Millikin, It’s Time to Save Ourselves

February 1, 2021

We all knew college wasn’t going to be easy. But we didn’t expect to be doing college during a global pandemic, intense political strife, and one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression.

So, Millikin, how are you feeling? If the answer is “shitty,” you’re not alone.  

I get that college is supposed to be hard. It’s not a new challenge; most of our professors were in our shoes, with a full course load, job, extracurricular responsibilities, and other obligations to juggle.  

But no other generation of college students has tried to manage all of that while also living in one of the most overwhelming and scary times in modern history.

It’s the second week of the semester, and most students are still riding the wave of burnout from last semester. Plus, we’re processing the last month of terrifying political news, and we’re still in the midst of an ongoing pandemic and all of the social, financial, and (of course) health-related challenges that come with it. It’s understandable that most of us are just a few days in and already overwhelmed.

With empty comments from Millikin’s administration about how it’s a difficult time but no tangible steps to make it easier—not to mention a canceled spring break—it’s a very lonely time for the students and faculty who are trying to manage their own lives and fears while also supporting each other.  

Now more than ever before, it’s on us to make this semester livable for ourselves and the fellow students and faculty members we love. These mental health tips are nothing new, but it’s nice to hear them again as we gear up for one of the most difficult semesters of our college careers.  

There’s absolutely no shame in struggling. And there’s a lot of bravery in recognizing that you’re struggling and then doing everything you can to feel better. Here are some ways to do that.

Give yourself breaks. Instead of working for hours at a time, take a few minutes every hour to catch your breath and do something fun. Watch a funny video or listen to music or go for a walk. Just give yourself a second to rest. It’s actually more productive to take the break than to work through it and end up exhausted. Resting for a few hours is so much better than hitting a wall and recovering for days.

Set boundaries. Say no to things. Refuse to exhaust yourself for a grade or an extracurricular that won’t matter in the long run. This is much easier said than done, but you’ll feel more fulfilled if you’re honest with yourself about where you can put your energy.  

Talk to people. The pandemic is one of the most isolating experiences of our lives. Everyone needs human interaction, and everyone misses it. Call people, send TikToks to your friends, host a Zoom party. Even when you feel too busy or stressed to socialize, connecting with other people is a surefire way to make you feel better. Give it a shot and let yourself be pleasantly surprised. Your friends could probably use it, too.

Take all the advice you hate to hear. “Eat vegetables, drink water, sleep enough, go outside, blah blah blah.” We’ve heard it so much that it’s easy to tune it out. But maybe those doctors and scientists are onto something. An all-nighter is not the solution that you think it is. Constantly locking yourself in your room to do homework won’t make you the best student ever; it’ll just make you depressed. These basic self-care things seem small, but they have a big impact. And they’re really, really worth doing.    

But ultimately, as we start the semester… 

Be proactive, not reactive. The best mental health advice that I ever got was to prepare to feel bad while you feel good. That means not waiting until you’re at rock bottom to take care of yourself. Instead, when you have energy and motivation, take the time to plan out your self-care routine and figure out what you’ll do to feel better when you hit a roadblock. Then stick to it and reach out when you need to, and ideally, you can avoid rock bottom altogether.  

If you’re like me and you’ve always been “too busy” to take care of yourself, please reconsider this semester. Preventative self-care is the name of the game right now, and here are some ways to make that easier.

To Millikin’s administration, remember—your students and faculty are human beings, and they’re just as exhausted as you are. Many of them are dealing with challenges that they’ll never tell you about. Most of them are terrified of what’s going on in the world right now. Kindness, understanding for missed assignments, reasonable class expectations, and increased administrative support will go a long way.  

I know that college isn’t easy. But if you can make it easier on yourself and the people in our campus community, now’s the time to do it.

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