By Shelby Otto
As April turns to May and rain turns to sun, most people are looking forward to afternoons spent outside, relaxing in the grass and absorbing the vitamin D they’ve missed out on all winter. However, here at KU, this is currently not the case for most students.
From research papers to presentations, exams and portfolios, we have all been trapped in this cage of seemingly endless due dates, submitting one assignment, only to be followed by half a dozen or so more. Let’s not forget about the daily homework assignments we are still working at completing up through the beginning of finals week itself in addition to those last assignments among other important deadlines and meetings.
Coming from the person who’s been known to constantly overbook, overextend, overthink and overstress, I wanted to provide you with some self-care reminders that will hopefully keep you in a more positive frame of mind in approaching the last days of the semester.
- One of the most important things you can do as a student right now is to remember that stepping away from your work is completely okay. I find myself spending hours on end, eyes glued to a computer, beating back a growing migraine and often forgetting to eat.
Even if you take a break to do the dishes, put laundry away or water your plants, what have you, mental breaks are crucial for your own mental wellbeing. In taking time to do mindless tasks, you give your brain a rest period to rejuvenate, unwind and (often) come back to your work with even better-developed ideas.
In writing this article, I had actually been in a meeting with my advisor, Dr. Daniel Haxall. The following three points are a few tips he provided for students exhausting themselves in trying to hit deadlines:
- “Take a walk,” he said. With the way the weather’s been lately, going outside is one way to improve your mood and ambition. Taking time to absorb the sun often boosts my own levels of positivity and I find myself more ambitious after time spent in the fresh air.
- Haxall is also notorious for being a coffee addict, so one of the more shocking tips he shared with me was to “avoid too much caffeine after a sleepless night.” While many of us depend on coffee of some kind to get us through long nights at the library or to wake us up before 8 a.m. classes, the caffeine only helps for a little while before you ultimately crash.
Another thing to consider here is to not become overly dependent on snacks and protein bars to get through the day. While they are definitely helpful when your stomach starts to grumble in the middle of class, do not substitute entire meals with granola bars or fruit cups. I found myself doing that a lot this semester and it only helps in easing the hunger pains briefly until you begin to develop day long migraines. Make time to eat. I cannot stress that enough.
- One final point Haxall brought up is “the power of the power nap.” He admitted to me that sometimes he even reaches points of exhaustion and will head home to take a quick nap and re-energize before heading back to the office.
However, this isn’t to say that power naps work for everyone. If they do, great; if not, don’t feel guilty about taking time to rest for an hour or two. I do this a lot, increasingly so as the end of the semester approaches, because I physically have a hard time keeping my eyes open. And honestly, what’s the point of doing your work if none of it is coherent due to fatigue anyway? Rest, restart and create quality work.
One other thing I want to point to is the danger that comes along with trapping yourself in your room alone, chained to your work and sitting in silence. And this comes from experience; I want to highlight here the importance of friends and companions in the coming week.
- The worst thing you could do at this point in the semester is completely isolate yourself from anyone who might be willing to listen and talk you back down. I do this a lot when I’m stressed, and it often causes me to slide into a depressive state, and I find myself sleeping to avoid either dealing with stress or doing my work entirely.
This doesn’t just apply to your friends either. Reach out to your professors if you find yourself struggling. They are aware of the deadlines you are trying to meet, and if you are having issues meeting certain deadlines, don’t be afraid to approach them. They are here to guide you, and they realize that students handle this kind of time crunch differently. Go out and be social. The more time you spend alone, the more time you have to sit and worry and stress about things that haven’t even happened yet.
I know there are numerous self-care tips across platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, but I wanted to include these experiences here because I am speaking to you as someone who knows exactly what you are going through, as we are all going through it at the same time. Do well and take care.