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At a top university like UC Berkeley, it’s only natural for the academic environment to be fairly rigorous. Everyone is working hard and striving to make the most of their time here. 

While I enjoy being surrounded by driven and passionate people, I feel like there’s also a culture of needing to be busy all the time that’s quite harmful. People have this notion that if they’re not being productive at any given moment, they’re wasting their time and falling behind, which simply isn’t true. This perpetuates a downward spiral of guilt, anxiety, and pressure.

The other day, I was speaking to someone who told me how they felt like they “should be doing more” in terms of school. When I asked why, they cited the fact that they didn’t have anything to do at the moment. From what I knew of this person, they were doing plenty, classes and clubs considered, and I would never think of them as not doing “enough.” There seems to be a common theme of needing to fill up our schedules, and I think it’s important to take a step back and allow ourselves to breathe once in a while. 

I fall victim to this mentality myself, finding that I’m unable to fully let loose and relax even during my free time because there’s always a nagging at the back of my mind telling me that I could and should be doing something more productive. An endless list of tasks stretches before me, and it feels like when I check one task off, five more have been added. 

There’s always something I “could” be doing. I could be getting a head start on my homework for next week, or looking at internships, or preparing for this, or applying for that, or solving climate change, for that matter. There’s a sense of guilt that I can’t shake, like I’ve been caught doing something I’m not supposed to, which doesn’t make sense. 

We don’t need to be working every second of the day. It’s arguably just as important to take time to relax so that we can be even more focused and productive when we are on the grind. It’s all about finding balance, and for many of us, we could use a tipping of the scales towards a bit more self-care.

Karen Li

UC Berkeley '24

Karen is a sophomore studying computer science. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, reading, journaling, hanging out with her dog, and binging TV shows. She strives to reach others through her writing and hopes to write meaningful pieces that someone, somewhere can relate to or learn from.
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