It’s the finals countdown

Remember to maintain self care during the most stressful time of year.

The first night back in my apartment after Thanksgiving break, I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned at the thought of returning to a desktop full of unfinished essays, my overbooked Google Calendar and those uncomfortable chairs in the classrooms of GLC. For myself, and many others, Thanksgiving break wasn’t much of a break from school at all. I lugged my backpack (which probably weighs 20-plus pounds) home with me and diligently chipped away at assignment after assignment. I was tempted by the idea of not opening my backpack at all and simply facing the consequences later, but anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I didn’t fall into that mindset. I got it all done, much to my discontent.

        Without a doubt, it is officially the part of the semester that I begrudgingly refer to as “crunch time”. As an English major, this entails multiple lengthy essays requiring a devoted mind for reading, research and more reading. I can’t help but think, though, that this is what I signed up for. I have no right to complain. I chose to go to school, and I chose this major. I enjoy writing papers, and I love reading. That is not the problem here. If finals were literally all that were on my plate right now, I think I’d be able to handle them without much adversity. But I have work, extracurriculars, outside obligations and the list goes on. I don’t need to write everything out for you, because I’m not an anomaly by Hamline’s standards. Hamline students love to be busy. We thrive off of it, most of the time. But then finals season hits and suddenly we are slapped in the face. It feels like everything is happening at once – because it is.

        In the midst of all this, it is easy to go into autopilot. In fact, I felt myself doing this just the other week. During a class discussion, I looked down at my notebook to discover that I had taken detailed notes on something that I didn’t even remember us talking about. As I clicked back into the conversation, I realized that I had no idea where we were, yet I still knew exactly how I was going to structure my paper on the topic. It occurred to me that I knew what was going on, but at the same time I didn’t truly know. I was squeezing certain components out of the course material just enough to gather what I needed for my research or my assignments, but not enough to really absorb what I was learning. It’s scary to find yourself in a situation like that. It made me face the fact that all my mind has been thinking about is school. It’s as if nothing else in life matters.

        Granted, that’s not a bizarre line of thinking for a college student. But it’s not a good one either. Autopilot, in this sense, is not something to be proud of. Because when we process life like that, we forget about ourselves. Self care is something that I talk about a lot, with whoever will listen. Sometimes I think of it in a lighthearted “treat yourself” mentality, while other times I literally stop what I’m doing and take a break. I make a cup of tea, I take a nap, or I go for a walk. Some people may roll their eyes at the thought of any of that being helpful, but that’s the beauty of self care: you get to define it. It can be whatever makes you feel better, helps your productivity level, or just lets you forget your stressors for a while.

        As the much anticipated winter break approaches, these next few weeks become a crucial time for self care. I understand that being a successful student is a priority in college, but it doesn’t have to be the only priority. In order to be successful, you need to recognize when it is time to hit the pause button. There is no shame in taking a study break! There is no shame in buying yourself a fancy hot chocolate from Starbucks! There is no shame in wearing sweats to class so that you’re comfortable! Do what is best for you. Start by defining what is best for you, and don’t say, “What’s best for me is getting straight As.” We all know that grades are important; what some of us have yet to discover is how important it is to allow ourselves to just…be.