I miss my summer brain. She had a one-tab, one-page kind of mindset. There was no reason to feel overwhelmed about anything, and somehow there was all the time in the world. But then school started. Dozens of different tabs slowly started to spread throughout my laptop like STIs in a dorm. The scrambled contents of my distracted mind were perfectly represented by the assortment of random Google searches scattered throughout my laptop.
Each open tab reminded me of something I hadn’t completed. Every time I opened my laptop my stress levels rose, yet I couldn’t let them go — I couldn’t make myself close them. Each tab was a voice telling me that I needed to finish an assignment, apply for a job, check my email or figure out the bus schedule. My mind was constantly stimulated, and I lacked the time to enjoy what was in front of me because I was too focused on checking off boxes on my overcrowded to-do list. As I counted 23 different tabs opened on one of my webpages, I realized I needed to make a change. I felt trapped in a cycle of having to do everything but not having enough time.
With deadlines coming up, new jobs and internships to apply to, an apartment to clean and plans to make with friends I hadn’t seen all summer, I began to reminisce about the summer days when I felt so much more focused, calm and balanced. I had time to sit and just be in the present moment. I didn’t check my email for days at a time and was rarely absorbed by external pressure and stress. Although this was just a month before, it seemed like a lifetime ago. With all of these newfound realizations and the overwhelming stress of being back in school, I decided I needed to reconnect with the summer version of myself and get to the root of why I, as well as many other college students, felt trapped in a counterproductive cycle.
First, I needed to take responsibility for my unhealthy, 23-tab mindset. I needed to exit out of everything and start over with myself. My head was full of due dates, ideas and goals — leaving my physical and mental health last on my priority list. I was guilty of spending the whole day constantly thinking and working without giving myself time to process or enjoy the moment. The day would fly by, and suddenly, it was 4:00 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten anything. I’d had spent hours reading, grocery shopping, checking my email and going to class, but hadn’t nourished my body or appreciated the sun shining on my face. Admitting that I wasn’t taking time out of my day for my own physical and mental well-being was the first step toward making a change in my habits.
A question I constantly ask myself is this: In a month or even a week from now, am I still going to care or worry about this minor problem or midterm coming up?
Second, I had to change my perspective on what really matters in the long run. A question I constantly ask myself is this: In a month or even a week from now, am I still going to care or worry about this minor problem or midterm coming up? Usually the answer is no, because things seem to work out the way they should. Or sometimes, shit just happens, and everything falls apart — but that’s life. You pick up the pieces and you move on.
I have realized that letting outside factors consume me is a waste of energy and time because things just happen, and we can’t do anything except try our best. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to make sure our mind, body and spirit are in harmony in order to allow ourselves to thrive. If these entities are linked, we can succeed with more ease because our intentions and goals are clear instead of fogged by never-ending to-do lists.
Lastly, the privilege that comes with being stressed about school, internships, jobs and future opportunities must be recognized. To have the ability to worry about what career path I want to choose or what books I need to read is an undeniable privilege that millions of people don’t have. A gratuitous amount of people don’t have the opportunity to worry about these things because they can’t afford or don’t have the right to receive an education. When one’s only priority is to make sure their family has something to eat for dinner or to teach their kids how to read because they lack the right to an education, it is hard to justify your own reasons for stressing. This is not to say that a person’s stress about school and life is any less valid just because it is a privileged problem to have — it simply puts things in a different perspective.
Admitting that I wasn’t taking time out of my day for my own physical and mental well-being was the first step toward making a change in my habits.
As tiresome and stressful as going to UC Santa Barbara can be at times, I love this school and feel like I am gaining valuable insights and life lessons here. The stereotypical “work hard, play hard” mentality has proven itself true in my experience of making sure I spent the whole day at the library so I could go out with my friends at night. The mix of academic rigor and fun is just as amazing as it is unique. As fairytale-like as this school can sometimes feel with the ocean and mountains at our fingertips, parties every day of the week and top-notch professors, it is important to make sure to take time for yourself and not let stressors like finding an internship or getting an A’s in all your classes consume you. Put things into perspective and try to focus on one thing at a time. Close those tabs and make time for yourself. Whether that is listening to music, taking a walk on the beach, cooking, meditating, getting lunch with a friend or whatever you need to do to destress and enjoy the moment, make sure you fit it into your daily schedule.
If you keep your eyes shut to the beautiful things that surround you every day, you will put yourself in a counteractive cycle of always being on the move and never making any time for yourself. Closing your tabs may not be the cure to the stress in your life, but it is the first step toward a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.
Carley Weiler wants you to close close the tabs on your computer screen and take time to destress from your daily routine.