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Just like that, it’s ninth week again. It’s technically my seventh ninth week, but I barely even remember having a normal one with a normal life in Lawrence and the world. For me, the last “normal” ninth week was fall 2019. Winter 2020’s ninth week bordered the coming weeks full of shock, bad news and goodbyes, while Spring 2020’s was spent at home. This is my first term back on campus, but even that hasn’t helped much. It’s still ninth week, and it’s usually always rough.
I decided to write an article instead of my usual outdoors column this week because I just feel really burned out. Instead of doing all my final projects, papers and presentations, I have rediscovered “The Vampire Diaries” and have watched a ridiculous number of episodes without much desire to do some work. You might label this behavior some other way and might have a different outlet, but I am sure many of you are feeling like this.
So, what do we do? I think the answer is to stop shaming ourselves. How is this term any easier than having finals when the world started falling apart a year ago? We are still dealing with the pandemic in nearly every aspect of our lives, whether we’re conscious of it or not. Loved ones are still passing away. We still can’t be as present with our grandparents. Vaccine distribution is slow, at least in Wisconsin. We still are dealing with careless super-spreaders and, even at Lawrence, ignorant partiers. Not all people care or believe COVID-19 is real, and it’s concerning. We still have Zoom fatigue. Single-use products and waste have gone way up, only to sit in landfills for life. I really don’t think it’s any easier to focus.
With all these things to worry about, I believe the most important thing to do is to take care of ourselves and cope how we need to cope. Don’t shame yourselves for watching, say, “iCarly” on Netflix or spending hours making a website. Even if you’re hundreds of pages behind on reading and want to relax with your favorite book, don’t shame yourselves. That goes with exercise and journal-writing, too. For the longest time, I thought that I had to spend every second of my day doing schoolwork and that I didn’t have enough time to work out or reflect on my thoughts — but that’s not true. I’ve been trying to do both in some form every day, and it only makes me feel mentally and physically better.
Sure, at some point these coping mechanisms might turn into avoidance behaviors. That’s definitely how I’d describe my “Vampire Diaries” intake. If you start noticing that you’re laying in bed for most of the day, focused on your preferred means of relaxation, you might want to consider pulling back a bit and only using it as a reward for doing a homework assignment. It can be really difficult to stop relaxing and start to do something required and less exciting, but if you’re trying to bury your stress with relaxation, you’ll actually feel much better being productive. That’s something I learned in UNIC 117: Investigating Academic Success: Cognitive and Affective Theories in Practice; you may want to check the class out.
I really do want to emphasize, though, that it’s 100 percent ok to take breaks from your work. Please, don’t shame yourselves for that. Just be mindful of your intake and the potential for avoidance behaviors to arise.
In case you need to hear it, you can do whatever you want to do with your days, and not every day is going to be super perfect. You could spend most of Monday like me, watching TV, but just remember that on Tuesday and Wednesday, you might have a lot more homework on your plate. If you can accept that, then don’t regret Monday. Be proud that you were able to step back from academia for a bit and remember that you’re not going to automatically fail because you took a day off. Your version of your time at Lawrence is not going to be the same as anyone else’s — so stop comparing your work ethic to someone else’s (and also, how do you know what they are doing in a day? You might see them in one place being productive, but they could also go back to their room and never pick up a book!).
However you’re feeling in these last couple weeks of our pandemic anniversary term, know that you are valid — and I personally suggest confiding in a journal, friend, loved one, counselor, academic counselor or faculty member. These times are tough, and just because others might have forgotten that things are not normal now, we are still in a pandemic. Take care of yourselves, and don’t shame yourselves for taking a break every once in a while.