It is that time of the semester — crunch time is upon us. Everyone is tired, students and professors alike.
We are almost all some degree of overwhelmed, and for many of us, stress is increasing while time and quality of sleep are decreasing. For many, the compounding effects of impending winter weather are not helping.
These are common problems across the college experience — issues with sleep, mood, energy, and stress are widespread. Among these are the difficulties of developing and maintaining social and romantic relationships, managing short- and long-term finances — from your next meal to your student loans, figuring out your future and how it is impacted by other factors, and balancing schoolwork and grades with, well, everything else.
I would hazard a guess that we talk more in the psychology department about stress and burnout than most other majors. This week I was confronted in two separate classes by my own mismanagement of stress. It is by no means news to me that I am chronically stressed, nor that I am not as good as I should be at taking care of myself and my body. I am a college student — I do not have money or time, I eat and sleep poorly, and I am far busier and overextended than I should be. Classic, right?
Nearly any other student I talk to is in a similar place; whenever we mention these things, everyone nods solemnly or laughs in agreement.
And I am trying to address this stuff: I am going to the gym twice a week, I am going to counseling, I have constant doctor appointments for my broad array of health issues. I also have a long list of things I tell myself I will get better at, whether or not I actually seem to get around to them.
This week in particular, I have been considering how that type of thing does not change. To hear faculty across many fields talk about things they are doing at the last minute or will be turning in late, noting the ways professors are overextended, procrastinating, and triaging their responsibilities, how they openly talk about their issues with depression, I am both encouraged and discouraged.
For one, it helps me recognize that I am less of an utter mess compared to everyone else when I see that the same problems plague people later in life just like they are issues for us now. My parents talk about being bored or not knowing what they want to do in their careers. My professors procrastinate. We are all stressed. That is also scary — I am realizing more and more that if I do not learn to take better care of myself, I will always have trouble with doing so. I believe that goes for all of us.
Something that Kim Brenneman told us in our Introduction to Counseling course this week has been poking at me for the last few days. She quoted a friend who had said that “self-care is not a luxury, it is absolutely a necessity.” I have a social worker friend who has told me for years that “if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.”
Often I hear these things and kind of abashedly nod my head, committing for a while to take better care of myself and swiftly neglecting to do so.
These things do not change unless we decide that we do. While later life may be a little easier in some respects, self-care is an essential part of any healthy life, and one we most often ignore.
What will you do, today or this week, that is good for you? What will you do that makes you happy or gives you rest, that does not serve some other purpose? How will you take care of yourself?