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How to Study When You’re Sick


We’ve all been there. Tired, runny nose, sore throat, groggy head, lack of energy, or whatever else that may be ailing you. Its really hard to get studying done when you’re sick. Its hard to even think about wanting to study. But if you’re one of those guilt ridden people who just has to study, here are some tips that can give you at least something of a fix.

If you’re dead or dying: My mother only allowed me to miss school if I was dead or dying. In her eyes this meant that you had to be puking your brains out, or so nauseous you couldn’t stand up and walk straight (and maybe if I was really dying she wouldn’t, who knows!). Anyhow, this is the most difficult state to work with. It’s the “you’re so bad off, you wish you were offed” state. When in this state, kiss anything like srs goodbye. You’ll only hurt your brain trying to read when reading itself would make you feel worse. When in this state, you can also kiss anything drill or higher function off. This would also apply if you’re simply having a hard time using your eyes (like having swollen or pink eyes). So what types can you do?

Try music, tv in the background, a radio statio, ect. For the most part you can just sit there and be pitiful while it does all the work. This may require you to get up a moment and put on some headphones, or maybe you can even pout to Mama and she’ll do it for you. The great thing about this is you can go from passive to proactive whenever you feel you can reach that higher level of brain function with some games.

Name it Game

Ha Ha! Marvel at my ingenious naming of a game! ( /cough ). Ehem, anyhow. When ever you’re feeling up to it there are various games you can try out while listening to things. Try to listen to as many words you can that start with “x” sound. You could also make it into how many words with “x” ending do you hear. です。まして。ます。and so on are really common endings and listing for these types of words can help you start breaking apart what you hear. You could also listen out for words you know, or have heard before during your immersion. Its a really simple way to just lay back and enjoy your immersion without having to bust a sweat when you’re not feeling well. This can also extend to items in your room. Name some objects, if you don’t know what any of them are, tuck that away in your brain and look it up when you’re able to read without the world spinning.

Imaginary Japanese People Love Me

If you’re advanced enough, or even if you wanted to use very basic Japanese with some grunting, then you can play another really easy going game. Try not to think too hard either. But imagine some Japanese hottie (male or female depending on what you want, or even a talking fuzzy cat thing! :D ) leaning over you, taking care of you, and pretend to talk to them. Imagine questions they’d ask, or visa versa. Do you know how to tell them you’re feeling ill in Japanese? Aha! If you don’t, then tuck that away for later on. Its important that if you plan to go to Japan, you might wanna know how to tell the doctor what you’re exactly feeling. You don’t wanna walk away with foot ointment when you need stitches!

I Ain’t Dying, but I Sure Don’t Feel Like Trying:

You can probably figure out from now I am from the south. :D Whenever you’re in that in between state where you can’t bring your brain to think clearly as well when you’re 100%, or you’re lacking energy to do much, or maybe you’re just sneezing out of your mind in frustration and trying to write kanji down is trying to draw circles with an Etch A Sketch, really hard (unless you’re an Etch A Sketch god like George!). Chances are you can play the first two types of games discussed, but  you can normally take it further, like looking things up that you might not know for fun. Don’t look up what you really don’t care about and don’t worry about remembering it if you don’t want to. When you’re sick, obligation just makes you want to do it far, far less. Really try to stick to FUN ONLY activities, otherwise you might make studying after you get better seem worse off than it really is anyways.

You’re a Frumpy Grumpy

Chances are you don’t want to bothered much, so lay off stressful conversations with real Japanese speakers, unless they totally can handle muffled sick sounding gibbering that wont stress you out. If they go “huh?” “what?” or the likes more than a few times, then I’d probably just hold off for then. Chatting online can still be stressful, but if you’re feeling up to it, then why not? You can try to turn that Frown Upside Down though with video games. Get something that’s fun, easy, simple, and can be paused/stopped at any time. This isn’t time to bust out your long time play RPG game but rather something cute and simple like this spot the difference game, or ぽろろんっ!ドコモダケDS. You don’t have to know a lot of Japanese to get by in these games, so you can do more enjoying while still getting some immersion in there.

SRS While Sick :(

If you’re one of those people who must do the srs, lives for the srs, and it is fun, then by all means do it. I tend to find I drift about 5 or 10 cards though, and my times in answering is a lot more sluggish. Its okay if you’re lagging, its okay if you completely miss. When you’re sick, it just happens that way it seems, even with things you know you knew. So it you want to chalk it up to sick, pass the card. Don’t be hard on yourself at this point and time. Passing it when you felt you knew it even though your brain didn’t pull it up isn’t going to hurt you anyways. It’ll pop up again soon enough again. I don’t recommend adding to your SRS while sick. I forget which studies I read, but they say that trying to learn knew stuff when sick just doesn’t work out well. You don’t want to force yourself if you’re truly feeling bad.

My Head Is Going to POP!

If you’re like my older sister and you suffer from migraines, wow, I feel sorry for you right there. Luckily, I don’t get them, so my advice here follows along what my sister tells me its like. You don’t want music, noise, no light, no nothing. Void feels just about right. Well, with nothing to do in that void but be in pain, why not use the brain? She never told me her brain stopped working, and distracting it might help you cope with some of that pain. You can play the pretend conversation game, just don’t talk aloud, since that’ll probably just hurt your head, instead keep it inside like you’re a mental person. You could even pretend to see objects and name them. Just name what you know, don’t try to be creative, don’t try to strain the brain and cause more pain. ooooh I can’t believe i just did that. Nerd rhyming moment there.

Speaking of Rhymes!

Just let Japanese flow over and through you in whatever way brings no pain, in fact, some people have told me they recite nursery rhymes slowly over and over in their head to cope with the pain. If that is your case, go learn those now! They’re so easy, so you can be prepared when the time comes. There are lots of them, so just do some searching around on google and youtube and you’ll be loaded down with more than you can handle!

I’m In Pain and It’s Not My Brain!

If your illness just happens to be physical pain, this can sometimes distract the brain enough to cause some problems. Whether it be a broken leg or Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, there can be some major issues. If you’ve lost the use of your hands, there are plenty of things you can do still. Standard immersion is still a go, but if you wanna really get to studying but the pain seems to get in your way, try taking a relaxing bath while doing the following:

Mental Play

I will touch on the subject of Mental Play a lot more in my very next article because this is so very important in life. I’ve been mental playing since I was old enough to establish thoughts in my head, and though I didn’t know it was called something, it lent  me the ability to do many things seemingly quicker than those around me. So in short, Mental Play for language learning is simply imagining using the language without the actual using it. I know that seems odd, but here’s a rundown example of a person who can’t write because of their pain and wants to practice some kanji.

You start out by imagining the kanji you want to write out in your head, its overall shape in full. In your mind imagine you’re grabbing a pen/pencil and about to write it out below/beside the one you’re already imagining. Feel the pen in your hand, how it always feels, (is the casing soft/hard/short/long?), and begin to draw it in your mind. Even think about the pressure you apply to the paper when you do it. After every step, admire your beautiful kanji and think about images that relate to it. You could think about a campfire if you’re doing the 火 kanji, whatever fancy that comes to you. Don’t think about the English, but if you’re doing Heisig then thinking about the keyword could be there for a moment just to help you with his method. You could even think about each of the separate elements/radicals, however you’d like. Once you’re satisfied in your mind that you’ve written the most beautiful looking kanji in the world, move on to your next one.

I know it may sound really looney, but Mental Play makes a big difference, and you don’t have to worry about hurting yourself if you’re in some serious pain. You may not be able to sit at your desk if your back is hurting, so you can just print out some kanji on a paper (or look at your poster) and just pick and choose at random what you want to imagine writing. I guarantee that your ability to write them will improve much greater when you do this, even over writing normally, if you do it thoroughly.

You can use Mental Play for all sorts of things. You can imagine hearing people speak, and speaking back at them, reading and writing personal notes, ect. There really isn’t a limit.

I hope that I’ve given you some good ideas to use when you’re down for count. I try my best to do at least a little something when I’m feeling sick. I am recovering actually as I type this. I had a head cold over the last two/three days that really put a stick in my studying, but I feel good that I didn’t give up trying to do at least a little something here and there to keep connected to Japanese. Good Luck, and Feel Better if you’re ill too!

And you don’t have to be sick to do these games either!

Mikoto Neko

The Ring leader of multiple projects who is studying japanese and raising a family! Who needs time for sleep?

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