My typical routine after my last Friday class is to come back to my room, ditch my backpack, change into comfy clothes and flop onto my bed. Sometimes, I mindlessly browse the internet, while other times, I watch Netflix or pick up whatever book I’m reading for fun. Come Friday afternoon, I want nothing to do with school; I only want to leave the week behind and relax.
Often, this relaxation period extends all the way into Friday night, and even into the early hours of Saturday morning. After a long week of classes, club meetings and Moodle posts, I just can’t get enough of doing nothing. But then the guilt starts to creep in.
By the time I wake up late Saturday morning and spend a leisurely hour and a half at brunch talking with friends and eating myself into a semi-bloated state, all I can think is that the weekend is already half over. How could I have wasted so much time reading a novel for fun? I should have used my Friday night to get ahead on all the readings I have due in classes this week!
An even more insidious form of guilt befalls me before I even get the chance to press play on the next episode of “Game of Thrones.” With a constantly running list of TV shows and movies to watch, not to mention books to read, I’m stressed out about how I’m going to get the most out of my free time before I even sit down. Which book should I read first? How many episodes should I limit myself to?
Before I know it, I’m making up a schedule for my leisure time so that I can get the most relaxation out of the time I have and get back to school work as soon as possible. At this point, I start to feel like a robot student that must be optimally productive around the clock, even when I’m supposed to be taking a break.
Relaxation is an integral part of self-care, so why do I always feel so guilty for doing it? Part of it seems due to the fact that no matter how hard I work or how much time I spend studying, I still struggle to stay afloat on a sea of emails, meetings and homework assignments.
I know that college isn’t supposed to be easy, but I feel that sometimes the constant onslaught of assignments and my desire to succeed weigh on me so much that it’s all I can think about. I’m left unable to separate myself from my school work and relax without thinking about what work I could be doing instead.
The worst part is that I know I’m not the only one. We Lawrence students constantly cite the academic rigor and high expectations of our curriculum as a major contributor to the unique brand of stress that comes along with being a student here.
All too often, I think that we as students don’t give ourselves the personal time we deserve—a time to sit back and do something you want to do rather than something you have to do. Not only that, but we have trouble letting ourselves relax and actually enjoy it without thinking about all our other stresses and letting self-doubt take over.
What it comes down to is that we must give ourselves permission to take personal time, which sounds simple but, in a community like Lawrence’s, is not always so easy. I think that the Lawrence community needs to encourage each other to take breaks, and work towards supporting a culture of balance and self-care. It’s so easy to get caught up in deadlines and obligations that we forget that it’s perfectly fine to spend a weekday afternoon every once in a while doing anything but homework.
This is especially important as we approach the last two weeks of the term. It’s at this point that student mental health takes a nosedive as we eschew sleep to eke out those last few pages of our final essays and skip meals to study for cumulative exams. Remember that it’s okay not to be perfect, and better to just do your best.
Start practicing better self-care today and take an hour—or two!—for yourself. Whatever it is you do to relax, just go do it, and leave the guilt behind.