As students at an elite STEM and Aeronautical university, I am sure many of us long for the idea of rest but are not sure what it truly is or how to obtain it. This is especially highlighted when the common, but also toxic, idea of ‘rest when you’re dead’ is perpetuated via friends, TAs, professors, and even us. This manifests in all-nighters – sometimes 2 or 3 in a row – or in not stopping to take a breath and check in with ourselves. Unfortunately, these habits aren’t sustainable, but there are ways to help combat them and develop some new and healthy ones.
For starters, if you’re someone who is feeling the pressure of last-minute exams, illness, and finals around the corner (no time to even discuss holidays with family members we would rather avoid), then sometimes immediate solutions are needed. These can look like face masks applied for no more than 10-15 minutes while your favorite calming playlist plays. Or a walk with a friend, a dog, or even yourself for 20 minutes. Or if there is really no time and you’re running from one class to the next appointment, a cup of tea from the Student Union or Earhart’s is an easy answer.
However, if you are planning on taking a self-care day, then there are even more options. Try to seek activities that allow for you to breathe and decompress. This can look like a soothing bubble bath or long hot shower. A one-hour workout or a yoga class. If you’re someone who likes to read, reading a leisure book for about 45 minutes is a good option, too. Ideally, combining all of these within a solid 6-8 hour period (read: all day) is best. Of course, try to avoid electronics if they’re going to notify you of a professor emailing, Canvas updating, or a friend texting for notes.
In the long run, these are great immediate solutions to achieve rest, but we all want to strive for the long term. Burn out is a real thing and sadly, many people – college students, employees, and everyone in between – suffer from it. It can be combated with implementing small, but positive and healthy changes for the better. Add in that extra hour of working out to help lessen stress. Try to go to bed at a set time each night to help achieve that full night’s rest. Or, if you’re someone who has that down, strive for going to bed 10 minutes earlier. Meal prep ahead of time on days that you know you have a solid window of time available, so you aren’t worrying about where your next meal is going to be. Lastly, try to get your friends and family to work on this with you. Accountability is the best way to change a bad habit to a good one and support systems are invaluable.
With the holidays and finals coming right around the corner, we all sometimes lose track of time and also ourselves. It seems that the first thing to become compromised is our rest. As seen above, rest looks like many different things along with our sleep and it’s something we should safeguard as much as we can. I hope that with these suggestions, we can all take baby steps to staying healthy and being as rested as possible during these upcoming stressful times.