Patrick Barry ’21, Staff Writer

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It is undeniable that America and all of her citizens have been subjected to significant stress since the pandemic emerged. For instance, the conflict between whether one should cloister themself or socialize without the proper precautions and the conflict about mandatory vaccines has put many people in conflict and brought about personal conflict within people. Therefore, aside from the possibility of contracting COVID-19, many people, and most notably students, are at a higher risk of developing some form of mental illness which will only compound the stress they currently experience. This is why self-care is, perhaps more than ever, paramount if students are expected to meet their academic and personal responsibilities without succumbing to this nationwide stressor.

Many people are finding themselves with more time than they previously had considering many schools and workplaces are providing remote accommodations, so now would be a great opportunity to address previously neglected health needs. For instance, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is seven to nine hours. While attending college, I have found myself repeatedly getting around six hours of sleep every night, and I have only recently committed myself to getting eight hours. First, the opportunity that came with more time made me incapable of resorting to the excuse I always used to explain my subpar sleep: “I never have enough time.” However, I also convinced myself that receiving the recommended amount of sleep would make me more productive in the long run, and this has been proven to be the case. Even though the whole point of staying up was to catch up on schoolwork, I was ironically only making things harder for myself. Staying up to complete assignments I stockpiled toward the end of the week only made me tired the next day which negatively impacted those next seventeen hours.

Aside from cleansing the mind, sleep also allows us to gain a fresh perspective on work or school related challenges from the previous day. For instance, I might be working on an academic paper, but I find myself laboring over one sentence for longer than I should. Often, if I put the task aside, the solution often comes to me once I return to the problem after a full night of sleep. A task only becomes more stressful the longer one subjects their self to it without seeing the one-to-one results between effort and outcome. With many tasks, we like to assume that doubling the effort and time put into them always produces better results, but this only applies to mindless tasks such as moving furniture or alphabetizing books on a shelf. The objectives and the methods to achieve them are clear. However, solving nonlinear problems requires ingenuity which produces inconsistent results that only prove to be less favorable the longer one devotes their self to the task. We all know how the longer we spend looking at a blank page, the less likely we are to write anything worthwhile. Many people become fatigued doing the same task nonstop for more than four hours. To avoid this, putting a task off for another day can actually be a productive decision considering spending hours on end doing nothing but accruing stress will not produce better results.

For many of us, it can be hard to say no, and this applies to the expectations from those around us along with opportunities we might receive. During the pandemic, I have been contacted by many old friends and associates who called me up asking for favors. They assume that just because I have more free time, I can devote it to them, but the primary point about self-care is to use an allotted time to avoid the burnout that comes from taking on too many responsibilities. If you found yourself saying you were too busy with work or school to take care of your mind and body through activities like exercise and meditation, how can you expect to improve by accepting new responsibilities and jumping on every opportunity? Time is a limited resource, and even if you find beneficial opportunities such as a charity event, with every new responsibility you add to your schedule, you must remove something. While some opportunities are better than others, they all require you to sacrifice time and other responsibilities. I used to say that I never had the time to look after myself, but there is always time. It is just a matter of making it by assessing what responsibilities are not mandatory and which opportunities do not align with our fulfillment. If something is neither required nor fulfilling, consider saying no.

The one tip that was most effective in helping me combat stress during the pandemic was using my additional time to organize my workspace to set my mind at ease and to increase my efficiency. I am a commuter, so I was rarely at home for long before the pandemic. Naturally, the introduction of remote learning changed that, so now I find myself having to work in a space that had become cluttered due to disuse. As well as making strides toward your own improvement, perhaps it would be a good time to begin maintaining this new place you will be expected to perform those nonlinear tasks. Being forced to work in a new space can provide you with necessary change to motivate you through a repetitive task. However, I found that my pace was slowed. Tools were not organized for ease of access, and I always found myself rummaging around for specific documents. The physical clutter consisting of piles of papers and books only added to my mental

clutter consisting of various responsibilities and the inability to decide on a course of action. It was only after I devoted enough time to remove the clutter on my desk by getting a shelf and organizing my room that I was able to address school responsibilities and general COVID-19 stressors.

In sum, consider using what extra time you currently have because of the pandemic for self-care. It does not have to be a selfish pursuit, and it can even contribute to greater efficiency in your professional and academic pursuits. Rather than “giving you a reason to be lazy,” the point of self-care is to acknowledge that you are a fallible human being, and your mind and body will wear down while exposed to constant stress. It can give you the chance to make your life more efficient by using a schedule, acknowledge what your priorities are, and better optimizing your workspace.