a great way to ease yourself into being alone because you’re surrounded by other students, but everyone is focused on their own work. There’s no opportunity for socialization to distract you from yourself.

Sitting still can be difficult, so go for a walk alone in a quiet neighbourhood. No phone calls or music, just reflect on that day or what’s to come and make an effort to think positively.

If these options take too much time, go to bed 20 minutes earlier than usual and let your mind wander while trying some deep breathing. This can help ease stress and relax your mind, leaving it open for reflection.

This time alone allows you to drop what Psychology Today calls your “social guard.” Pay attention to how you behave alone and compare it to how you behave around others, and maybe work to let some of your “alone” self bleed into your public persona.

Whether you crave alone time like me or not, we can all benefit from a bit of self-reflection to better our relationship with ourselves and others. Self-awareness and the resulting higher self-esteem make an impact on the way we interact with others, and can keep our relationships open, honest and healthy.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Graham West

Hard work, toughness and focus are the key elements that have led to Hilary Hanaka’s outstanding success at the university level. After recently achieving the milestone of 1000 career points, Hanaka is looking forward to a season filled with promise.

Hitting 1000 career points is a huge career landmark and it meant a lot to Hanaka, although she stressed the importance the team has had in contributing to her being able to achieve it.

“It’s a pretty big milestone to hit and it means a lot to hit that point,” Hanaka said. “But, of course it’s a team sport overall, so I think I’m more excited to figure out where our team will end up this season…  it's obviously nice to hit that point, but I obviously wouldn’t have gotten to this point without the help of my teammates and my coach.”

http://www.instagram.com/p/BszRnMfBPy4/

It has not always been easy on the path to greatness for Hanaka as there have been challenges with balancing academics and being a varsity athlete.

“There are positives and negatives. Coming into first year, that was when the big adjustment hit,” Hanaka said. “Obviously, it’s a much bigger time commitment being on a varsity team and having classes every single day, practices every day and you’re away on weekends and just making sure you find the right balance to do everything.”

“With that being said, you’re surrounded by an incredible group of girls, coaching staffs,” Hanaka added. “We have so much support through the athletic department, so whenever things were going downhill, you always had someone to pick you back up.”

Hanaka’s experience with the difficulties athletes can face and her expertise on the court are some of the things that make her a great leader. Being there for her teammates on and off the court is instrumental to the success of the team and something that is incredibly important to her as well.

“Off the court is just as important as on the court when it comes to varsity sports,” Hanaka said.

“Being a veteran player, I’ve been around for five years so I’ve been through most of the things that bring you down and that go on. So just being able to be there for the girls is something that I really strive to do.”

“Just knowing that I’ve been in the position of a first-year, second-year, third-year and even a fourth-year player and things aren't always fun and games there’s always going to be those lows,” Hanaka added. "Being able to make sure the girls are aware that I’m always there for them, whether it’s something basketball-related, life-related, school-related, whatever it might be, that just because I’m a leader on the court, doesn’t mean I can’t be the leader off the court. ”

http://www.instagram.com/p/BtYum4ABzqm/

Whenever Hanaka’s career as a player ends, it will most certainly not be the end to her basketball career. When you have a particularly knowledgeable player who is a natural leader, coaching is always on the horizon. It is something Hanaka is interested in, and given her success as a player, seems very possible.

“I would love to be a coach. Growing up I’ve always been surrounded by basketball and it’s been a huge part of my life,” Hanaka said. “Being a player has been incredible, but I think I’m kinda ready to hang up the shoes and move forward. Hopefully down the road, coaching is something that I’ll be put into.”

Always one of the first people in the gym, Hanaka has had an outstanding career so far in the maroon and grey and looks to only improve. The team is one to watch as they continue to play their way to a return to nationals, with their eyes clearly set on taking home gold.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Saadia Shahid

How does a student get good grades? I know the most obvious answer being shouted out is “by studying, of course,” with some sarcastic replies of “watching Netflix” thrown in the mix. But what if I told you both those answers were correct?

A balance of socializing and studying, which can include watching Netflix, is necessary to achieve those highly sought-after grades.

Though our cognitive needs are met by virtue of being university students, it is our need for "love and belongingness" that is present on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Socializing is a basic human need. To become functioning members of the society, we must engage in leisure activities.

Yet, we almost never put time aside to socialize with our friends. Even when we do, studying takes precedence and ends up taking over the time we allocated for socializing.

This is often a result of procrastination. Whether it is procrastinating by scrolling through clickbait articles or watching videos, when we procrastinate, we take away time from both socializing and studying.

Procrastination is also looked down upon so badly. Rarely do we try to understand why the person might be engaging in procrastination. Procrastination is a sign of anxiety.

In my opinion, procrastination is often a hugely unrecognized sign, too. Besides anxiety, procrastinating habits have been linked to depression and low self-esteem.

If you find your friend procrastinating, don’t “leave them alone so they can study”. Study with them. If left alone, they may continue procrastinating for even longer, and worsen their mental health.

Some people do emphasize their preference for studying alone. In that case, make sure they’re okay and continually check on their progress and their mental health. In severe cases of anxiety, they may even lie about it.

As a perfectionist, I speak from experience. My habit of procrastination stemmed from being anxious about the imperfect outcome that might ensue. As a result, I took longer getting started on assignments with the thought that if I didn’t do well, I could justify it by telling myself that I didn’t have enough time.

So far this year, I have been doing better as I have come to terms with the non-existent nature of perfection. This is something creatives struggle with as well. Things like “is this good enough?”, “should I post this now?” and “I want to make this better” are examples of what goes through their minds on a regular basis.

So how do you achieve the grade you’ve been aiming for? Consistency is the answer. Being consistently diligent with your workflow will not just aid in improving your skills, but also get you your coveted grade. Doing well in a course is a long-term goal, and definitely doesn’t occur when you start an assignment a day before its due.

Procrastination also leads to long hours of isolation in the library behind laptop screens or a stack of books, taking away the satisfaction of “love and belongingness”, and according to Maslow, halting an individual’s growth.

So, the next time you find your friend procrastinating, ask them why, take them out to get them relaxed and help them get started on their studying. Mental health is no light issue.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Daanish Kachalia and Ryan Veerasammy

Juggling an academic, social and personal life, it’s no wonder that many students, ourselves included, wish there were more hours in the day. For the past few weeks, we have been committed to maximizing each day — starting with waking up early. Starting our days at 6 a.m. has markedly improved our lives.

Leaving the house before the sun rises invokes a feeling like no other. It is extremely satisfying to succeed in the challenge of waking up early. As a result of our early wake-up time, we found that we were motivated to be more productive as we didn’t want to waste the effort it took to get out of bed.

Even though the initial step of waking up can be difficult, the rewards are invaluable. In order to take that first step, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation were required.

Our intrinsic motivation consisted of researching the effects of waking up early as a student.

Texas University conducted a study where they found that students who classified themselves as “morning people” had a higher grade point average compared to the average student. A different study completed by Harvard University concluded that individuals who wake up early are more proactive and anticipate problems better.

Our extrinsic motivation stemmed from one another. We challenged each other that if we were not awake by 6 a.m., the person that woke up late would have to buy the other a coffee. By creating a competition, we were more motivated to complete the challenge.

One of the largest challenges in waking up early that we both encountered was restraining from pressing the snooze button. To combat this, we kept our alarms away from our beds so we were forced to get up when they went off in the morning.

Before starting this challenge, we both never had the time to eat breakfast. Now, we incorporated this meal into our everyday life. This has contributed towards a healthier lifestyle and an overall improved outlook for the day.

As the days pass, it is becoming easier to wake up earlier in the morning as our bodies are adjusting to this new routine. We have also noticed reduced stress levels as we can take additional time to complete tasks without feeling rushed or pressured.

We encourage the students of McMaster University to take on the challenge of waking up early. From our experience, we can assure that accomplishing this challenge on a continuous basis will undoubtedly affect your life in a positive way!
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