The Pressure of Doing Everything All at Once All the Time

I have this unfortunate complex where I feel the need to do absolutely everything that is handed to me. You know those “optional” assignments teachers would give you in high school? Or that bonus question at the end of the exam which you could opt to answer if you had the time? Yeah, in my head, those were never optional tasks, but mandatory assignments I had to complete otherwise I would physically combust into a million atoms and my life would fall apart and sink into a black hole of oblivion––makes perfect sense, right? Wrong. It has taken me 20 years to finally understand that saying “no” is just as, if not more, powerful as saying “yes” to something. In an age of health and wellness trends which control our every move these days, it’s about time that we give ourselves the self-care of saying no. 

It is important to acknowledge heavier associations with this reply, especially in contexts of sexual assault and rape where no means no. Society often tells us that we need to say yes to every opportunity handed our way because you never know where it may lead and the last thing you want is to feel regret about not adding something to your to-do-list for that day. After watching Zoe Zugg’s “Just Say Yes” video which she posted to Youtube in 2013 in response to discussing her history with anxiety and panic attacks, my relationship with saying yes or no changed. As someone who also deals with anxiety, this video had a huge impact on overcoming my fears. I do not want to discredit the power in accepting offers that may scare you because oftentimes these opportunities will only help you grow. That being said, when I entered college I tried to say yes to everything. After an unhappy freshman year when I felt like I had to much time on my hands, I filled my sophomore year with extra classes, clubs, and other extracurriculars in fear that if I didn’t, my homesickness would return. 

 

In some ways this crazy-busy schedule was very empowering; I felt in control of my future and like I was making strides in my academic career. Not to mention, my homesickness did subside and Connecticut College finally felt like home. However, by the end of the year and coming into this semester, I began to experience burnout like never before. I felt as if I was back in high school again, balancing schoolwork with dance classes and applying to colleges. I hadn’t felt this overwhelmed and tired since junior year of high school––I guess junior year in school level can be stressful. With the regular four classes and less activities, I began to have more time for myself while still able to check off all of the tasks on my to-do-list. 

Even though I was feeling a little less overwhelmed with activities, I still found myself saying yes to extracurriculars I was not as passionate about and signing up to write articles that I didn’t really need to write (obviously, though, I wanted to write this article ha ha). Anyway… If I didn’t participate in all of the social gatherings I had originally planned to go to on the weekend, or didn’t start an English essay that for some reason unknown to my more logical side of my brain needed to be started now even though it was due in three weeks, I felt like a complete failure. 

On a particular less packed weekend, my friends and I took a trip to Old Lyme, Connecticut. One of my friends realized that she had been saying yes to every social invitation thrown her way and she needed one weekend to herself. That being said, she did not join us and although I missed her presence at our coffee date, I began to realize that I had been doing the exact same thing. Why do I feel the need to do absolutely everything? If I say no to one thing, or wait a day to start a project, the world will not end. Nonetheless, my brain still tells me that saying no is the easy way out.

As finals season approaches, it is pertinent now more than ever to take stock of your mental health and recognize when you need to take a break, because burnout is real. While you may think that pulling an all nighter makes sense in the moment, it really isn’t all that productive in the grand scheme of things when you factor in sleeping in till the early afternoon the next day, or hibernating in her bedroom all throughout winter break. Even fifteen minutes or less can help you distress and reset your motivation to power through your work. Yet, I sometimes find myself unable to find enough rationale to even take this limited time to myself. Isn’t that sad? 

Everyone tells me that I need to let go of my very type-A personality while I am abroad and just let loose for a bit, I deserve it. I acknowledge that I will probably never be an easy-going, easy-breezy Cover Girl despite my best efforts, but I do think that there is merit in this advice. Italy––where I will be studying abroad next semester––may have larger political and social problems which need to be addressed, but Italians do know how to take a break and say tutto bene. If there is one thing that I hope I learn from my study abroad experience (besides how to make the perfect al dente pasta), it is how to be nicer to myself and say no when the timing just doesn’t feel right. After all, you need to do what is best for you. And what is best for me in this very moment, is to remove that very pressure I just put on my time abroad and just enjoy the moment.