Almost There

So here I am, another year of school has gone by. I have no more midterms, and two more assignments to go. This does not include the various things I will need to apply/interview for but you know what? I feel good. I’m almost at the finish line.

For some reason as exams draw nearer, I feel less stressed…for now. So I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. I can finally take a step back and breathe. I’m excited to be almost done my 3rd year of university, but also a bit sad because I will be graduating this time next year. I won’t go into detail and dwell on my future of what will happen even in forth year. Right now, I want to feel in the moment for once. Think about the current situation rather than the future. I want to enjoy my calmness while it lasts, although I know it won’t last long.

I would like to take this time to reflect. I feel this school year has been a lot about growth, grace under pressure and taking on too much. I’ve learned a lot. The most important I feel has been to give myself a break, physically and mentally. I may want to do all that I can and sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but maybe that’s a good thing. Limits are a good thing because they let us know (no matter how stubborn we are or try to fight it) when it’s time to take a break or just move on. Limits give us a place to draw a mark in the sand, so we know not to go any further. And though I do believe that we all need to push our limits at times, it should not be an every day thing. I don’t want to push myself so hard and keep redrawing my line in the sand to the point where I don’t realise that I’m about to fall of a cliff or have life pass me by.

I want to have balance in my life. I know it will be hard, and I know it won’t be easy, but I feel ready. Obviously this comes after surviving one of my most stressful years in my academic career, now knowing that I can do it. But I don’t know, I feel confident. I know what success feels like and failure too. I’m still learning more and more about myself but at the same time, I’m not where I am when I first started university. Thus, with regard to the end of this school year, I am happy to say I am almost there. I made it. Not because of the late night study sessions, the lack of sleep, the countless commitments I made, but the people around me. Those I helped and those who helped me, even if they didn’t know it. And that’s a good feeling to have, so I’m going to hold onto it for as long as I can.

Well wishes,

L.R.

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Drawn and Quartered

I have committed high treason…against myself…AGAIN! I once again have begun to spread myself to thin. Breaking promises I told myself like, “I’ll go to bed by 10:00pm” or “I’ll stay on top of things”, and the classic “I’m fine, of course I’m not taking on too much”. But I’m not fine.

School, work, friends, family, volunteering, applications, planning for my future, meetings! (in no particular order). Sometimes it just gets to be to much. Constantly being pulled one way, whilst another part is being pulled in the opposite direction, all by my own hand. My decisions, and mine alone cause me stress, panic, and anxiety. And I can’t stop. Apart of me wants to, but another part of me knows (or at least thinks it knows) what’s best for me. I can’t tell anymore whether I’m worthy of a break, or if my judgement is on point, I just don’t know.

So many things and so little time. Or maybe its just my time management skills. Because honestly I can’t tell anymore. So much work and effort has been put into making me who I am, because no task is to big or to small when others ask; it’s not a problem. But I think I have a problem, or maybe I don’t and its just the lack of sleep. I just want…to be happy I guess. And I know this anxiety, this ball of fire in my chest burning me from the inside out will die down, maybe even go away entirely (eventually). But right now, all I want to do is lay down and not think.

I’m always thinking. Brain racing, head thumping constant reminders that there’s still so much to do. My future is riding on what I do, on my choices and it scares the hell out of me. Like a deck of cards, one small move, one misplaced card and all my hard work is gone. As if it was never there. Poof! And then what? Disappointment. The ever crushing, self loathing, let everyone down type of disappointment. The type of disappointment that makes your body feel like a thousand pounds, and yet like it’s floating. Untethered with nothing to keep you from floating away, from losing yourself, from ever caring again. So many expectations, and so many things to tend to. And sometimes, its all too much.

Being pulled apart sucks, its sucks a lot more when you are actively doing it to yourself. And I wish I had some positive ending statement about hope floats and precious words of encouragement, but I can’t even believe the ones I tell myself right now. But I’ll still be here. Day after day. Grinning and baring it till I get home, back to my bed, my safe place where I retreat inside my head.  I really wish I had something more positive to say, but I can’t. I can’t lie to myself or anyone else and say it will be okay. Especially when there is nothing wrong with NOT being okay. No one has to be it all, no one has to achieve it all. I don’t just want to be good, I want to be great, to surpass everyone. But who I should really be focusing on is myself. I want to be better, I want to be stronger…but right now I can’t. And I have to learn to be okay with that.

Well wishes,

L.R.

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The Calm Before the Storm

It’s now the 4th week of school, and the first round of assignments are either done or quickly approaching. And I am in a strange in-between. Coming down off the high that is staying up late to put the finishing touches on an assignment, but also trying to maintain it because I know more is right around the corner, and after that its midterm exams.

I’m trying to do my best at keeping calm, trying not to let the ever creeping, over powering, stomach twisting, mind frazzling anxiety take over. On that edge of “I CARE A LOT!” and “well, I really don’t want to do anything”. Because Its one thing to have motivation and no desire, because you can still get the job done. However, for those like me who have that powerful desire but a somewhat dwindling motivation it can be extremely hard to get started. I know its coming, you know its coming. Assignments! Tests! Quizzes! Projects! GROUP Projects! But right now its quiet.

I’m in power save mode. Trying to do things here and there to prepare, but still feeling like I’m somehow forgetting something. Each year, each semester becoming a challenge, as it should as we advance to higher learning. But I can’t help but long for a simpler time. It wasn’t that long ago even; it was my first year of university. It was a new found freedom, exciting but scary. When the word “free time” actually meant time where I didn’t have to be doing some form of work. But…I am honestly happy at where I have progressed to. The simpler times of first year may be over, but things have gotten a lot more interesting as the years have progressed. New topics, new people, new initiatives to be apart of. Watching things grow and/or fizzle out. Feeling like a train in motion, headed straight for my goal, what I, like many students have worked so hard for, graduation.

However, I’m not in such a hurry anymore. Where the calm was once deafening, it is now comforting. Where I once was unsure, I am now still unsure but have the resources and tools to help me find my way. Right now, I feel like I can take on anything, even though in reality I may not be able to. But I have hope and determination. I can feel my levels of desire and motivation finding a happy middle to meet. Not too much motivation where it blinds me to the world around me and causes me to feel like I’m burning out. And not too much desire that I’m distraught when something doesn’t turn out the way I wanted. I am in a happy in-between; a mixture of emotions. Right now I am in the calm before the storm, I have my life jacket tied tight and my boat is in good condition. I. Am. Ready.

Well wishes,

L.R.

I’m Still Learning

2017. Another year, another semester gone. And that old saying is rearing its ugly head; “New year, new me”. This saying can hold different meanings to a variety of people. It could give those who have put off their goals for so long a bench mark of where to start. Marking a beginning and/or end for new and old relationships or habits. Or it could simply be a way for those who know they can’t commit to a goal another way to stall. And honestly, I have to say I’ve been both. But I’m still learning.

But I truly believe, as each year passes we all learn more and we get better. This may seem fairly obvious, but its true. There are still things for me to learn and improve on. But I’m working on it, and that’s the important part. As we progress and we work on things, we tend to improve even if we don’t realize it.

I do well in school, and have good study skills but they’re not the best. Over the years I’ve become less scared to talk in front of large crowds or even instruct a class on how to do something, but I still get nervous; the butterflies are always there. As well as, my ability to balance work, school, volunteering, and a family/social life leaves something to be desired. But I’m working on it, and that’s what’s important. I try my best to get outside my comfort zone, no matter how scary it is, and how much my anxiety fights to over power me. I try and take as many opportunities as I can, so they will help me develop and grow as a person. Even though, and it may not look like it on the surface, I am panicking on the inside. But that panic drives me. Because if the way to get rid of that anxiety, or make its affects less severe, is by taking more chances frequently and consistently, I’ll do it.

But once again, I’m still learning. I have not reached that point of confidence yet. I’m doing my best, all the while trying to convince myself that my best is good enough. So, I vow to myself that I will try my best every time all the time, to be better. And whether it takes months or years, or my whole life, I will continue to learn and be better than I was yesterday. I want to be okay with not being okay, or just being okay at certain things. I may not always be the best, even though I desire it, but I will always do my best.  So if your like me and don’t have everything figured out yet, that’s okay. We are all still learning, we will never stop learning and improving. The most important thing is to acknowledge and celebrate progress and know that your best is good enough. If not to be the best for others, be the best for yourself first. Because, for me right now, I’m okay with not being okay; I’m still learning. And I know this sounds like a bunch of motivational quotes, but they do hold true for some. Myself in particular.

Well wishes,

L.R.

Burning Out: Is it to early to think about this?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “Burning Out” as   1) to drive out or destroy the property of by fire; 2) to cause to fail, wear out, or become exhausted especially from overwork or overuse.

Of course I am talking about the 2nd definition. As we are finishing up assignments and heading into our exam periods, it can become hard to be motivated. And for some, the potential of a good grade or passing a class, isn’t enough any more. The fire that was once lit under them – like the saying goes – is burning out. However, there are always signs. Below are Forbe’s “Top 10 Signs You’re Burning Out – And What To Do About It”. But like anything, please take this with a grain of salt and even add some of the signs you think were missed or even how you deal with it:

SYMPTOMS OF BURN OUT

  1. Exhaustion

A clear sign of burnout is when you feel tired all the time. Exhaustion can be emotional, mental or physical. It’s the sense of not having any energy, of being completely spent.

  1. Lack of Motivation

When you don’t feel enthusiastic about anything anymore or you no longer have that internal motivation for to do work, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing burnout.

  1. Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions

You may feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter that much anymore, or you may be disillusioned with everything; feel more generally pessimistic. Negative emotions are becoming unusual for you.

  1. Cognitive Problems

Burnout and chronic stress may interfere with your ability to pay attention or concentrate.

  1. Slipping Job Performance

Compare your work performance now to your performance in previous years, because burnout tends to happen over an extended period of time.

  1. Interpersonal Problems at Home and at Work (or School)

This tends to play out in one of two ways: (a) You’re having more conflicts with other people, such as getting into arguments, or (b) you withdraw, talking to your coworkers (peers) and family members less. You might find that even when you’re physically there, you’re tuned out.

  1. Not Taking Care of Yourself

When suffering from burnout, some people engage in unhealthy coping strategies like drinking too much, smoking, being too sedentary, eating too much junk food, not eating enough or not getting enough sleep.

  1. Being Preoccupied With Work … When You’re Not at Work

Even though you might not be working at a given moment, if you’re expending mental energy mulling over your job, then your work is interfering with your ability to recover from the stresses of your day. [Similar may go for when you are out with friends and you are thinking about school work]. In order to recover, you need time to yourself after the actual task stops … and time when you stop thinking about that task altogether.

  1. Generally Decreased Satisfaction

This is the tendency to feel less happy and satisfied with your career and with your home life.

  1. Health Problems

Over a long period of time, serious chronic stress can create real health problems like digestive issues, heart disease, depression and obesity.

SOME IDEAS ON HOW TO PREVENT BURN OUT

Take Relaxation Seriously

Whether you take up meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family, truly think about what you’ll do to relax, and designate time for it.

Cultivate a Rich Personal Life

Find something outside of work that you are passionate about that’s challenging, engaging and really gets you going—whether a hobby, sports or fitness activities or volunteering in the community (along with other items we mention here, like relaxation, being able to “turn off” and participating in rewarding non-work activities).

Unplug

While communication technology can promote productivity, it can also allow work stressors seep into family time, vacation and social activities. Set boundaries by turning off cell phones at dinner and delegating certain times to check email.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep every night is key in resting your body and mind for the following day.

Get Organized

Get organized, clear your head, put together a to-do list (or an electronic task list) then prioritize. That way, you don’t have to keep thinking about those things because you’ll have systems in place to remind you.

Stay Attuned

It’s important to tune into the precursors of those conditions both physical signs that you might be under too much stress: more headaches, tight shoulders, a stiff neck or more frequent stomach upset. As well as, mental signs like some of the top 10 signs.

Know When It’s You, and When It’s Them

Burnout is sometimes motivated by internal factors and sometimes it really is a symptom of external ones.

 

So, if the issues you’re struggling with are really serious and getting worse, you may need to seek professional help. Talk to a psychologist to get help beyond support from just your friends and family members.

Well wishes, L.R.

Gerry, L. 10 Signs You’re Burning Out — And What To Do About It. (2013). Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/04/01/10-signs-youre-burning-out-and-what-to-do-about-it/#2d31e7185e01

A Good Nights Sleep

We all can agree that sleep is wonderful…for those who can sleep or those who have a regular sleep schedule. From my experience being in university, there are three main types of sleep a university student can have: *Feel free to add your own in the comments section below

  1. The “I am going to go to bed early so I will be well rested,” but your body, or mind, or both feel like you just ran a marathon and are too wide awake to sleep (despite your desire to). And thus you fall asleep much later than intended or 1 hour before you are supposed to wake up.
  2. The “I have an assignment and/or test that I need to work on and I don’t want to go to bed”. Shrugging off all the studies that show that sleep actually helps you learn and retain information, because like me sometimes you feel that some how you are the exception. Spoiler alert! Though it may be in different quantities for every person, no one is the exception, we all need our sleep.
  3. The ever allusive good night sleep. Which some times comes from being so exhausted you just crash, or your body/mind finally goes to bed once you lay down. However, this can sometimes lead to sleeping-in the next day. Hopefully the next day is a day off from school and work for those reading this. However, in my experience it has either caused me to almost miss my bus/ride to school or as a result of a very good night sleep, I have slept half of what was supposed to be a productive Saturday away.

Never the less, we try our best. We try and take those who give us tips and tricks to sleep in combination with reading countless studies and articles on what will get us to sleep faster and more peacefully. But at the end of the day, you have to take other’s advice with a grain of salt and look inward (and I know for some this might sound silly), but really ask yourself why you aren’t getting a good enough sleep.

Are there external factors causing a lack of sleep, internal, or maybe a bit of both? For me I know it is a mixture of both. It’s equal parts – my body is wide awake, I feel restless, uncomfortable, and I just want to be hit over the head with one of those cartoon mallets and have stars or birds fly around my head. On the other side, I know I have a problem with completing assignments the night before they are due. And let me clarify, I do not procrastinate, I really do plan out what I want to do. And yet, without fail I always end up putting everything together the night before, regardless of any preparation I might do. Because something can always be fixed or tweaked. And finally, sometimes I let myself get so exhausted, running around and trying to get things done that I just pass out once my head hits the pillow. Usually waking to an unknown time, my phone, glasses, and headphones still somewhere wrapped up in my bed sheets, but I don’t know where. Some how I am both refreshed and still tired, and feeling a sense of disappointment because I really wanted to be productive the next day. I can even remember a time where I had been getting up really early but going to bed fairly late for a week, that when it came Friday and I told myself I was just going to lay down for 5 minutes. I hadn’t realized I had fallen asleep till I woke up several hours later.

However, there is one type of sleep I forgot to mention. As we are all in the age of technology, it can become very tempting (and I often succumb) to go on my phone late at night before I go to bed. Extending the process my body takes to fall asleep. And I know if I want a proper sleep than I have to put it down. But really the only time I get to do what I want to do or catch up on my favourite shows or videos is the time between when I go to bed and when I am about to fall asleep. But that is no excuse. And yes I have a ‘night time mode’ setting on my phone but nothing beats a natural good night sleep. Nothing is worse for your body and your mind than not getting any sleep.

With lack of sleep can come anxiety, paranoia, exhaustion phases and just a lack of enthusiasm mixed with extreme bolts of energy, as far as my experience has shown me. And as students I know it can be hard to take time for ourselves, but we need it. We need to give our bodies and minds a break, so we cannot only be of use to others, but to ourselves as well. And I understand that everyone has their own schedule and their own way of doing things, but you should never underestimate a good night sleep.

Well wishes, L.R.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Fear of Falling

Whether it being a fear of falling apart, falling short of expectations, or simply falling behind, it is always there. Lurking underneath the surface.  Though there are emotional components and bouts of self doubt and confusion, what I am talking about is university.

We all want to do well in the eyes of our family/friends, teachers, and our selves even. But it’s never enough is it? To just do well. Deep down we know what we want, to be the best or at least be amongst the best. So when you do well (maybe even better) you feel like you’re flying, you hear those around you talk about poor grades (though you know it was probably because they didn’t study and that they are very smart people, who only need to work hard to do well) and you play off your mark. Half prideful, half nonchalant. You don’t want your own spot light, but you want to stand out. You want to be recognized for your hard work, the sleepless nights, the endless amounts of coffee, your lack of social interaction. And all for a mark. An amazing mark, but a mark, a grade, a shiny gold spot on your record saying: “look what I can do, I am a valuable member of the university and society, hire me and give me money so I can have a life of my own and be one of you”. Someone who follows a path, sticks to it and… I don’t really know yet what comes after, I’m still on the path myself.

Anyway, this keeps happening. Gold star, after gold star, great mark after amazing mark, rewards, certificates, newspaper articles, money. Constant validation, praise, and placards to be put up. And then you start to feel it. A dullness, a grey that settles in. You still want the rewards, but the work feels like its piling up. The questions start. “How am I going to pull this off?”, “How can I keep doing this to myself?”, “Do I really deserve to take a break?”, “What will my parents say if I fail?”, and more importantly, “What happens if I fail?”. And that’s when the spiraling starts. Down and down I go, where I stop nobody knows. Because if I don’t do well in my undergrad, how am I going to get into a good school to do my Masters? What about my PhD? Will I even be able to make it to then? Will I burn out, drop out and end become some unexpected burden/freeloader my parents never saw coming. Leaving people asking: “What happened? ____ had so much potential”

These fears can be consuming trust me on that. A mixture of highs and lows. Hyper activity at 3:00am mixed with an inactivity at 4:00pm during the day. But what can you do, but power through it all. The discomfort, the anxiety, the agitation, the irritableness, the relief, the love, the joy, and the utter confusion of it all. This is just my experience with failure, or more or less a fear of it. And it’s silly, but sometimes what gets me through it all is just a little voice in my head singing, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”. Its not for everyone, but it is for me.

So take breaks (try scheduling them), it’s okay to fall behind on your readings (trust me I have), because you will make it, to wherever your path may lead you. Wherever you may want to go. Take care of yourselves, trust yourselves. It is okay, and just keep swimming.

Well wishes, LR