At the end of FaceTime conversations with my parents, they casually but ever so intently ask, “Have you been getting a lot of sleep?” Just as casually, I respond, “I’m averaging six or seven hours” — minus the really late nights when sleep was nonexistent.
When the stress piles up, we all make sacrifices. And for many of us, that sacrifice is sleep. Unfortunately, I’m not strict with myself. I am often more satisfied with extra hours of history studying. Though every weekend I plan to hit the hay early, I find myself skipping extra hours of shut-eye and increasingly lacking peace of mind.
We create an environment where our bodies and brains are programmed to never stop. There is always something to do. We could always be more efficient. We are fueling the monster, bringing out our worst. If we allow ourselves to keep turning the pages of the textbook, waking up the next morning after a glorified nap with a headache, a sick feeling in our stomach, grumpy spirits, and a lethargy in confronting the day, we won’t be able to get things done quickly or to our best abilities. Memory will lag. I sound like my mom.
In her article, Treadway proposes a “special day” during which there are no major commitments, and students and professors alike are given the opportunity slow down — “a mini ‘intersession’ once a month or so.” And though I wholeheartedly support this proposition, I think we must understand our limitations and work to create a more balanced routine.
Even when there is little free time, or time without textbooks, make use of every moment. Five minutes can be a perfect amount of time to reflect, look at the week in your planner, send an email, eat a snack, go for a quick run, or take a quick power nap — just make sure to set an alarm.
There are one million and one things we want to do and little time to do them. The sad reality is that we simply can’t do everything. We must prioritize what is most important to us. Devote X number of hours to classes, but let yourself take a break. Grab a friend and throw the frisbee, or create a book club. I often forget how much better I feel when I let myself spend time with friends, do something I really want to do, or just breathe. Your body needs the downtime, so don’t worry — you’re still being efficient.
My roommate and I try to put on a face mask every weekend, specifically setting aside time to tune in to each other and reflect on the week. After only 20 minutes, the tension in my face and my mind is eased. Last weekend, we grumbled at assignments and an inbox with too many blue dots, but under the thick paste of our masks, managed to appreciate the hectic days.