Of Mental Breakdowns and Time Management

Well.

It’s that time of year again. The point in the semester where everything feels like it’s building up and preparing to squash you like a bug. And, to be honest, it probably is.

Midterm.

Ugh.

Not only does this mark the point where you actually take your midterms, but it also means that you’re halfway through the semester. Halfway to finals, which can make or break you.

If you’re not careful, this time of year will drown you. It will eat you alive and then spit you back out with stresses that you didn’t even know you had. It’s that point during school where every professor seems to be assigning extra homework, papers, and projects at exactly that same time. Personally, I’m about ready to crawl under a rock and hibernate until Thanksgiving Break.

Realistically, however, that is not exactly an option. So, here are some tricks for surviving the semester without your mind spectacularly exploding.

Tip #1: Breathe.

Before you start any paper or assignment, take a deep breath. If you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, take a minute to just inhale and exhale until your heart rate goes back to normal and you feel some semblance of calm.

You’re not going to get anything productive done if you spend the entire time worrying and convincing yourself that whatever you come up with won’t be any good. You can do this. You just have to take it one step at a time.

Tip #2: Stay ahead.

Try to make time for your homework the day before it’s due. Finishing things early keeps a load of stress off your back and allows you a little bit of time to relax before class instead of hastily answering those last few questions.

Tip #3: Time Management is crucial.

College isn’t just about keeping up with your assignments. It’s about knowing when you have exams, quizzes, or papers due. It is about being able to plan your time in a way that you have a little bit of breathing room for if a commitment or activity goes longer than you thought it would. When you have everything you need to do laid out in front of you, whether in a calendar, planner, or online scheduling app, it takes a load off your shoulders because you can physically see what you need to do.

This allows you to stay on track much more easily than if you were just trying to remember everything.

Fun fact: Today in Psych, we talked about how the brain can actually only remember 4-7 bits of information at a time.

Tip #4: Take a break.

While it’s important to get everything done in a timely manner, it’s also just as important to give yourself a break when you need it. Don’t be afraid to plan out time for a Netflix episode or an hour of video games. It’s okay to do something completely pointless to get your mind to stop working so hard. Even the smartest of us need a break sometimes.

It doesn’t make you any less intelligent or any less capable because you took a few minutes between Math homework and your English essay to fangirl over the new Gilmore Girls trailer or to go on a short nature walk.

As long as the ratio of productivity to breaks leans more towards the former, it’s okay to take a breather. Your mind works a lot better when it has time to rest.

Tip #5: Get a good night’s sleep.

Yes, you’re in college, the time of adventuring and late nights. But adventures can happen during daylight too. Staying up til 3am seems like a great idea until your alarm goes off for class the following morning. Stay up on the weekends if you really want to, but try to get a decent amount of sleep on school nights. When you are awake and alert, your mind is more likely to retain information that you learn during class.

Bottom Line

College is tough. It will make you want to pull your hair out, especially during these midterm months. But if you stay focused, get enough sleep, and allow yourself some downtime, you should survive fully intact and no longer on the edge of a mental breakdown.

When you feel like crying, look up dumb puns on the internet or YouTube videos of cats. I promise that the semester isn’t as hard as you think it is. You aren’t actually drowning. It just feels like it right now.

You are smart and successful and you can do this. 🙂

How To Be Happy

Happiness is not the easiest thing to obtain. It is also not the easiest thing to hold on to. This makes for a difficult situation.

For me, one of the key factors getting in between me and happiness is other people. I am well aware that I put too much trust, faith, and pixie dust in the people around me. People that honestly don’t have a right to dictate my happiness.

It’s hard to not listen to what people say about you, whether it be behind your back or to your face. When someone calls you ugly or fat or stupid, you tend to listen. There is a quote that says, “Call a girl pretty, and she’ll forget it in an hour. Call a girl ugly, and she’ll remember it for the rest of her life.” When you compliment someone, it will make them smile, but if you insult them, they’ll hold onto that and think back to it whenever they get a compliment in the future.

You should never base your happiness off of someone else’s. Do what makes you happy. One of my biggest pet peeves is when parents try to force their kids to go into fields that they don’t find enjoyable. There is a difference between being concerned that your child will not earn enough money to sustain their lifestyle and making your child feel like their dreams and desires don’t matter.

If you want to be an artist, go for it. If it makes you happy, do it. But be practical when you do. The idea of a “starving artist” is romanticized when it definitely shouldn’t be. Embrace your inner artist and do what makes you smile, but find a way to support yourself at the same time. Whether it’s freelance jobs online or working part-time at a local restaurant, it doesn’t matter. Find a way to support yourself enough that you can become independent and then focus on making it as an artist or a musician or an actor or whatever you aspire to be.

Are you happy? If the answer is yes, then clearly you’re on the right track. If the answer is no, change something. Look for damaging people or stressful situations and remove them from your life. You can’t keep people that hurt you around because you feel guilty or obligated. You are entitled to your own health and happiness. If someone is compromising your goals, you are allowed to drop them. You are allowed to walk away. It does not make you a bad person. It does not make you mean or cruel or wrong in any way. If having someone in your life causes you stress or sadness or anger, why are they still present? Why are they still a part of your life? Clearly, they don’t deserve the privilege of being there. Being in your life is not a right. It is a privilege and you will meet people who don’t deserve it. You shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed because trying to please someone else is making you miserable and compromising your own happiness. You have the right to kick someone out for your own benefit.

There is not a magic formula for being happy. But I have come up with some tips that should aid in the process.

1. Never go to sleep angry. 

Figure out why you’re angry and solve it. If you go to sleep angry, you’ll wake up angrier. Work it out with yourself or someone else and then get a good night’s rest because emotions are exhausting.

2. Enjoy the little things. 

Watch the sunrise or the sunset. Count the stars every once in a while and see if you can pick out constellations, like Orion. Listen to your favorite song a few times. Smile at a friend. Stop to smell the roses.

3. Spend more time outside.

Nature is scientifically proven to improve moods and lessen stress. Find a trail and go hiking with someone you love. Walk through a tiny town. Go on a scavenger hunt to find different types of plants and animals.

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4. Fake it til you make it. 

I’m not saying fake a smile every time you’re upset. You don’t have to pretend to be happy. But, sometimes, the best plan is to put on a grin and act like you’re having the best day in the world. If you act like you’re miserable, chances are, you will be. You might miss out on having really great experiences and laughs by being too lost in your emotions.

5. Exercise. 

Do some push-ups. Go for a walk. Find something fun to do that will get your energy up and make you work. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands; they just don’t.” I think Elle from Legally Blonde definitely had the right idea.

6. Stop worrying. 

I know that I’m guilty of this to the extreme. It’s something a lot of people do and it’s definitely not healthy. We worry so much about things that have no chance of happening. I worry about getting to class late, so I leave thirty minutes early, even though I live four minutes away. I worry about embarrassing myself so much that I keep my mouth shut in public because I’m too scared to talk. Worrying is an epidemic and it’s absolutely horrible. It makes people change their entire personalities and go to ridiculous extremes to avoid situations that may not even happen. Take a deep breath and stop trying to find the bad in everything.

7. Do things that make you happy every day. 

If you love drawing, draw. Even if it’s just a stick figure in the corner of your history notes. If you love singing, sing in the shower. If you love exercise, run around your neighborhood once or twice. If you love animals, YouTube some cute cat videos. It doesn’t have to be something huge that takes hours. Just do something that you genuinely enjoy every day.

8. Keep challenging yourself. 

Always be striving to be better, whether in skill or behavior. Never stop learning new things and perfecting things you already know.

9. Let yourself be happy. 

You deserve to be happy. Even if you’re not perfect. Even if you feel like you’re not worth it. You are and you deserve the world, darling. You are special and beautiful and you are something to be proud of. Smile, because happiness isn’t a privilege. It’s a basic human right. Repeat after me: I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be proud of myself. I deserve to smile.

Happiness isn’t black and white and it isn’t easy. You might not have it right now, but you will before you know it. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to feel like the world is against you. But it’s not. The only thing against you is yourself. Buck up, buttercup, you’ve got the world at your fingertips and you will find happiness.