Be Kinder to Yourself

My own experience this semester has been pretty chaotic, to say the least. The transition to online classes was rough for me, and I’m sure plenty of people can relate to that. By not having any separation between home and school it made me feel like I couldn’t relax, or that I was relaxing too much. Home was both a place where I was supposed to take time for myself and also attend lectures every day. I really missed seeing my friends as often as I did pre-pandemic and found myself craving social interaction in a way I never had before. I couldn’t find a balance for myself, and I still don’t know how to adjust to the world we are living in. And, in keeping on-brand with this crazy semester, this last week of classes and this impending finals week has hit me like a train. I’m stressed about being back home with my family and needing to complete countless assignments before the end of the week. I’ve gotten headaches from staring at a computer screen for hours on end which has rendered me useless, and I feel burnt out. 

Luckily, I am able to attend a weekly therapy session, formerly held in person, but currently taking place via Telemedicine. I know therapy isn’t accessible to everyone, and I feel truly fortunate to be able to have this as a resource available to me. My sessions are a safe place where I can unpack all my issues with a wonderful woman who listens to me and asks me to evaluate my decisions based on my values. We focus on a mindfulness-based approach, which I can say without any exaggeration, has been life-changing for me. Her voice rings in my ears, “does making that decision reflect who you are?” whenever I am faced with a dilemma. She has made me critically reflect upon myself, and hold myself accountable for both the big and little things in my life. If I do poorly on a test, she makes me think about how my study plan went wrong. If I’m having issues in my friendships, she asks me to journal about what a good friend looks like to me. If I ignored red flags in a relationship, she asks me to consider where I went blind and what caused that, so I don’t repeat my behavior. I’ve been so profoundly impacted by her that I want to pursue a degree in clinical counseling. I hope to someday help someone in the same way she’s helped me. 

This past week of therapy has been no different from any others. I was more stressed than usual, for a myriad of reasons that I’m sure many of you can relate. Covid has me feeling uncertain about my future, I miss my friends, and I’m about to turn twenty-two, which has left me with this unsinkable feeling of impending doom. I unloaded on her this week and miraculously made it out of my session without shedding any tears. She helped me of course, and we came up with plans to tackle any issues I saw coming in the foreseeable future. When we ended our session, she said something to me that I really needed to hear: “Avery, do what you need to do this week, and be kind to yourself.”

Hearing her say this made me realize I hadn’t been very kind to myself at all recently. I beat myself up for not having a plan for a global pandemic none of us could have seen coming and for not adjusting to this new alien way of life that we were forced to conform to. I was angry with myself for the way certain relationships in my life had been going, and I felt embarrassed for past actions that I, quite frankly, did not need to be embarrassed about. I was frustrated that I wasn’t doing as well in school as I hoped I would be, and although there is a certain degree of personal accountability I can and absolutely will take in all these situations, I was being unnecessarily harsh towards myself. 

Right now, the world is a pretty hard place to exist in, and I needed someone to tell me to be gentle with my own feelings and psyche. Our minds, bodies, and spirits deserve rest and tenderness, especially in times of high pressure and stress. So this is me reminding all of you to be kind to yourselves this week, too. It’s okay to feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, and sad. Those feelings are valid, and it’s okay to let them out. Let this, and all the other articles the women here at Her Campus UVM have written this week, serve as your reminder to take care of yourself during these demanding times. Even in the midst of finals, we need to remind ourselves that self care is equivalent to self-preservation. If you’re feeling burnt out, which I’m sure we all are, take a break! If taking a bubble bath and lighting some candles recharges you, do it. Or watch a few episodes of your favorite show on Netflix (I, for one, have been indulging in a lot of Gossip Girl since my last therapy session). Take time to journal, read ten pages in a book, do some yoga (this is my favorite follow along video on YouTube, I feel so relaxed afterwards), eat something nutritious and delicious, or get outside if that’s where you feel your best. But give yourself permission to rest and loosen the rigorous standards you’ve set for yourself. Everything will get done, with or without extensions, and we can make this time easier on ourselves by recognizing our own humanity. So, I hope you utilize the wise words of my therapist this week and be a little kinder to yourself.