With an array of term papers creeping up and those first thoughts of exams seeping into students’ consciousness, it is not unusual to want to sit down, breathe, and forgive your body and mind once in a while.
Personally, I look forward to taking a nap the minute I wake up in the morning. This desire to sleep my problems away becomes even more prominent as my workload builds up.
As I get more stressed, I begin skipping basic human activities, like showering or cooking, because I lose study time. It is at times ridiculous to believe that 20 extra minutes of studying will do me better than taking a shower, but in my mind, a greater mark on a paper is somehow more important than my health.
A common way for students to relieve stress and improve mental health is through the practice of self-care, which can be defined as taking part in activities and actions that can help improve your mental, physical and emotional health.
Lately, I have not been practising self-care, opting instead to stay at the library for a few more hours a day.
When students fall into a state where they feel like they have to put schoolwork above everything else, they can become less focused and efficient when doing work.
Fifth-year biology and psychology student Alaa Ratmi said, “I start to let go of the things that make me feel good,” noting that one of the first things he stops doing for himself when he is stressed is going to the gym. Ratmi explained that this decision actually leaves him feeling worse because he relies on exercise to feel good.
Fourth-year chemistry honours student Emilie Yammine has had similar experiences with skipping out on self-care in favour of doing school work. “It’s put more of a damper on my mental health because I am always in the library working,” she said.
Even though ditching the activities that make us feel good in order to be more productive can actually make us feel worse, university does have a steep learning curve from first to fourth year when it comes to learning how to adapt to large workloads.
In a Facebook message, third-year student Charlotte Trudeau wrote, “In first year I was a lot more careless about deadlines…Today, I [have] learned to manage my time a lot better.” Yammine said that she has learned from first year as well. She figured out what did and did not work by trying different studying methods, and learned to give herself breaks in the midst of exam season, even if she could only spare an hour.
After discussing these stresses with other students, I realize that I am not alone. However, it shouldn’t be calming to know other students are also treating their bodies and minds like trash bins during exam period.
Knowing students understand the importance of self-care but are frustrated to be in a school system that seems to give them little time to practise highlights the importance of being there for each other in any way we can. Exam season can be extremely tough to get through, and it is different for everyone.
Make a list of things that relax you and make you feel better, and make a space in your day – even if it is only ten minutes – to do one of them. Check in with both yourself and your pals throughout the week and express your support, leave the study space if possible, and walk around to get away from a stressful space.
Ultimately, know that in less than a month, the madness will be over, and believe that we will all make it out of this alive because we are all in this together.