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Chicken soup for the mind

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Midterm season is upon us. For some folks it’s already here, more intense than ever. Imagine all the lectures and notes you have to catch up on, the long hours of work, and your other obligations. The seasonal flu does not help at all. You realize it is exhausting to be a well-rounded individual. But it is A-OK to be vulnerable. That’s why the counselling centre on campus is available to help you through this. However, they are often fully booked during this time. If you have not had the opportunity to see them, worry no more because we are here to help.

First of all, take a deep breath. What I like to do whenever I feel overwhelmed or stressed is to make some space for myself. Despite how busy you are, take a 10–15 minute break to write down all of your thoughts in a journal, a diary, or on a piece of paper. Don’t worry about grammar, sentence structure, or spelling, because it is only by you and for you. No one is there to judge you.

If you don’t like writing, take a short stroll around campus or your neighbourhood and put on your favourite music. It can be Disney music, orchestra, rock, indie, country music, ‘90s Britney Spears, or even old Justin Bieber. Again, this space is only for you and no one is there to judge you. Allow yourself to cry and do not hold back. In fact, Stephen Sideroff, clinical psychologist at UCLA showed that having a good cry activates your body in a healthy way and restores it to a healthy state of balance.

After you have yourself a good cry, sit back, reflect, and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself what you are stressed or feeling anxious about. What I do during this phase is determine whether the problems I am facing are my own faults or due to some other forces. In the play The Cocktail Party by the American poet T.S. Eliot, one of the characters, Celia Coplestone, was having a very hard time of it. She goes to her psychiatrist to talk about her profound unhappiness. Celia tells him she wishes all of her sufferings are her own fault. Taken aback, the psychiatrist asks her why. She says if it’s her fault, at least she can do something about it. But if it’s in the nature of the world, she is doomed. She can’t change everything else. But she can change herself.

If you feel like you’re failing in class or have not received the grades you desire, ask yourself if you have worked to your fullest capacity or if you have talked to your professor about it. Have you been constantly running to meet deadlines? Ask yourself if you have managed your time effectively. Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of lectures and notes you have to cram in the night before your midterm? Ask yourself if you have put enough effort into the class. Most importantly, be honest with yourself. I must stress that still no one is judging you. So don’t be ashamed; instead, truthfully evaluate yourself.

Once you’re done reflecting, the next step is to plan. Do yourself a good deed by making a schedule and setting a routine. Pick a time to go to sleep and get up, and stick to it. In order to have good mental health, you need good physical health. A good sleep and an adequate and healthy diet will help you psychologically thrive. Most importantly, stop doing what you know is wrong. Cut down on what is mentally and physically unhealthy for you. If you struggle to balance your mental health and your life on your own, it is highly advisable to seek professional help from the UFV counselling centre or a therapist in the community. You know yourself best, so be honest and be responsible for your own well-being.

Now you are ready to bounce back and seize control of your own life. At this point, you should be ready to open up to others with a clear head. There are so many opportunities awaiting for those who never stop trying. It’s never too late to fix something. Well technically you can’t fix your grade on a test that was already graded. But you can definitely prepare better next time. Just give yourself some time, take baby steps, be peaceful, be patient, and be productive. I know it’s cliché to say this, but everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine yet, then it is not the end. It may take days, weeks, months of attentive effort to make yourself feel peaceful and mentally balanced. But at least you are on your way there.

Image: UBC Learning Commons/Flickr

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