Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
The start of a new year is a chance to set new resolutions, define upcoming goals, and cultivate more optimism. There are 365 opportunities, but also 365 uncertainties, that will occur over the new year. While this is exciting, conceiving of the possibilities that lay ahead is also overwhelming.
Personally, the start of 2019 is the beginning of another spring semester in college. Rather than feeling refreshed and ready to embrace a new start, the beginning of this semester felt more similar to a continuation of a long academic year. After spending three weeks at home for winter break, where I basked in the pleasure of having absolutely no responsibilities and the freedom to structure my time how I pleased, the transition to second semester felt quite abrupt. Immediately, I was thrown into a hectic schedule. Five classes, a job on campus, and a load of homework assignments later, I was buried under a pile of stress, not to mention, my email inbox being bombarded with “Do This!” and “Don’t forget to sign up for that!”
As one can imagine, it’s difficult to settle back into a routine feeling rejuvenated and prepared to excel in a new semester, or really a new chapter in life, after spending a significant duration of time unstructured. It’s also surprisingly easy to be intimidated by these commitments, and to be hard on oneself for not meeting certain expectations or standards. However, let this be a reminder to myself, and to everyone (whether you’re a student or working professional) that a busy schedule is something to be excited about, not intimidated by, and with the help of exercising self-compassion, these obstacles are easier to overcome than they seem.
Self-compassion is the notion of turning compassionate feelings inward, and is composed of acting kindly and warmly towards oneself, recognizing a sense of common humanity — that life’s challenges and our personal failures are all a part of being human, which is an experience we all share — and practicing mindfulness. Being mindful is the process of observing the passage of thoughts, emotions, and feelings in a non-judgmental way, which ultimately gives us greater perspective and clarity in our lives and of the world around us.
Yes, it is challenging to be completely immersed in a fast-paced environment, but with the knowledge of practicing self-compassion during times of change, have faith that you can, and will, adapt. Taking care of your body and your mind does not need to be mutually exclusive, and in doing so, can better prepare you to take on stressful tasks. Be organized early on — create to-do lists, respond to emails, and schedule appointments and meetings in your calendar. But also make sure to schedule time for yourself, whether that means meditating once a day, going out to dinner with friends, or engaging activities simply for pure enjoyment. Everything in life is a balance, and practicing self-compassion, which is especially opportune at the beginning of the new year, is critical to help find stability and remain levelheaded amongst chaos.
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