The mental health crisis that happened on our campus in October has physically disappeared: fall rain washed the messages of hope and love off of our sidewalks and walls, and the number of students coming to the Pit to grieve in the open dwindled. What has not disappeared are the struggles of students on campus as autumn continues marching forward into a looming winter. The darkness that sets in by 5 p.m. and finals on the horizon did little to bring up the spirits on campus; it can be difficult to remember to focus on yourself when so much is happening around you.
This year is my first time living away from home, and the pressure that comes with it is overwhelming. You are told that living at your school is an experience of nonstop fun, but nobody mentions that for the first time, you have to balance friends, academics, and your well-being all at once. Going to classes in person placed me in a new environment, and it felt like I had to learn how to be a real student all over again.
At the beginning of the semester, I felt like I had this balance. I spent my days hunched over my laptop in the library, logging my notes in an aesthetically pleasing way on a planner setup I built before the semester started to inspire me to work. I was beginning to bond with my new suitemates, going out to have meals with them and laughing over shared stories of life before college. I was joining extracurriculars and carving out plans for a busy and successful semester with no hiccups. However, as the semester continued, I began to lose steam. My motivation, built up from a year inside began to crumble.
I felt as though my own expectations let me down. I had less of a desire to study, and my time once spent working for hours on end was now being spent staring bleary-eyed at assignments that all blended together. I wasted hours finding ways to ignore doing the work at hand even though my classes were getting more intense. It was not until I finally sat down and checked in with myself mentally that I realized I was no longer in the right headspace.
I was scared to acknowledge that my on-campus experience was not turning out as perfectly as I imagined. The realization that motivation is something that waxes and wanes does not come easily. All of the hours I spent studying were causing burnout because I was not taking the time to balance my work with rest and relaxation. I had to sit down and reflect on my mental state to come to this realization and begin to take better care of my well-being.
For me, finding ways to feel better meant doing little things. If you think of college as one big rock wall you have to climb over, then you will feel intimidated. But if you think of it as something to take day by day, that is where you will start to succeed. You do not have to be on top of your life; instead, break down your days into manageable chunks. Making time for academics is important, but if you do not allow time to take care of yourself, you will find yourself hitting a wall sooner than you think. Start an exercise regimen, whether that looks like sitting on your floor for a small yoga session or learning how to bench press. Text that person you have not seen in a while and ask them to go to lunch. Take naps in the quad under the sun before it gets too cold. Allow yourself to bask in the little moments that end up becoming the ones we remember most once we graduate.
While there is no easy solution to the mental health crisis that persists on our campus, it is important to remember that although there may not be messages written in chalk for you to gaze at on your walk to class, you are still loved by the people around you. Your feelings, stress, anger and doubt all belong to you and should be acknowledged. While small tips and lifestyle changes can help, do not be afraid to seek out professional help from the university and other support networks. Mental health never ceases to be important, so please remember to take care of yourself throughout the rest of the semester and beyond.
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