March and mental health

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With one hand I do my biology homework, with the other I eat a chip. Priscilla du Preez via Unsplash

When it all comes crashing down

The University of Regina’s decision to have students return to in-person classes was a stressful time for some. For many, they were just starting to get settled in their classes. Reading week this year occurred too early because classes started much later than originally planned. We are in that part of the semester where things are starting to get real. Assignments are due every week. There are too many papers to write. We have to study for midterms and tests. On top of that, we are still in a pandemic and dealing with the effects it is leaving behind.

One of the biggest impacts has been burnout (especially Zoom burnout). I’m at that state in the semester when I am panicking but don’t have time for a full mental breakdown. For many students, the majority of our breakdowns occur in the library. Sometimes I set an alarm for 10-15 minutes to give myself the time to stress, worry, and cry so I can get it over with. This might seem extremely odd; however, I find that giving myself the time to feel despair gives me clarity, and it allows me to start planning for how I will get things done. When the alarm rings, I snap back to reality and get to work. If I don’t do that, I will spend the entire day rotting my youth away by crying and stressing about all the work that needs to be done to the point where I won’t even do the work because I’ll just be worrying about the work.

We’ve all been there. Instead of doing your assignments, you spend the bulk of the time worrying about said assignments. Sometimes you just sleep it away as if you have nothing due. For others, perhaps you watch a show on Netflix for hours whilst feeling extremely guilty for doing so. It is a universal human experience.

On the last day of reading week, I decided that I should probably start actually using my planner. It took me a few hours to fill in all of the deadlines I have for the months of March and April. By the time I finished, I probably shed a tear or two looking at all the work that is waiting for me. Everyone has their own way to cope with the burnout of the last stretch of the semester. My way is to just get my work done because I have no other choice. I have missed a deadline maybe one or two times since I have started university, and I aim to keep that streak going. I honestly just treat university like a Duolingo streak. You wouldn’t want to lose a language learning streak of 700 days, right? So why break a deadline streak that you’ve held for 3 years?

When it comes to mental health, it’s a very complex matter when university gets involved (EIC note: which is always). Sometimes you feel like there is so much to do that you do not have the time to do the things you love. It is important to take some time off every day, whether it is 20 minutes or an hour, just to do something that you really enjoy. This could range from painting or knitting to watching your favourite show.

I really wish that students remembered that we are still focused on completing our degrees during a global pandemic, and this is something that should be acknowledged and praised. It is a testament of our strength and ability to adapt to the versatile situations that life throws at us. It is very easy to feel as if every day is just the same. It feels like nothing is happening for you. You’re watching your friends finish their degrees and graduate, meanwhile you are stuck in the same place you’ve been for some time. It feels like our progress is small and perhaps not even happening. We should always remember that life happens in stages and seasons. It will never always be the same. The same way the seasons change, our situations will as well. The only thing we can do at this moment is accept where we are in life.

When you accept your current stage, you are simultaneously welcoming the potential for it to change. Many believe that getting a degree is easy, but it is not. It is one of the most difficult things one could ever do, not because the classes are difficult per se, but because it forces us to adult, and adulting is truly the most painful thing to go through. It comes with so many growing pains. The pandemic takes adulting from zero to 100. It is important to take care of your mental health. If you need extensions, then email your professor. Most professors are extremely understanding. It is important to do it ahead of time. If professors know that you are otherwise someone who always submits their work on time, they will likely give you grace when you need it.

I also cannot stress the importance of not keeping your troubles to yourself. It is important to talk to your friends or family when you need to do so. It’s okay to go to therapy as well – needing help does not mean you are a failure. It’s okay to be unsure of where you’re going in life, or what you want to study. Eventually, you will figure it out. We always do. It’s better to be unsure and accept it instead of studying something you hate and will regret later on.

Taking time off school does not make you lazy. Everyone finishes at their own pace. I thought I would have graduated by now but, unfortunately, I haven’t. I thought I would have bagged a summer internship by now but, once again, I have not. Maybe you thought you’d have a job by now or you’d have graduated. Life never turns out the way you hoped it would, even if you plan for it. It sucks, but c’est la vie.

As the semester gets difficult, I hope every student remembers that we are all just figuring it out and trying to do our best with the limited resources we have, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. The most important thing to do is take care of your mental health. Nourish your heart and your body. You have to take care of yourself in order to face the things university throws at you.

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