Last year was a difficult year for me as a student.
School work seemed to pile up into mountains, extracurricular commitments felt uncountable and I felt like I just couldn’t catch up. It felt like my day consisted of waking up, going to class, going to my activities, doing homework, realizing it’s 3 a.m. and laying in bed thinking of everything I need to get done before my eyes closed from exhaustion.
Stress and the compulsion to get as much work done as possible had become such a routine aspect of my life that Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks felt unnatural. I felt guilty for not doing work for one day. And this sentiment is not something unusual among college students.
A USA Today article noted: “According to the 2015 National College Health Assessment, 30 percent of students reported that stress had negatively affected their academic performance within the past year, and over 85 percent had felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point within the past year.” These numbers may actually seem to be skewed slightly low when one considers the strenuous academic environment at Wake Forest.
But one day, I realized something important. My wise old roommate imparted upon me a piece of wisdom while sitting in his underwear playing League of Legends.
“Heyo, man. You should take a break.” I heard this every single day from him, but one day it just struck me. All students know the value of taking a break. Everyone knows you can only go full speed for so long, but we hesitate at the thought at taking a moment for ourselves.
There never seems to be enough time in the day to get what you need done, but this is precisely why taking breaks is such a crucial thing to incorporate into your schedule.
I had been working so hard to meet due dates and meeting times that I had completely forgotten about what makes me happy.
While I do enjoy the activities I am involved with, the total immersion in Wake Forest-related activities removes me from things I enjoy personally. And I’m sure almost everyone at Wake Forest has a passion or passions they have to put on hold to dedicate their time solely for school work or school-related activities.
Taking a break to focus on yourself is a necessity to create happier, more productive version of yourself. As stated by Alex Lickerman M.D. in Psychology Today, “The difficulty in [taking a break] may be compounded by the extra anxiety we feel at turning our minds away from our problems temporarily, but, like sleep, such breaks not only make us more capable of managing stress in the short term, but also help us develop the inner strength that makes us feel less stressed in the long term.”
As students whose lives are immersed in responsibility, we need to find the courage and self-respect to set aside time for ourselves, to just take a break. Not only is this necessary for our general mental health, it is necessary for helping us appreciate being students at Wake Forest.
We need to take care of ourselves now, no matter how inconvenient or “unproductive,” in order to take care of our future selves and our general happiness as students.