During a virtual meeting for a student organization that I'm part of, we took some time to do a much-needed mental health check-in. A few students spoke about their experiences with burnout, inconsiderate professors, and the overall struggle of online learning during a worldwide pandemic. One particular person said 'I'm doing pretty bad! But it's ok!' - and girl, I felt that in my spirit. We've become okay with not being okay.
In this unprecedented time of Zoom University, I feel like I've been stuck in a perpetual cycle of work, and I know I'm not alone. I wake up in the morning thinking about what assignments I need to do , I attend my classes, then I go to bed with the next day's tasks playing on my mind. It's a little disheartening that I have no choice but to accept this new reality and move on in order to keep my grades where they need to be.
Because I'm the 'Type A' student that I am, I've allowed school to consume me to an even greater degree, and I recently said to a friend that my life feels very one-dimensional right now because of that. I've realised, though, that as much as external circumstances are to blame, I have to take charge of my well-being. In order to achieve that, these are some of the things I've had to remind myself to do.
Make time for the things that you love
Let's be honest with ourselves: 'I don't have time' is an excuse that just won't cut it if we want to balance our obligations as students and our need for recreation as human beings. You see, it's really not about 'having' time- it's about allocating it accordingly, taking into consideration the activities that we need to do, as well as those that replenish us and bring us joy.
In the context of online school during COVID19, time management can be a little more tricky. Being stuck at home makes it easier for students to dedicate 99.9% of their time to work- and Parkinsons' law explains that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This means that you may be overestimating the amount of time that you need to be spending on school-related tasks, leaving you with little to no time for yourself.
Whether it's working out, reading, or playing an instrument , I would argue that the things you enjoy doing are just as important as your academic pursuits because they make up an important part of who you are, and can be outlets for you to re energize and recover from the stress of a demanding schedule.
Work on personal projects
Many of us may find ourselves simply 'going through the motions' as far as school is concerned, especially now when every day feels the same and we lack motivation. We're so tuned in to our identities as students that we forget we're also creatives, entrepreneurs and leaders with interests that aren't necessarily tied to what we've chosen as our major or minor. This is why I think it's important that we all take the time to work on projects that have meaning to us.
Whether it's a series of paintings you've always wanted to do, a business idea you've been thinking about developing or simply a new meal you wanted to try cooking, personal projects can increase your mental and physical well-being because they provide an escape from work and help you to step outside the monotony of stay-at-home school routines. There's something that each one of us can do that will tap into our creative and social desires and help us to avoid burnout.
Put play before work sometimes, and don't feel guilty about it
There are so many times when I'm curled up with a good book, catching up on youtube videos or living vicariously through my Sims, when the nagging voice in my head tells me to check Blackboard, or reminds me of a looming deadline. It takes a lot of effort for me to enjoy a break without thinking about the 5,000 word paper that I need to write after.
It's even harder when some professors don't quite grasp that we're no longer in an ideal learning environment, and that spending more time at home doesn't necessarily mean having more time to do assignments. But dare I say this : if preserving your wellness sometimes means watching an episode of Girlfriends instead of doing busywork, then so be it. It doesn't mean you should throw caution to the wind and sacrifice the quality of your work; it simply means that you should allow yourself to indulge every now and then, and to be fully present when you do.
If there was ever a time when we needed to be a little more kind, patient and understanding with ourselves, it's now. While some of us may never fully get used to Zoom University , there are ways we can prioritize our time so that we don't neglect the parts of our identities that exist outside of academia.