How often has it happened to you? You’re sitting there on your laptop ready to break down because you just finished homework for two other classes and you have just one more paper to write. Just then, your mind goes blank and you physically cannot type anymore, even if your life depends on it. If you're like me who works and goes to school full time, then chances are, you know that feeling all too well. I’ve had my days where I’ve cried over my keyboard and wished I could just take a nap and all my homework would be done - towards the middle of the semester is when the pressure of deadlines from exams, papers, and research projects really start to build up.
The problem is, stress does not make us productive. When you experience large amounts of stress, the first thing your body wants to do is shut down and flee from all outside stressors. Unfortunately, with tight schedules and due dates, we can’t really do that. So, we load up on caffeine, stay up way past our bedtimes trying to get all our work done, and push our bodies to the brink. For most students, one of the worst days of the week is Sunday because that’s when most modules end and everything is due the next day. I remember one Sunday, I woke up on Sunday morning at 8 AM and didn’t leave my laptop until close to 1 in the morning. I didn’t realize I hadn’t eaten or drank anything all day until my boyfriend found me hunched over my laptop when he came home from work.
The thing is, ever since we were in elementary school, we were taught the importance of good grades and studying and getting our homework in on time. That was fine when our homework was a few sentences we had to write on a piece of lined paper or memorizing spelling words, but now it’s four essays and two tests due in one week. And, the truth is, we were never really taught how to deal with stress or overwhelming amounts of work. I am in no way an overachiever who needs to have straight As in order to consider myself a successful student but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pressure. I am here to tell you, your mental health is more important than your grades. If you are losing sleep, feeling overly anxious, or not taking care of yourself then it’s time for a break.
Stress is serious and can really eat away at your ability to perform as a student. Tell the perfectionist in yourself to take a hike for a little while and take an afternoon or a night for yourself where you don’t do any work or even think about work. If this means you might not get to study as much as you hope, then so what? One bad grade is not gonna completely destroy your GPA. If it means missing a deadline for a paper, give your professor a quick email saying you’ll get it in as soon as you can. As long as you have a decent excuse, most professors won’t really care.
It’s ok to admit to yourself that you are not perfect and no one is. We all get overwhelmed at one point or another and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you need a break, then take a break, even if it’s just for a night. Go out with your friends, spend time with your family, or just do nothing and eliminate all thoughts of school and due date from your mind. This is such a small part of your life and grades, in the grand scheme of it all, do not define you.