Let's Stop Romanticizing Poor Wellness in College

How many times have you struck up a conversation with a friend you passed after class, and one you ends up talking about how stressed or tired you are? Or how about when you catch up with someone in the dining hall for dinner, and they tell you it’s their first real meal all day? Talking about our stress seems to be this generation’s small talk version of discussing the weather. Sure, we have every right to be stressed—being a college student is a hard job. With classes, finances, activities, and our personal lives to tend to, this is a difficult age for everyone.

Still, sometimes it feels like there are people who want to get into a competition over whose life is harder. “You slept five hours? Lucky you! I had to pull an all-nighter.” The college culture of fighting to see who’s busier is extremely damaging for everyone’s mental and physical health. We live in an era where everyone is fighting to seem the most productive, because society tells us that staying productive makes us a valuable person. No one should feel “lucky” that they’re getting five hours of sleep per night.

So often, I see humor being used as a coping mechanism for stress. Sometimes cracking a joke about a bad situation is all you can do. But by constantly making light of bad habits instead of working to fix them, we’re contributing to this cycle of unhealthy practices. I’ve even caught myself resorting to talking about how stressful classes are in an effort to feel “relatable.”

The stresses of college are pretty much inevitable. You’re always going to have tedious assignments to do, a jam-packed schedule, and days where it feels like you don’t even have a minute to take a breather. Instead of trying to compete over stress or feeling like you have to talk about it to be relatable, it’s time to normalize checking in on your friends. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but just reaching out to someone you care about when it’s clear they’re having a rough time could mean the world to them. Sometimes our “jokes” are really just cries for help, and it’s better to ask your friends if everything is okay before their problems continue to mount. By checking in on each other instead of continuing to normalize poor wellness habits, hopefully we can start creating more supportive college environments.

Remember, there is nothing cool about not sleeping or skipping meals. You’re a great person, and you should take care of yourself! Always reach out for support when you feel like you need it, and offer a helping hand when your friends need it.