This past week sucked. The week before that kind of sucked too, but this last week really drove my misfortune home. Every day felt like a challenge. I was overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious from the minute I woke up to the instant I finally fell asleep. Even though I was maintaining healthy habits—eating regularly, working out, taking breaks, getting enough sleep—I still felt like shit.
I was so stressed that I felt like my hold on reality was slipping. I would forget about assignments until they were due in a few hours or completely forget to respond to important emails and texts. Then I would get angry at myself for falling short and become even more stressed until I had fulfilled my own prophecy. Whenever I wasn’t doing work or studying I felt guilty. Even in the moments when I was trying to take care of myself, I couldn’t really be present because my mind was always elsewhere. I was completely consumed with what I should be doing.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this experience is unique to just me. I think a lot of Boston College students feel this way, especially as the semester begins to reach its peak. While a warm patch of sun on the Quad might melt away the frost of seasonal depression, stepping foot into O’Neill for an eight-hour study session brings everything crashing down again.
I’ve learned that taking care of yourself is integral to preventing a bad week from turning into a much darker spiral. But sometimes taking care of yourself doesn’t exclusively mean journaling or waking up early to hit the Plex. Sometimes, self-care means letting yourself be a little kid again, even if it’s for five minutes.
Be completely honest with yourself for a minute, when was the last time you participated in a shenanigan? A little tomfoolery? Horseplay? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s been a while since you let yourself have fun.
This is not the kind of fun that involves going out with your friends on the weekend. Instead, it’s the kind of fun you had in middle school when you saw how many Oreos you could stack on your friend’s forehead. It might sound ridiculous, but sometimes the best way to ground yourself and calm down is to let yourself be a little ridiculous.
The trick to implementing this practice in your everyday life is to give more power to the voice in your head that tells you to buy dinosaur chicken nuggets instead of regular ones. Now, I’m not saying that launching pencils at the ceiling with rubber bands is a good idea—we should respect property and others’ general well-being. I am saying, however, that if you need to play music in the shower and sing along incredibly loudly to stop taking things so seriously, then who cares if the rest of the communal bathroom hears?
If you have to skip to your class to feel less anxious before taking an exam, then skip to class! If hitting a box jump on the Quad is going to make you feel better about having to study for the next 48 hours, go for it! I had a friend openly share that last year during a final he brought Uncle Ben’s chicken flavored rice and ate it while taking the exam. His reasoning? “Why should I care what other people think? I’m not disturbing anyone else and my final was more enjoyable.” Not only did I laugh out loud at the thought of someone eating chicken flavored rice during a final, but I also realized he was 100 percent right. The few times last week when I did not feel stressed were when I was with my roommates dancing around the kitchen to 2000s throwbacks or playing keep-it-up with a birthday balloon.
Life is never going to stop throwing 30-mph curve balls, so you might as well learn how to have a little fun while you’re up at bat. The most confident, intelligent, and productive people I know are the people who have learned how to have fun even in the midst of difficulty or pain. Hard work pays off, but if you push yourself too hard you’re just going to end up burnt-out and bitter. So the next time you have a bad week, I suggest you allot 30 minutes to do something silly, goofy, and/or ridiculous. If you don’t feel better afterward, then fine, you can go back to your problem sets and emails, but I have a feeling life won’t seem quite so serious.