Spring break is just days away, it’s a frigid 23 degrees in Athens, Ohio, the remaining patches of snow from last week’s snowfall still linger and I’ve never longed to be somewhere sandy and warm more than I do right now. But, as I sit with my feet propped on the windowsill, coffee in hand and embrace the fleeting rays of sunlight shining through the window, I’ve never felt more content.
It’s a simply blissful sort of calm.
Though, I should acknowledge the fact that this is the first time I’ve felt peace in the past month. Last week was arguably one of the worst weeks I’ve had in awhile. Rushing from class to work to meetings to interviews and then doing it all again the next day had started to take its toll — mentally and physically. The week before that, I was battling a sinus infection [big thanks to the Athens Plague for that one] and even before that, I was struggling to find motivation to leave my room. I think it’s safe to say, I do not function well in the winter.
The last few weeks also consisted of a lot of trips home to Cincinnati [probably the highest points of my week] which means I spent a lot of time alone in my car left to think. I used those three-hour commutes to reflect on my current state of mind and one thing was for certain: I was not at my best and I was not happy about it.
I’ve always preferred to be busy rather than be bored. As one of my friends once pointed out, I function best when I have a full schedule to keep myself occupied. But, there is a very fine line between being busy and breaking down. I had crossed that line.
As a full-time student, I was juggling 15 credit hours, 10 work hours, two executive positions for student organizations, freelancing and still trying to maintain my gym schedule and social life. Last fall, I had no problem with this, or so it seemed. But, as I now realize, these 12-hour days were exhausting me and it wasn’t until I had a month at home for winter break that this exhaustion caught up to me.
My winter break was everything I could have asked for. I worked a good amount of hours, but most of it was spent with friends and family. I got my sleep schedule back on track and felt more refreshed than ever before. Once I got back to campus in the spring, it was so much harder to transition back to my busy lifestyle than I had anticipated.
Pretty quickly, I began to find myself dreading things that were supposed to be the fun parts of my day. I didn’t want to attend any CHAARG events [which is incredibly shocking for anyone who knows how much I adore that organization], I was never looking forward to writing my stories for Backdrop [again, this is almost unheard of for me] and I was canceling gym and coffee dates with friends left and right. Still, it wasn’t until my exhaustion turned into a physical sickness that I realized something needed to change.
I took a few days to reflect on what was important to me and made the difficult decision to not reapply for the CHAARG executive team for the upcoming school year. This was not in my plan for the remainder of my college career and I really battled with myself about whether or not it was the right decision. But, as I mentioned before, my CHAARG experience was turning sour quickly and that’s the last thing I wanted to happen from an organization that has given me so much in terms of friendships, self-worth and lifestyle habits. After talking it through with a few friends, and verbally acknowledging that my mental health was suffering because I had spread myself so thin, I was reassured that this decision is ultimately the best one.
But, the point of this blog post is not to reflect on how tough the beginning of my spring semester has been. All of this is to say that, through this experience, I learned some very important lessons.
- There is such a thing as being too busy.
- It’s okay to acknowledge that you’re struggling.
- Sometimes you have to sacrifice the things you’re passionate about in order to benefit yourself in the long run.
- Making a conscious effort to regularly practice self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.
I’ve spent the past week making small changes to my daily schedule in the hopes that the remainder of my spring semester will run smoother than the first half. The biggest of which has been learning how to better prioritize my responsibilities and accepting the fact that not every interview, meeting and project has to be completed the same week it is assigned. Along with this, I’ve forced myself to not respond to emails after 10 p.m. With the exception of Backdrop production week [because we all know how crazy that can get], I keep reminding myself that anything anyone needs to contact me about past 10 p.m. can wait for a response until the morning. I use that time before bed to decompress from my day.
I’ve also started to take myself on coffee dates again [something I did consistently in the fall, but neglected at the start of the spring] and give myself that one hour to focus on getting in touch with my mentality for the week so as to prevent the build up of suppressed stress.
This semester has been challenging, there’s no doubt about that, but I can’t deny that the lessons I’ve learned from dealing with the stress have been valuable beyond compare.