Maybe it’s two in the morning and you’ve been staring at the cursor blinking on the screen for the last ten minutes because you’re too tired to think. Maybe you’re skipping class so that you have time to finish an assignment. Maybe you’re asking for another paper extension. Maybe it feels like all of your professors got together and decided to give you all of your hardest assignments due the same week.
I’ve been there more than once. I was so overwhelmed with school work my first two semesters that I didn’t really do anything except go to class and then come back to my dorm room and read or write papers. My roommate joked that I had moved out toward the end of the semester, because I spent more time in the library than the dorm room.
I was so overwhelmed partially because I was taking a lot of classes and I had a lot of papers to write, and partially because I was putting a lot of unhealthy pressure on myself.
It’s good be motivated and to put your best effort into your work, but when you start to see your worth as dependent on whether or not you get the grade you want on a paper, you’ve prioritized one idea of success over your well-being. It’s not a good habit to get into.
There’s a weird mindset I got in during college that if I wasn’t working on schoolwork, I was being lazy. Not only is this untrue, but it’s also unhealthy. This was such a problem for me that after I graduated, I had to re-figure out how to view my self-worth since I didn’t have grades to tell me whether I was succeeding or not. Self-care matters, and if you’re going to use your brain, you have to take care of your brain and mental health.
So when your papers, readings, and homework assignments are piling up, resist the urge to entertain thoughts like, “I’m never going to finish this paper. And if I don’t, I’ll fail. And if I fail I won’t be able to graduate.” It’s tempting – I know. But those are black hole thoughts, and they aren’t going to help you finish writing your paper.
Maybe you already know this, or maybe it sounds cheesy, but maybe it’s also worth saying. You are worth more than any grade or GPA. Your success in life does not bank on whether or not you turn the paper in on time. And sometimes staying up all night, sacrificing lunch so that you have more time to study, and saying no to any activity that doesn’t involve studying does more harm than good.
Give yourself a break. I promise you deserve it. You can go for a walk, feed yourself a nourishing meal, or take a quick nap, and your schoolwork will still be there when you get back. Getting enough sleep and food and taking a minute to clear your mind will actually help you think more clearly and be more productive.
Every now and then I think back on how much schoolwork I did during college, and I’m not sure how I did it. But I made it, and you will too. Just take a minute to breathe and remember that your worth – and even your scholastic abilities – do not depend entirely on the assignments you are currently stressing about. You’re going to be fine, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need it. Lots of us have been where you are before, and we’re always ready to offer a pep-talk or a cup of coffee.