The holidays are upon us. While many people are thinking of the comforts of being surrounded by family and enjoying festive foods and drinks, there is a population of people who at this very moment are stressed beyond their imagination. Yes, I am talking about the college student and joys of the end of a semester. Usually, I would take this time to apologize for the absence in my blogging, but it will all make sense after this post. As many people like to point out, “things do not get any easier after you graduate” and “the real world is this busy all the time.” I want to take time to put this stress into perspective for students and people in the “real world” (which I typing using air quotes because students are people too).
Two years ago, I remember being so stressed during this time of the year. My usual morning gym routine was no more because I logged late hours in the library and had early morning classes. One night I slept on my unmade bed with clothes that I was too tired to fold as pillows. It was an interesting balance of not wanting to do laundry, but also not wanting to shower and still wearing clean clothes. Gross, I know. This mess that was my room/hygiene habits was a metaphor for how I felt about my life in those moments. I was stressed, confused, over-worked, lonely, tired, and often frustrated with all the assignments and readings I had to do.
One year later, as a senior in a freshman level biology class (I was in this class because of the “I want to be a doctor” phase I went through late in my college career), I was able to notice things I had not noticed before. The young people around me seemed so overwhelmed and irrationally stressed by our exams and cumulative finals. I started to wonder if this was how I had acted in previous years. The optimism caught up with me during this time and I started thinking of how lucky I was to be able to spend the time I was studying and learning. Granted, biology was not my favorite, I still found ways to enjoy the long hours I spent reading about plants and their means of reproduction. I did whatever I could to avoid being that irrationally stressed freshman. I did this by thinking about my stress as a privilege instead of a hindrance.
As students, and really anyone with a lifestyle that brings them stress at times, it is so easy to see the stress as something crippling. I started reminding myself how fortunate I was to be in the situations I was in. Not everyone can attend college (or graduate school). Not everyone is able to afford the luxuries of having a laptop to study from or the money to buy books needed to succeed in classes. Not everyone has the capabilities to spend hours studying or the ability to focus and manage their time and concentrate on a task. This was something I started reminding myself as I spent hours reading and writing for classes I thought “didn’t matter.” I realized, they do matter, and these experiences helped shape the way I look at the world.
This applies to so much more than just college students and stressed graduate students. While the stresses of life look less like finals and projects and more like work obligations and expenses, they are still opportunities to learn and grow. The holidays bring us time to reflect on our lives, be thankful for our past, and hopeful for what is to come. Without the right mindset, these thoughts can be daunting and, frankly, depressing. I understand that not every stress is a positive. Not every situation has a bright side, but I think it is our responsibility to find, at least, one bright side. We are here, living, for a reason and without a little hope and optimism, we could be pretty miserable.
What am I thankful for this time of the year? I am thankful for the stress that my life brings me. I am thankful for all the hours I spend learning, reading, and writing. I am thankful for my ability to see these stresses as privileges, rather than roadblocks. Most importantly, I am thankful for the people that have helped me during these times.
Think About it
-What situation is causing you the most stress right now? What can you do to change this stress into a motivator?
-Have you kept an attitude of gratitude when times have gotten tough?
-What little things can you find to be more thankful for?
Thanks for reading!
“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’”-Eckhart Tolle