The Struggle of Thriving Amid Stress Culture

I love my college a lot, but not so much the stress culture that comes along with it. It seems that regardless of whether it’s exam season, almost everyone around me is completely stressed out. I see that the campus libraries are full from the minute they open until the minute they close and I often come across people doing work while they’re eating in the dining halls. Since I already have a tendency to stress, I find that this stress culture makes me worry more than I normally would without it. It’s almost as if there is a giant aura of stress that everyone falls into, and it can thus make it seem almost wrong to not stress.

I stressed way more than necessary in high school, so I promised myself that I wouldn’t allow it to happen again in college. In order to accomplish this, I at least do simple daily things such as breathing in deeply, eating three meals a day, and sleeping for eight hours. As time goes on, I notice more and more that this type of self-care is not the norm here; to me, that’s crazy because I know that I’m essentially doing the bare minimum for my physical and mental health. For me to see that there are so many people who don’t do this minimum is astonishing and worrisome.

I know it can be hard to consistently take care of yourself. You have classes, clubs, sports, work, laundry, and everything else that can seem impossible to fit into one day. It might be tempting to skip a meal with the mentality that it’ll only be just this once, or pull an all-nighter and promise it won’t happen again–for a while. But what happens when both keep happening and it becomes a vicious cycle of habit that seems impossible to break out of, especially when so many other people are doing the exact same thing?

The fact that so many people develop unhealthy habits in college makes it feel normal and not out of place. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter if it seems normal, it’s not healthy, and that’s what’s most important. Just because your roommate is pulling a caffeine-fueled all-nighter doesn’t mean you should, too. Just because there are people in Butler Library in the early hours of the morning doesn’t mean that you should be one of them.

Self-care is not selfish. Yes, attaining an amazing education and achieving a high GPA are both important. But do you know what’s more important? You. Your health. This means that you have to prioritize putting yourself first over your education when necessary. You don’t need to have an A in every single class and be on every committee. You don’t have to take that job you don’t really want just because it would look good on your resume. Doing these things becomes habit and then you’re trapped in a vicious cycle. In reality, however, the aforementioned is obviously much easier said than done; it will definitely help to keep in mind that your health is worth prioritizing. Whenever you’re about to do something that might not be a great move for your health, ask yourself: am I prioritizing my health?

Self-care looks different for everyone. For me, it’s a daily skincare regime and twenty minutes of Netflix. For you, it might look like thirty minutes at the gym or a phone call with a family member. Whatever you need to do for your own personal sanity, do; don’t think about what anyone else is doing. If you don’t take care of yourself, the four years of college will fly by because you won’t be living your life - surviving yes, but not thriving; that’d be a shame because college only happens once. Don’t let the stress culture get to you. I know it’s hard, but fighting it will be worth it. Your health and sanity are worth so much more. Besides, what’s the point of getting an amazing education if you’re not enjoying the process? Self love matters and you deserve to be happy.