Dear extremely stressed out person,
Breathe. Before you go any further, take a long, deep breath. Close your eyes and let the air fill your lungs. Hold it in for a few seconds and then let it all go, relaxing your chest and shoulders. Sometimes we all need a minute to stop and take a breath, stressed or not. If you’re somewhere loud or crowded, tune out the other noises. This is a moment for you, for you to take a pause.
It’s important to remember that it’s ok to feel this way. Life has a way of packing everything in one punch, knocking us off our feet. But feeling stressed or overworked isn’t a weakness. You are strong and the fact that you’re somehow keeping it together amidst the million things you have to do before finals week is over is an accomplishment to be proud of. You might be thinking, “well I don’t feel very accomplished, actually I feel pretty shitty and I haven’t slept yet I still have ten more things I need to get done by tomorrow.” You will prevail. It’s easy to get down on ourselves when we’re stressed. I’m here to tell you that you are intelligent, fully capable and that you can do this.
Somebody once told me that if it won’t matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes worrying over it. That doesn’t seem altogether realistic. The things in our life can feel big and scary and even though it may not matter in five years, two years or even ten months, it matters right now. First piece of advice, take all those things and make a list. You might have six things to do by Saturday, but are you really going to do them all tonight? Set realistic and attainable goals. Do the reading you have and maybe your laundry. That’s tonight’s to-do. So at least when you look at the long list of things creeping up on you, there isn’t a million things unchecked off.
You are your worst critic. I can almost guarantee no one is judging you as hard as you’re judging yourself. That 94 you got on the test is a good grade and not something you should be harping on. Don’t play the what-if game. What if I studied more? What if I went over that section again? Continually looking back at your actions will prevent you from paying attention to what matters right now in the present. Get the grade and keep pushing forward. You do only have one life to live and it’s kind of your job to do everything you can to make the most out of it. I don’t see how that’s possible if you keep getting caught up in the past.
At this point you’ve been staring at the computer screen for hours. Even reading this article is another however many minutes you spend squinting into your bright computer screen. When I’m stressed and need a break I unplug from all my devices. Some people check their social media or watch TV, but I think it’s good to give your eyes and brain a break. Not napping either, it makes you more tired than you were when you fell asleep. But what you can do is find a comfy spot or lay your head on your arms and listen to a song or two. Let the music relax you, take you away from the library for a few minutes. And I don’t mean rap or the newest pop hits, something soothing. I like to listen to an artist named Marc Broussard. I guess you could describe him as “bayou soul” with a bit of blues and southern charm. But the reason I usually choose him is because his music is soulful and raw and makes me smile. For something a little more upbeat I’d suggest “Cry to Me” or “Weight of the World.” But if you want something a little slower, I’d go for “A Life Worth Living,” “Don’t Be Afraid to Call Me” or my personal favorite, “Shine.” The point is, find an artist or song that calls to you. Use it to get that moment away and when the song is over you’re ready to tackle the next thing on your list.
You need to remember that you are a badass. There is truly no one out in the world like you. Before being a student, you’re a human being. Humans make mistakes and cry, we laugh like hyenas and are weird sometimes. And stress is part of our messy lives, but would you really have it any other way? The beauty in life isn’t the finished product but the process, the journey we make. You’re not alone and this stressful time is only a small speedbump in the road trip that is college. You have so much value and worth; value that isn’t tied to a grade. So do your best, keep breathing and when all is said and done, go home, decorate the tree and drink as much hot chocolate as you can. I believe in you, start believing in yourself.