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I think that I’m like most college students of my generation in that I constantly feel the intense need to overwork and overachieve to feel valuable. That mindset likely etched itself into my subconscious within the twenty years of my education under the American Dream, which glorifies overworking to the point of exhaustion. As a result, it feels impossible to resist, especially when the future seems uncertain. This feeling has been more fierce than ever lately, so I have to constantly remind myself to decompress and take this term one day at a time. Here are some steps I follow when I’m feeling the damaging mental effects of stress:
- Give yourself more credit. This is especially important on those inevitable days when you simply cannot fulfill everything on your to-do list. It is important to remember that times are tough right now and stress is high, so you might not be physically, mentally, or emotionally able to finish every task requested of you. That’s okay. Just being able to keep your head above water at all right now is impressive enough, so try to accept that who you are and what you are doing is more than sufficient.
- Don’t compare yourself, your experiences, or your success to anyone else’s. No one in history is experiencing exactly what you are currently living through, especially with a global pandemic raging on, an election just around the corner, and terrifying weather events that are just recently dying down. Your precise state of being at this moment is unique, so handle it your way. Checking in on the people you care about is important, but try not to let yourself compare your state of being to those around you.
- Face your biggest task first. While this one is easier said than done, it’s foolproof when it comes to staying on top of my responsibilities. Here’s the secret: list everything you feel like needs to be done on any given day, decide which one will take the most energy, and complete it first. Trust me, with your biggest task out of the way, the rest of your work will feel easier.
- Take plenty of breaks. Rest. There is no shame in deciding that you’ve done enough work and taking time for yourself. When you start getting tired, chances are your body is telling you that it needs some of your energy and attention. Usually, the body has ways of manifesting this feeling. For instance, when I get breathtakingly tired, I start laughing uncontrollably for minutes at a time. My advice is to take notice of how your body and brain indicate to you that you’re tired and listen. When you’ve yawned 8 times in the last 15 minutes or become inexplicably angry, perhaps it’s worth it to peel your eyes away from your computer screen for an hour or two to take a nap, eat a snack, take a walk, or meditate.
- Remember that you aren’t doing this alone at all. There are people all around you that do feel at least similar to how you do. Reach out to people like that for validation and help. It will make your journey through this semester feel a little less lonesome. — Isabelle Williams