Maria-Pia Negro Chin, who writes the "Coming Of Age" column for Catholic News Service, is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo) Maria-Pia Negro Chin, who writes the "Coming Of Age" column for Catholic News Service, is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo)

Every new school year is a chance for a fresh start

Every new school year is a chance for a fresh start. It’s exciting, but as weeks go by, we can fall back into bad habits. There are ways to maintain your drive to succeed despite new (and old) challenges.

Here are some tips for the new academic year:

Prioritize your physical, mental and spiritual health.

• Get enough sleep. Sleeping more than six hours allows for brain development (which occurs until age 25 or 30). A regular sleep schedule also helps you retain knowledge and make healthier decisions.

• Treat your mind and body like you own it for the next 100 years. Don’t compromise time to exercise, eat a healthy meal, meditate and pray.

• Learn how to cope with situations like change or rejection. Learn what resources are available to help you deal with stress and anxiety. Never be afraid to ask for help.

• Get involved in your school community with clubs, sports and volunteering. Get out of your comfort zone and pursue new things. But, remember, overcommitment is not a virtue. Pursue things that both energize and benefit others.

• Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes don’t define you, but you do need to learn from them.

• Focus on the bigger picture. Don’t waste time and energy stressing over the things that won’t matter in five years.

• Care for your soul. (It’s meant to last for eternity!) Receive the sacraments as often as possible and try to have silent time to talk to God. Pray for others, especially those you don’t feel like praying for. They probably need it the most.

Strategize your studying to learn better.

• Write down a list of specific goals. Have an agenda to organize the steps to achieve; learn your courses’ syllabus. Have an uncluttered study area with good lighting and few distractions.

• Ban procrastination. Be proactive, break down a big task into smaller ones, create a schedule and tackle the most challenging assignment first.

• Learn what type of learner you are (auditory, visual or kinesthetic). This will help you to develop study habits that will result in better grades and will transform you into a lifelong learner.

• Try the Pomodoro method for studying. This late 1980s technique consists of working in 25-minute increments, while taking a five-minute break in between to stretch your legs. Every third break is 20 minutes.

• Understand the why of what you are studying; it will make remembering facts easier.

Strengthen positive relationships.

• Be yourself. You’ll get more respect from others by being an individual. Don’t exchange your values for the approval and love of others. (Don’t engage in risky or illegal behavior or hurt others, for example.) It is OK to let go of a friendship or relationship that is turning toxic.

• Branch out from your regular group. Best friends can come from unexpected circumstances.

• Keep in mind that every person deserves to be treated with respect. When in doubt, remember the first two Commandments.

• Stand up for what is right, especially when you need to defend the dignity of others.

• Ignore rumors. If you are tempted to contribute to gossip, ask for the intercession of St. John Berchmans. After struggling with envy, God helped him to always say something nice about everyone.

• Be a critical thinker. And don’t chase what everyone finds “shiny.” Take time to educate yourself about historic and current events, so others don’t sway you with a biased “Cliff Notes” version. Invest time to become the person God wants you to be — the best version of yourself.

Try your best and ask God for guidance this year. One more thing, graduation day will come faster than you think. Enjoy the gift of today.

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