College pushes us as students to put our work above all else. Students are chugging coffee as they are surrounded by their laptops and books. When this happens — when classes are valued over the well-being of ourselves as individuals — the consequences are severe.
I have only met two or three college students who receive the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep necessary. There are few people who can survive without caffeine, and 8:30 a.m. classes can be dreadful. Staying up all night to complete an assignment is not uncommon. Immune systems are weak due to the lack of proper sleep and nutrition among college students. When one person in one of my classes or on my crew team gets sick, it is only a matter of time before I get sick as well. This is all understandable and all college students can relate, but it is also preventable.
Get your nose out of the textbook and your mind into the real world. It is essential to remember the proper order of any student’s priorities: the self, then school and grades, then extracurriculars. Yourself comes first.
I cannot explain enough how challenging this order was for me to accept. It is not fair for college to place so much pressure on its students. I ended up incredibly sick and reached a low in my depression before I began to understand. I learned the hard way that no other parts of life — work, school, grades, activities — will function at all without self-care coming first. Easier said than done. Health is something that college students think about little, as there is no reward or grade associated with it. There is no medal for getting eight hours of sleep, and there is no A for remembering to eat lunch. Instead, the focus on academics is the central portion of lives. This is not surprising; this is the case in colleges all over the country, especially in those that are academically rigorous and competitive. It is often a competition to see who can get the highest GPA, who can stay in the library the longest, who can get the most work done.
You do not realize that the pressure is too much when you spend all day in the library. You do not realize it when you abandon plans to go study. You do not realize it when your laptop begins to quit. You do not realize it when you are exhausted and relying on energy drinks, or when you consider stopping lunch for a break. You begin to realize it when you see the dark circles under your eyes and it hurts to put in your contacts. You begin to realize it when your friends start a group chat without you, and when the people who you used to wave hi to no longer wave back. You begin to realize it when there is hardly an empty seat to be found in any of the study rooms in the library, and when the lounges in your dorm are all full at midnight. You fully realize it when your hand feels like it is about to fall off from writing so much, and when you are counting the hours both until you can go to bed and until the semester ends. You fully realize it when you cannot shake a cold after three weeks and when your hair starts to fall out from all of the stress and pressure that you are subjected to. You fully realize it when you are cold and tired and sitting in the library crying after a day of appointments and studying. When there is so much to do, when the to-do list never ends, and when you want to give up — that’s when you know that the stress and pressure has overcome you.
College is equally as stressful as it is fun. Take some time off of work. Set 30 minutes to an hour for “you time” each day to practice mindfulness and living in the moment, valuing each day and everything that you can do. Appreciate your body and yourself. I promise that you deserve to take care of yourself.
Kara Bilello is a freshman double-majoring in English and Spanish