by Oscar Francis

You probably know that getting out and doing things is the best fix for doom scrolling and general lifestyle stress, but did you know it can help you with your academic work too? Setting aside time for focused and novel recreation will improve your mental health, as well as give you a chance to learn new skills. Here are a few top tips to ease your exam stress without breaking the bank.

1) Cycling
Cycling does not need to be an expensive pursuit, nor does it need to involve lycra. Cheap second-hand bikes come up fairly regularly on TradeMe and Facebook Marketplace. There’s also the friendly folks at The Crooked Spoke who will help you get a two wheeler sorted and/or repaired (check them out on Facebook). For rides, try (in ascending levels of difficulty): The West Harbour Path, a trip to Saint Clair, The Forester Park BMX Track, Ross Creek or Nicol’s Creek MTB Track, Bethunes Gully Reserve, and Signal Hill Reserve.

2) Unipol
Unipol’s range of sporting equipment is crazy good. It’s easy and inexpensive to hire out everything from camping packs to surfboards. You can also get a whole array of more straightforward sports stuff like frisbees and rugby balls, and if there’s a gale howling outside you can book a court to play inside with some friends.

3) Board Games
“But i’m not into sports” I can hear you say, and that’s fine — I’ve got you. Try board games. Games like Monopoly and Cluedo rightfully deserve their reputations as nadairs of fun, but there are a whole lot more complex, interesting and enjoyable games out there for you to have a crack at. Try Settlers of Catan, Space Hulk, or something more complex and immersive like D&D (it’s cooler than you think). Facebook is your best bet if you want to find a pre-existing group to join, but you could also look at the Clubs and Socs list, which brings us to… 

4) Joining  a Club
There’s a stack of clubs to join in with, so go ahead and make the most of your time at Otago Uni. Take a look and get involved with the ones that catch your interest. Try showing up to a bunch just to see what they’re like and stick with the one(s) that you vibe with the most — there’s something for everyone. You’ll get out what you put in: Like people say, practise makes perfect, and 96% of success is showing up.

5) Make a Film
Making a film, especially if you get a few friends together, is a great way to flex your creative muscles and bust uni stress at the same time. Fortunately, the entry bar to film-making has dropped to the price of a smartphone and an internet connection in recent years — and you probably have those two things already! You can upload your creations to TikTok, YouTube or Instagram. You’ll feel great when you see your creations getting better and better over time and engaging more of an audience. Experiment with lighting, scripting, camera movement, and costumes. If you’re stuck for an idea to get you started, bust out the felt pens and have a brainstorm. Keep in mind the classic writing workshop 101 tip: Write about what you know.


7) Art Gallery
Taking some time out to visit the art gallery can be a really enlightening way to reset your mood, especially if you’re not a regular art-person. Galleries tend to be calm, meditative spaces where you can go at your own pace. Try it out and don’t be surprised if you come away with a new perspective on that flatmate drama or that essay stress that’s been crowding out your headspace.

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