With midterms in full swing, it’s only natural for stress levels to be skyrocketing. Corona cases are up, temperatures are down, the days of studying are getting longer and longer, and no one actually knows what’s going to happen to the nights out at plaza or sunsets on the hills. So if you already feel like giving up on the semester, know you’re not alone. And so, I’m going to share a few gentle reminders that might help you keep your head up during these uncertain times.
- Know your limits.
Know when you need to stop, sit back, and take a breather. Be attentive to yourself in order to better identify when you can no longer cope or are reaching a breaking point. This will help you prioritize and refocus when the time comes so you can still achieve your goals without suffering through them.
Burnout is a state of emotional physical and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, and it’s very real. Recognizing symptoms of burnout can be a crucial step to preventing it and keeping it from snowballing. Burnout can lead to a loss of meaning in your work and the things you normally enjoy doing, so keep your passions close and watch out for yourself, because a burnout spiral can be hard to surpass.
With everything going on, it’d be no surprise if you feel yourself toeing the line, so just check in often and know when to take a much-needed break. Pushing yourself and striving for more is good, but not when it’s at the expense of your mental and physical health.
- Find a method to the madness.
Whether you organize yourself with lists and schedules or within mounds of chaos only you can hope to understand, finding a system that works for you is what’s important. This can involve finding a good balance for yourself between leisure and work, recognizing which settings are productive for you, and identifying which people either help or hurt your process. It’s not to say you need to avoid people, but knowing when it’s conducive to spend time with them or go out can really help avoid situations that are detrimental to your personal health, especially seeing as we all have different limits and capabilities.
If you have an exceptionally productive week that made you feel good about where you stand, keep those conditions in mind so you can emulate them more often and make them incorporate them into your system. Conversely, if you had a terrible week and aren’t doing your best, take note of the things that contributed to that negativity so you can manage it better in the future. Lastly, try not to leave absolutely everything for the last minute. Inevitably, I’m sure most of us do and will continue to do so. If that’s what works for you then keep to it, but make sure to differentiate between a system that works and one that, though functional, will ultimately hurt you.
- Functionality doesn’t equate health.
Starting where we left off, if you seem to have everything together because your work method is bringing about good results (ig, good grades or managing to balance a million extracurriculars), it doesn’t mean that the system you use is the best for you. It might be doing more harm to yourself than good even if you seem to be succeeding. To understand whether this is the case, take note of your stress levels and if you feel as though you are unnecessarily or overly stressed for something that is manageable it may be time to readjust your workflow. Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be better! Make sure to look at the process as well as the results, because ultimately succeeding in your goals at the expense of your personal health isn’t success at all. Prioritize, but keep a balance.
- Identify your support system.
Find the people and activities that make you happy and surround yourself by them, especially when the going gets tough. This can help avoid burnout and it’s also crucial to have in the case that you do reach such a point.
Upon a lack of a support system, we can seek out and make our own. It can take the shape of finding a new hobby and setting goals for ourselves. Some ideas are to make a list of aspirations and put it somewhere you can always see, a vision board, keep an album on your phone of photos or videos that make you happy, a serotonin boost playlist, etc. Personally, when I’m at my burnout point I find that shutting off my phone and taking time to cook a meal or myself and watch a movie, completely uninterrupted, helps me relax and reset.
Other ideas include doodling, taking a walk in sego, reading a chapter of your favorite book, calling a friend, baking cookies, trying out a fun online challenge (one of the many workout challenges available, Inktober, DP Challenge for photography, makeup challenges, writing prompts etc.), even taking a nap. Instagram and Pinterest are great for ideas like these, though you don’t even have to look that far. Right here on The Stork there’s a lot to find; recipes, creative tutorials, playlists, and a health challenge we’d love you to join us for! Anything that distracts and shifts your focus can be good though.
Having these go-to activities or routines can really help bring us off the ledge when we’re losing our balance. We have to make time and space for them in order to foster a more positive environment for your thoughts.
- The way you feel is valid.
Unfortunately, we can’t all find a readily available support system in our friends or family, or we might struggle to rely on them as one. Sometimes it’s just easier to cope alone, though for others it makes things a million times harder to access help and resources. No matter what the people around us say, however, our feelings always should and do remain valid. Sometimes we lose sight of this when we start comparing ourselves to other people, but all that does is worsen the situation until it’s too much to bear. Don’t let it get to that point just because you think that what you’re going through doesn’t matter. You can’t expect anyone or anything to carry your cross for you, but there’s always something that can help alleviate its weight. You are not a burden. The fact that you’re struggling, no matter what the cause may be, is always significant and important. Always keep this in mind, so you don’t let self-doubt stop you from recognizing your limits and getting help when you need it.
- Everyone struggles, but not everyone’s struggle is the same
It’s important to remember that we’re all human and so, we all have a hard time sometimes. However, it’s also important to differentiate between struggles and coping mechanisms. If you want to get academic about it, which I’m sure most of you don’t, you can think of it as equity vs equality. Under a system of equality, everyone has the same starting line, whereas one of equity ensures we all reach the same finish line. I think it’s important to acknowledge that mental health doesn’t function under equality. None of us have the same starting line and what may be easy for some of us is an odyssey for others. Just because others are having a good go about it doesn’t mean you have to be as well and vice versa. So never feel guilty about your struggles or feelings, because we all have different starting lines and that’s completely fine. What’s important is to use that knowledge to better focus on our own struggles without comparing ourselves to others. This will be conducive to a more productive journey towards achieving personal health and happiness.
- Once it’s done it’s done.
Sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to check your notes and review your answers after the exam has been submitted or to think about that one mistake you made while presenting, I know. This is totally normal, but don’t let it take away from the relief that comes with completion. Relish in the thought that it’s over and, as hard as it may be, know that if you didn’t perform your best you can always strive to do better in the future, but what’s done is done. Rather than closing in on the futility of your mistakes, learn to find comfort in the immutability of completion because, like I said before, worrying only means you suffer twice. This isn’t easy for all of us, but even so, find ways to distract yourself and learn to find peace of mind in the fact that it’s no longer something you can change, hence it’s futile to let it take over your thoughts. Reconsider the things you’ll allow to occupy negative real estate in your life by adopting a new perspective, and you may just find yourself with less to worry about.
- There’s always the end of the world.
I can assure you that it’s almost never as bad as it seems. Sometimes stressing about things excessively only means you suffer twice, especially when it’s something out of your control, as most things tend to be. Take a moment to think back on middle school or high school- how many of the experiences which felt like the end of the world are no more than trivial fragments compared to the vastness of the life you’ve lived, the one you’ve yet to live? In five years, how many more of those life or death panics will be nothing more than bad memories? They may not even be memories at all. Try to recall the absolute worst day of your life. Some bad days will come to mind, but not many of us can pinpoint the absolute worst. Even if our life has been relatively good, one of them has to be the worst, so why is it so hard to pin down? You’d think it’d be easy, no? Well see, I think it’s because the bad days are so small in the grand scheme of things, they become ultimately insignificant. I implore you to find solace in that.
Rather than hopelessness, learn to find comfort in your own futility when put up against the vastness of the universe around us. I’m not telling you to compare your struggles to those of others, but to find solace in the fact that we’re only human. We can’t always control what happens in the world around us, but despite it, we’re resilient enough to get through it. Whatever the issue may be, it’ll never be as big as the end of the world, even if it feels that way. This might help you realize that you can afford to focus on finding happiness for no other reason than for yourself, because you want to. Take it as a sign that it’s okay to be selfish with the things that are good for you and that there musn’t always be some greater purpose to the things you achieve.
There’s always the end of the world, so seek out your happiness and remember to always put things into perspective so they don’t overload you. This may be my personal philosophy, but I find it to be a comforting idea when I’m feeling overwhelmed, so I hope it can be of help to you too. It won’t work for everyone of course, but then, find your comfort philosophy and remind yourself of it when your world starts to feel like it’s coming to an end.
- Be kind to yourself.
At the end of the day, you are your own worst enemy, but also your most devoted ally, so be kind. Learn to differentiate what’s under your control and what you can’t change, and be gentle with yourself, your failures, and your hardships. Being overly harsh with yourself won’t do you any favors. As long as you are doing what you can, sometimes just getting through the day is enough, and things will almost always work out in the end. Happiness is always attainable in some way, shape, or form, no matter how small or temporary. Cling to that, and be sympathetic with yourself.
These may seem like oversimplifications of feelings that are anything but, and that’s absolutely right, but I hope you can take something away from them regardless. I also want to remind you guys of the mental health resources available at IE:
Please make use of them and trust yourself to know what’s best for you despite any stigmas, difficulties, or uncertainties. In the end, none of us are mental health experts, but students struggling to do our best to get by with what we have.
So take care this midterm season, and remember you’re not alone ♡.
P.S. Remember to look out for our upcoming health challenges and content!