“What do you wanna be when you grow up?”
I’ve come to realize we have constantly been faced with the dreaded unknown of our future. Now, that may seem like an obvious statement, but we have been conditioned since we were little to ponder the question, “What do you wanna do with your life?” Every elementary school child was asked the same question: “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” It was merely an icebreaker. We’d answer with the popular responses of “an astronaut,” “a scientist,” or even have enough confidence to say “famous.” While these answers allowed us to think and dream of what one day may be true, they were only figments of our imagination at the time, representing the potential we saw within ourselves. Today, those in their early 20s become squeamish at the dreaded question. Always right on cue when the conversation dies down at the Thanksgiving table and distant relatives are attempting to stay involved in your life. More likely than not, we reply with a vague answer. The once confident child is now faced with the humbling reality of life in your 20s. No longer are we praised for dreaming big in hopes of wanting to be “famous,” but summoned and scolded to be more realistic. As for me, I remember what I once believed to be true. I wished to be a dancer. Little did my 7-year-old self know that I would actually have to had started dancing approximately 4 years before that. Another time I wrote that I wanted to be a professional chef. Yet, as hard as this is to admit, I’ve managed to burn pasta to a crisp. Now the point of this is not to ridicule my younger self for believing I had the potential to become a Radio City Rockette, or a sous-chef to Gordon Ramsey. Rather, I applaud that 7 year old. The dreaded question that forces everyone to curl up into a ball, I once answered with confidence. The younger version of myself truly believed in me…I was once my biggest supporter. While we can never run from this question–well maybe when we turn 40–we’ll be out of the woods–it’s interesting to see the impact that life’s little truths have had on personal perceptions of ourselves.
Starting the Spring Semester with Self-love
The spring semester has officially begun, and we have all returned to Friartown ready to dive back into work. Or have we? Hopefully, you spent your break recovering from the fall semester, but regardless, you may be struggling with the return to campus. Research studies indicate that taking vacations can help reduce stress and have numerous other benefits. It’s important that you use your break time to get away from the stress of college and recharge before the next semester. You once again have time to enjoy your hobbies, read a book, or binge-watch that show you’ve been dying to see.
Although many of us are excited to be back on campus and see our friends, it can be a rude awakening to launch back into academics. The work seems to pile up quickly, and all that free time you enjoyed not too long ago instantly vanishes. It’s impossible for that refreshed feeling to stay with you for the whole semester if it goes unnurtured. It’s easy to say you don’t have time for self-care, but it’s just as easy to engage in quick activities that promote positive mental health and help keep you feeling refreshed. There are so many simple things that can be done that will help you both in and out of the classroom.
A relatively new technique to slow down the craziness of college life is referred to as nature bathing. This essentially means taking a walk out in nature. Recent psychological research has found that spending time in and focusing on nature helps both your physical and mental health. The research shows that nature helps reduce stress and anxiety as well as refocus your attention. If you feel yourself starting to get burnt out, take a break from the assignment and take a brief walk through nature and focus only on noticing the things around you. After your walk, you can return to your work feeling refreshed and ready to resume.
If it’s too cold outside or you’re looking for another way to refresh, there are other quick techniques that can save you from burning out. Mindfulness is another way to pause the chaos happening around you. While it’s understandable that not everyone wants—or has the time—to sit down and meditate, there are much simpler (and quicker) ways to go about this. If you truly feel you cannot add anything else into your schedule, add mindfulness to the existing parts of your day. Pay attention to the sounds you hear as you walk from class to class. This is one way to quiet your mind and refocus yourself. Additionally, there are quick mindfulness exercises to listen to while you’re in the shower. No matter what your schedule looks like, you have these in between moments that are perfect for a quick exercise.
If mindfulness really isn’t for you, you need to find what activity you enjoy that always leaves you feeling refreshed. One of the best forms of self-care is simply making time for yourself. Try to find some free time every once in a while to process the events of your day, talk to your friends, read a book, or watch a show. As college students, the days go by so quickly and we often focus on what’s next on our agendas. We need time to reflect on what we’ve done and reflect on the events of the day. If you leave no time to process, reflect, and refocus, this will inevitably lead to burnout. It’s important to set these good techniques now while we’re still in school. For the most part, when we enter the workforce, we don’t get a month off, or any extended breaks at all. It is important for us to learn now how to manage our time while maintaining our mental health and allowing us time for the things we enjoy. This is the time when you get to figure out what works best for you. Don’t waste this opportunity to learn how to help yourself; it goes by far too quickly.