Escaping the trap of stress one break at a time

Sam Peters is a senior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and economics double major. She is a guest writer for the Newswire from Auorora, Ill.

Every semester at Xavier seems to start the same way, with a rush of excitement and a little bit of dread. After four weeks (or three months) of time to relax, I’m desperate for some structure to return to my schedule.

I’m also ecstatic to live within walking distance from my friends, regain a sense of independence, and feel like I’m working towards a goal. But, even with all of these new beginnings I’m always nervous about what’s coming next.

At least the first few days of Syllabus Week were pretty easy, and clubs hadn’t started so there’s plenty of free time. I could cook, go out in the evenings, sleep for a full night, and still have time leftover for myself. But as the semester goes on things have only gotten busier. Eventually as coursework has been piling on work for the extracurriculars I’ve been involved in has also gotten more time intensive.

I’ve started picking up more hours at work, and watched friends add on new responsibilities to their plates. On top of that all I’m a second semester senior and have the added stress of trying to figure out my post-grad plans. Since getting back to school I’ve been sleeping less, eating worse, and seeing my friends less frequently. It’s hard, and often the only solution to beating this immense to-do list seems to be bearing down and working through it. Never taking a break, pulling all-nighters, and living off of a variety of caffeinated beverages. Now that we’re almost halfway through the semester, I feel like I haven’t taken a breath in weeks.

That is the trap that college (and the working world) like us to fall into, the myth that working yourself to death pays off. It doesn’t, and remembering to slow down and take a break makes you more effective. Not only does taking a break and making time for yourself make you more productive, but it reenergizes you. When you’re tired, overworked, and have too much on your plate it’s easy to get sluggish. Staying awake all night to finish three papers and study for a test isn’t going to make your grades any higher, but it will take a toll on your body. It’ll also take a toll on your ability to focus and retain information.

So, my advice to you is to slow down, and take a break. It may feel impossible as the semester only gets crazier and deadlines get closer, but there’s ways to mitigate that stress and find some time for yourself.

First, getting organized can help you find time to take a break. Having a list of everything you need to do, and when it’s due, works for me as a good way to visualize your week.

Then, it’s easy to assign time slots to different assignments or tasks. When you’ve got only a half hour between classes and work it can be tempting to try and squeeze schoolwork in, when in reality your body and mind need that time for a break. But, if you’ve scheduled time later to crank out that homework, then there’s no pressure to take some time off.

Whether that time is spent doing something as scrolling through Tik-Tok, taking a break is good for you.

Second, with good communication and prior planning deadlines are usually flexible. When I’m stressed out and realizing that the amount of work I have to get done is impossible to get done in the time I have available, it feels like I’m drowning. But, instead of cutting down on the much needed time I spend sleeping or eating, I prioritize what needs to get done.

First, look at what deadlines can’t be changed (think tests or events) and get those done first. But, if there’s things that don’t have pressing deadlines, email a professor and ask for a deadline. If you communicate early enough, very few people will ask you to sacrifice your wellbeing for a deadline. And if they do, find better people, taking a break is important. Not only for you, but also the work you do.