group-296572_640For the majority of UCSB students, we’ve spent at least a year or two in the dorms. And when one lives in the dorms, it’s pretty much constant socialization for most of the day. When you’re surrounded by roughly 1,000 people of the same age who are equally as lost and confused, it’s hard to find any time to yourself. As fun as socializing and making new friends is, there is nothing more valuable than a day or two to yourself.

Now, just to clear the air — “me time” is not when you go and touch yourselves, boys and girls. It’s a time of self-reflection and carelessness. It’s sort of like when you’re around your family: You don’t need a filter and can be yourself without fear of judgment. However, what makes it even better is the fact that no one is around to annoy you. Like your sister. Or mom.
Often times, UCSB culture requires that we always keep busy. Because, let’s be honest, if you’re not out partying, you’re either doing homework or hanging out with friends. There is very little time where one has their thoughts to themselves and not focused on the task at hand.

As mentioned before, this “there’s-always-something-to-do” culture is only further accentuated by living in a dorm. It’s very easy to get distracted when so many people surround you, and it’s even easier to lose your sense of self. Cue my inner psych nerd — this is a social psychology concept called deindividuation. It is generally thought of as the losing of self-awareness in groups.

In moderation, deindividuation is actually beneficial to one’s mental health. However, when we are in a constant state of deindividuation, it can create stress and a never-ending “on-edge” feeling.

This is exactly the feeling that comes with living in a dorm. Even if you’re comfortable with the friends that you’ve made, you still filter what you say and are conscientious of your surroundings. It probably takes a while for people to completely let their guard down. And this doesn’t only apply to dorms; it can apply to people living anywhere when people surrounding them are ones they aren’t completely comfortable with.

Cue my inner psych nerd again, there is a concept called unconditional positive regard – a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist, Carl Rogers. Positive regard is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does. And instead of having this, we all are in a state of constant socialization. We are always meeting new people, learning about their backgrounds and informing them of ours.

I’m about to be ironic and tell you a little background about myself. I am an out-of-state student, and for the Thanksgiving break, a friend in the Bay Area hosted me since it was too expensive to fly home. On one of those days, I decided to go to a hipster-y café and get some ALEKS done. (Side note: the hipster-y café ended up being a Starbucks and I didn’t do any of my ALEKS.) Regardless, I realized that the two hours I spent in that Starbucks was the first time since the quarter started that I had my thoughts to myself. I people watched, surfed the web and zoned out all while sipping on my cup of coffee.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ve been surrounded by people 24/7 for the past eight weeks. It just means that this is the first time in the past eight weeks that I didn’t have some task or thought to focus on besides whatever I wanted to. There wasn’t anything that I had to worry about in the back of my mind.

After leaving that Starbucks, I felt refreshed and carefree. It’s important to clear your head every once in a while to center yourself with the world again. Now is a great time to do so since we only have a couple weeks left before finals. Whether you go to the beach, sit in a coffee shop or just lie in bed staring at the ceiling, any form of “me time” is good “me time.” And if your “me time” consists of touching yourself, that’s okay, too.

Ben Nguyen finds it hard to engage in “me time” in the dorms … you never know when someone might walk in.