Why we feel guilty for taking care of ourselves
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The other night I was sprawled out in my apartment with the covers pulled up to my neck. I started watching the infamous Buzzfeed videos on my laptop, then suddenly found myself watching Ted Talks a few hours later. I began to think of all of the things on my to-do list and important times I had yet to pencil into my daily planner and calendar. I could be doing any one of several study guides for final exams in just a few short weeks or even jotting down each gift idea for my family, friends, roommates, and boyfriend. I could have been drafting an article for next week’s online discussion or another one for the page that I am the editor of on campus. I could have been looking at internships or sending out my annual catch-up email with important contacts that I will be seeing over break. I could have been doing anything at all except relaxing, which felt counterproductive and wrong to be doing at such a stressful time.
So, when the clock struck two in the morning, I closed my laptop, turned off the lights, and struggled to fall asleep, like I do every night. It took over an hour, as it always does, but eventually tiredness took my busy mind and I passed out.
I had class all morning and worked all evening—and yet, when I was tired and my eyes were swimming, demanding a break, I could not really take one. Even when it looks like I’m relaxing, my mind is really working a mile a minute.
I have always been an anxious person, but college is slowly but surely teaching me to be more of a procrastinator. I’m writing this article to tell my fellow students that, not only is that okay, it’s beneficial. I’m not saying that you should wait to do everything last minute, but what I am saying is that you should try not to do every assignment or task the moment you think of it. You may think that you are being proactive and that you can relax later when everything is done, but the problem is that everything is never done. When you finish one assignment or cross off several tasks on your daily to-do list, you suddenly realize that there’s another one coming up and you decide to tackle that too. You think that it’ll help your anxiety to get everything done in one shot, until you realize that you suddenly have not slept all night, or eaten, or drank anything and now you have to spend the next six hours at class before you go to work for another eight.
Then when you finally get off and you’re just happy you have no more work for the evening, you’re so exhausted you lay your head down and promise yourself a twenty-minute nap. When you do wake up, you realize that was three hours ago and you jolt awake when you remember that you could be writing an article or a paper or reading for class the next day or just about any other time-sensitive project.
Being proactive is a valuable trait. It might even be the best way to get the top grades. But remember that triangle that you were told about at freshman orientation? It is more valid than ever. The three things that will lead to a fulfilling time in college: grades, health, and social time. But you can only choose two of those at the same time. The thing that we are not reminded of often in college is that grades can actually go on the backburner every now and again when you are ridiculously stressed out. No employer is going to see your grades. They are not going to say, “well it looks here, that you earned yourself a B- in an environmental studies class? I’m sorry, we just cannot hire someone like that.” Many companies only care that you graduated from your university and gained experience in the process.
I’m not saying that students shouldn’t care about grades but often in college they should be the least important of the three. When you make social connections, you are making friends, which often help with the health portion, and you are also making business connections.
The major focus should be on our well-being. That should always be top priority. Most students I find have it reversed. They put grades first, then social, then their health is completely on the backburner. Many say that they often focus on the health aspect during breaks or when schoolwork slows down a little. Problem is, the course load will never slow down. As busy as you are this week, you will most likely be as equally busy next week, maybe even more so. We cannot predict when professors may change the syllabus and add an extra test or research paper. All that you can do is focus on today. I’m challenging those reading this to make time to do one thing that you find relaxing that is not sleep. Sleep is a necessity, but everyone needs to take a moment for themselves to stay fully sane and healthy. Watch Netflix, Ted Talks or National Geographic. Read a book, watch a movie on a dvd disk, run a few miles at the rec, knit a scarf for winter, just be sure to do something to make yourself happy and not feel guilty about it. Everyone has been telling you that these are the best years of your life; prove them right and start taking care of yourself.