By Sierra Aceto
This is Do You Mind?, a series where I ponder and reflect over many mindfulness practices, what they mean and how to apply them. As the self-care and self-love revolution is on the rise, I hope to make you wonder, do you mind?
Spring break has come and gone. Everyone take a deep breath in, and out.
The second half of the spring semester still looms over students’ minds as they are released from attending classes, but not from the assignments due when they return to campus. For most, spring break has not been free of the typical procrastination and studying that fills the rest of the semester and essentially never provided the opportunity for students to actually take a break.
This consistent battering with stress has many detriments, one of the major ones being burnout. When we are constantly trying to live with and manage excessive stress, we find ourselves functioning subconsciously in “emergency mode” far more often than not — in other words, the worst kind of autopilot where the plane seems to be on the verge of crashing all the time.
It’s all those days where you never have enough energy, but every little thing seems to require more and more of your attention. It’s finally getting something done, but your to-do list never seems to shrink, and you feel buried and suffocated. It’s wondering what you’re doing in your major or job or life because suddenly you don’t like anything you do, like, ever.
Yet, you still go through the steps of each day as mechanically as ever.
Among the relief you hopefully felt as you walked out of your last class before break, you may have also felt the lingering effects of bitterness, despair and resentment from an exhausting and repetitive semester.
This negative state of mind will only make it more difficult to return to classes after the brief week of freedom. Here are a few quick tips to help you recuperate in time for the semester to kick back into full gear.
Be truly out of office (probably sleeping)
Sleep, goddamnit. Your body needs and deserves some guilt-free shut-eye without worrying about impending midnight deadlines or 2 a.m. study sessions for the first time in months.
Although plenty of teachers assign essays or exams due right after break, take at least a full 24 hours with no priorities, no to-do list, no responsibilities. Ideally, take several days. Reducing the high-energy demands that your brain’s been used to can have wondrous effects. Trust me.
Talk, scream, cry, say something
Whoever makes up your support system, they want to be there for you. If you spent break with friends, going home to friends or even just FaceTime-ing friends, I hope you let them know that this semester’s been a struggle and have opened the space for that communication as it continues.
You’d be surprised how often they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about, or at least genuinely want to listen and work through it with you. Let it out. Go on a rant. Ugly cry. Release that toxic BS.
Allow yourself to be sick
Yeah, I said it. Let yourself be sick. Or sad. Or angry. Your body has been running in overdrive for the past couple of months, and just like your brain, it can only go at full speed for so long.
When we force our bodies to function with chronic stress levels for long periods of time, our bodies become more susceptible to illness. Part of this is due to our bodies receiving less attention and care when we’re so focused on working all the time.
It takes energy to be awake and thinking, and sometimes that energy is detracted from other functions. To put it simply, the consequences of our actions will catch up with us, usually when we finally take the pressure off.
So let yourself break down, reset and refuel — kind of like the restart you’d give your computer if it isn’t working quite right. Turning anything off and back on is a practically universal rule to live by.
That said, you genuinely need the reset. Honestly, even resting through something minor, like a head cold, has its benefits. Think blankets, ginger ale, comfort foods, lots of TV, lots of naps. It’s the original self-care package to recovery.
Check back in
Remind yourself of some of those things you could’ve sworn you loved before college repeatedly crushed your spirits. Return to them with a fresh perspective, sans expectations or obligations.
There’s a reason you chose to be where you are and to be doing what you’re doing. Breaks are the perfect time to learn to appreciate all those things again, no matter how little they might seem. Now, you can swing back into those with more ease and intention.
If you still find yourself struggling to take steps to fall back in love with your life, you might just need more time, but you also might want to reconsider. Maybe you didn’t choose these things for yourself in the first place.
At the end of this week, I hope you found yourself a little more refreshed, a little less tense and a little more mindful of all the work your body does to keep you going.
Don’t forget to take some time to appreciate and thank yourself for working so hard, and I hope you keep killing it and finish this semester as resilient as ever.