Those pressure-cooker-like days in college when you have more assignments due than hours of sleep and a Twitter newsfeed that convinces you that you’ve stumbled into the third circle of hell – think of them as a swell opportunity to lay the groundwork for how you personally maintain a semblance of sanity for years to come. Or at least for the moment.
First, we have to collectively put down the iced coffee (or respective vices) and tell ourselves that there are ways out of hell. While it seems daunting, it is true that we can all try to manage the unrelenting, infernal chaos that is work, classes and all the inevitably messy personal and social entanglements that fill the cracks in between, and even glean enjoyment from them. Self-care might be a flippantly used buzzword, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look out for yourself like you would a friend in danger of burning up.
When I have a lot going on and start auditioning new survival tactics, like adventure TV host Bear Grylls, and am still seeing hellish lava pits, it helps to remind myself that growth is a convoluted process, and I don’t need to accomplish being my happiest, highest self immediately, suddenly and all at once. I’m anxious. I get depressed. Shit happens, but if I address these things and move toward my priorities, a lot of pressure is taken off and I can focus on the little things, which is a lot more practical than talking myself into a fugue state – thinking about the grand scheme of my entire life and its movie adaptation when I have eight things to deal with by midnight.
I spoke with a friend, a UT-Austin student studying linguistics, about some of the ways he deals with chaos and minimizes stress. “I give myself a long time in the morning to get ready without getting rushed, and on the weekends I go swim when I can and spend time with friends” he said. “Sometimes I also lock my door to drink tea to chill the fuck out and get in bed early so that I have a space where I am not thinking about work or school.”
Other tricks that have worked for me: taking breaks from social media, going for a walk or run while listening to music, trying not to use sugar or caffeine as a coping mechanism and pushing myself to be social if I’ve been isolating myself – even when I don’t want anyone looking at me.
Something that I also think about a lot and try to apply are the words of agent Dale Cooper from David Lynch’s cult series Twin Peaks: “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.” I love this because it concisely demonstrates that looking out for yourself doesn’t have to be a monster task – it can happen spontaneously, and in daily life. This is a lovely mantra for maintaining your sanity, urging you to be your own best pal, or cowboy – if you’re a Mitski fan.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in my two years of college, it’s that at the end of the day, if you’re not looking out for yourself and prioritizing your mental health and well-being, then everything else you’ve built for yourself will quickly crumble.
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