I feel like I run a marathon every week. Juggling studies, a part-time job, my social life, societies, and sleep, I am extremely burned out by the time the weekend hits. Despite feeling like a flailing octopus, I am technically managing it all – I do meet all my deadlines and fulfill my responsibilities. I’ve been told that I am “the ideal student” and to be honest, my high school self dreamed of being in the position that I am in now. I love everything that I do and, overall, I am happy. However, after realising that a lot of my days are spent constantly rushing from one place to another, eating an entire head of lettuce with no dressing for lunch (because I only have 7 minutes between my tutorial and my job), and being strongly advised by my flatmate at 5pm to go sleep because I am crying over an email, I know that I am in an unhealthy state.
I understand that I am not facing any actual hardships. I, and many other students in St Andrews, stress on situations that are nothing compared to what millions of other people in the world find themselves in; it is not the end of the world if we don’t get the grades the we want on that last test. Or if we miss going to a friend’s birthday party. Currently, I am stressing over writing this article when technically I can write any words on this page and you would not even think about it tomorrow. From an outside perspective, we really do not have any problems, yet we are extremely stressed.
It is the norm to open our conversations when we see our friends with how tired and stressed we are from all the work that we have to do. We try to meet so many expectations that we put on ourselves that as a result, we get overwhelmed. If we take a step back, though, we can see that there is really nothing to actually stress about. After sharing my thoughts with my close friend, she concluded that perhaps we feel discontented because we feel inadequate compared to the blessings that we received in our lives. She could not be more correct. We often try to perfect everything that we do but we never have the time to meet those standards. This advice is easier said than done but it is probably best to forgive ourselves for occasionally slacking off a little.
In a university where every student seems to be achieving so many things in life, there is a pressure to do as much as we can in our four years here. It’s not wrong to do things that make us happy, but juggling them every day is challenging because our priorities are constantly changing. We are persistently going back to the drawing board to plan our days based on our evolving priorities because the schedule that may work today will not work tomorrow. It’s thoughts like these that make me think that we are all Sisyphus and condemned to meet our never-ending deadlines.
However, if you flip the script, (despite some occasional stress) it is extremely exciting and a privilege to have a lot of things to entertain and look forward to in life. Rather than looking at the to-do list negatively, we must keep reminding ourselves that a lot of things that we do can only be done now. Whether it be writing an essay or deep talking with a friend until 4 am, we will not have that exact same experience again in the future, and therefore it’s important to appreciate our everyday challenges.
It’s difficult to find the right balance. There are opportunity costs to what we decide to do with our time. Instead of working at my part-time job, I could be meeting a friend or studying for the upcoming test. Sometimes I end up double booking myself and end up stressing over choosing my priorities that I feel that I am losing out on the things I could not do. I envy those characters that live happily ever after because they have their lives together at the end of (mostly romcom) movies. I just have to keep reminding myself that they are fictional characters.
I make many commitments because, at the end of the day, they make me happy. I also know that even though I stress over my responsibilities and deadlines, I would feel bored and wasteful if I did not have them. Most days, it takes a tough mental toll on me; I need to learn to forgive myself if I sometimes slack around and do things that help me forget about my responsibilities for an hour or two. However, if the stresses in your life are causing you to feel low or unmotivated, please seek professional help. Prioritise mental wellbeing and add your “me-time” to your to-do list. We are extremely lucky to have the challenges that we have; let’s aim to appreciate them.
-Jurin K. Flores