Rocky Top looks a lot different from when we left it back in November. We’re able to walk freely past Fred Brown Hall with the new extension of the Ped Walkway. We’ve got a new athletic director and a handful of new football coaches. Campus dining has returned to take-out only and we are seeing old COVID-19 restrictions being reinstated.
The country as a whole looks different as well, most noticeably under new leadership after President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office on Jan. 20th. The Senate flipped to a Democratic majority thanks to our recently-blue neighbors to the south who elected a Black man and a Jewish man to the senate for the first time in state history. Vaccinations are being distributed at double the pace as they were last year and we’re finally making strides as a country to put this virus behind us.
With that being said, a lot of the day-to-day experiences for students will be the same as last semester. A schedule of constant schooling without any substantial breaks was what a majority of students saw last semester, leading to high levels of burnout earlier than usual.
Burnout is the feeling of overwhelming exhaustion that you get from working too hard without breaks. This is a common experience among people in any profession, but is especially prevalent in college students. Usually students get burnt out closer to finals, maybe in the third quarter of the semester. Due to COVID-19 restrictions however, students faced that lack of motivation before midterms, causing grades to drop and participation to fizzle out.
This phenomenon is practically unavoidable without taking the time away from work to recuperate and without any of the breaks that students usually get throughout the semester, this puts the responsibility on the students themselves to create that time to relax. Separating yourself from your schoolwork when all of your classes take place in the same room that you sleep in can be hard, especially when the pandemic prevents public events that would allow for students to escape school.
This semester make sure to set time aside regularly to step away from any work that you have and truly have some time to yourself to relax. For me, that means watching whatever show Im watching at the moment and playing some Nintendo Switch. For others, it may be laying in bed and watching TikToks, taking a long shower or even reading a book.
Whatever your “me-time” looks like, make sure that you incorporate that into your schedule every week. If possible, try to do small things that help you escape school every day. It can be hard to walk away from work that you have, especially if you have a good amount, but I promise that you will be more productive if you take breaks.
One way to hold yourself accountable to this is by scheduling out your week. I was given that advice last semester and it has been really helpful so far. I use a weekly planner or agenda, but you can also use a calendar, a scheduling app or any other medium that you find useful. Writing out your daily schedule will help you visualize your time and allow you to see when you can set some time aside for yourself.
It’s also important to accomplish your “me-time” safely and in line with the pandemic restrictions. Your mental health is extremely important in keeping the burnout away, but you also need to be physically healthy too. This means staying away from high-risk situations and adhering by the guidelines set in order to protect your health. We aren’t going to get back to what life was like before the pandemic if people don’t start living like we’re in a pandemic, so do your part by finding some ways to recuperate without risking your life and the lives of others.
In my first article, I said it’s our responsibility to change the world for the better, to alter the state that we live in to create one that is more equal and sustainable for generations to come. However, it is also our responsibility to prioritize our mental health during one of the most difficult times to be a student in history. We can’t change the world if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.
For the first time in four long years, hope is flowing through America’s veins. We’re moving in the right direction and we will continue to do so as the reigns of the country are handed over to Gen Z. Through this, we have to remember that sustainable change cannot be made without a strong foundation, a foundation that is built through keeping our minds and bodies healthy.
This semester, prioritize your mental health to make yourself a better student, a better friend and a better human being.
Ben Goldberger is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in Anthropology and Political Science. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
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