March 16, 2019

SKATCH | 10 Steps to Take When Cornell Is Throwing Grenades at Your Mental Health

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Here I hand to you a figurative racket to bat back those mental health grenades. Everything is going to be fine. You are not alone. Beds exist. Prelims and minute-to-minute schedules are now, but beds are now and forever. Never forget…

  1.    Stop saying you’re going to fail or that you can’t do it

Even if you feel like it’s just words, it’s not. Every time you say this, you’re convincing yourself little by little that it’s true. You are creating a negative little bubble, not only for yourself, but for those around you, who society has taught to say, “Oh no, me too! We’re going to fail! There’s so much to study and not enough time!” And that’s not productive, guys. It’s really not. Why do we say it? For pity? To feel not alone in our misery? There are so many better things to say that accomplish the same goal, though! Like, “What do you think I should focus on for the test?” or “I’m going to work my ass off and freaking pass this test!” or “Can we study together?” Do you feel like you would never say those things and this is like the weird dialogue in a video that you would watch in a middle school class? WEIRD. TRY IT.

  1.    Don’t make it the center of your life

Let me know if this situation looks familiar:

Friend 1: Hey, how are you?

You: I have a prelim.

Friend 1: Oh dear…

Okay, I know no one says “Oh dear,” but whatever, you get it. “I HAVE A PRELIM,” is not the appropriate response to “How are you?” unless it is the center of your life. And I get it, studying for that prelim will take up a lot of your time, maybe what feels like the majority of your life at the moment. But guess what? You also have a family, a bed, rocking friends, extracurriculars, a roof over your head, food to eat, A BED, probably some hot tea to spill, a weird professor story, movies you want to see, places you want to go, and you saw a cute person when you were eating lunch! Yes, you have a prelim, but you also have so much more to talk and think about. So next time someone asks how you are, you can say that you have a test, but also say something else, because even if it doesn’t feel that way at first, how you frame your life at the moment with your words and especially in your head can make a difference in how happy you are. There are so many other cool things in your life that you’re going to remember far more than this specific prelim — try your best, don’t get me wrong, but don’t view your life so negatively because of it.  The sooner you start appreciating the good things in your life, the better the hard parts will seem.

  1.    Surround yourself with positive people

Find them and love them. This might not be your core friend group (but cool if it is!) — I know some of the most amazing people who are just the worst to be around in times of stress. The thing is, that’s what it all boils down to: stress management. If you’re bad at this, you need to find people who are highly positive and value mental health and/or highly productive, who can pacify you or motivate you or inspire you until you start picking up their good habits. This can make you study better with a much less cloudy mind than if you were in the negative environment that we talked about in Step 1. Once you’re in a good head space, start spreading the joy to the negative Nancy’s that have zombified Cornell (former Nancy, right here).

  1.    Call your parents

Say what you want, there is nothing like talking to people who love you unconditionally. Even if your parents are Negative Nancies themselves, if they hear you are truly distraught, more often than not, they’re going to prefer your happiness over a higher grade. These people believe in you and are proud of you for just existing. It may not feel like that. You may feel as though you are letting them down if you don’t get above a certain average. But guess what? You’re at Cornell University! You’ve made it, and you are doing the best you can, and your parents know that.  They will tell you in some way, shape, or form what you need to hear. It may not be direct — it may simply be in the form of a sharp order-like question about how much you are eating and sleeping — but there is so much love and care there that should tell you that the only way you’d let them down is if you let Cornell wreck you emotionally because of a letter on a piece of paper. Your best is enough.

  1.    Email your professor and/or cry to your TA

It’s always a valid option. If you truly feel super behind and on the verge of a breakdown, talk to the people who are making you feel this way (professor/TA/friend/boyfriend/anyone). Tell them how you are feeling, ask for what you need clarification on or what you should focus on, because people are nice! If they don’t offer you more time during the test or an extension, they might offer some other sort of useful resource. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain here, so do it!

  1.    Take a power nap

Wait, I’m not even kidding. Set aside thirty minutes (YOU CAN AFFORD THIRTY MINUTES! TO ALL THOSE SHAKING THEIR HEADS AND SAYING “NO I CAN’T,” I SEE YOU, YOU SLEEP DEPRIVED IGNORANT PEOPLE, YES YOU CAN), twenty of which will be dedicated to actual sleep that will do you wonders. In those twenty minutes, think of nothing related to your stressor. Download one of those hippie-dippie meditation apps like Calm or Headspace, or go to Spotify’s Calm playlists and go ham, but dedicate that half hour to your peace and your rest. You’ll be surprised at how ready you’ll be able to  work afterwards.

  1.    Eat healthy and make time to exercise even if it is just 30 minutes on the elliptical watching YouTube

That was oddly specific, weird. Okay, so when you’re stressed it’s real easy to let yourself go because you’re like, “This unhealthy thing will keep me going and I need it right now.” BUT, feeling good about how you look, let alone the health benefits that contribute to how well you study, are far more important than the 5 minute high of the Ruffles bag from the vending machine. This is definitely a harder one, but the best habits usually are. This is also a good reminder what you are capable of and what a machine you are, so do it.

  1.    That doesn’t mean don’t TREAT YO SELF

My golly, please treat yourself. Yes, I just read Step 7, hear me out. You can treat yourself and still be healthy. This means maybe making time to go out with friends (not necessarily GO OUT, but I mean, it’s your day), watch the Bachelor, sleep in, get a Mac’s smoothie, LEAVE CAMPUS, go, do, have fun! Hours upon hours of studying will tire out your brain and make actually absorbing information so much slower. Taking a break will not only be good for you emotionally, but it will literally help you study better.

  1.    Calm the f**** down

Cry it out, take a few deep breaths, and literally calm down. Whatever is messing with you is temporary —  it might feel like forever now, but it’s not. All you can do is take it one step at a time. Remember your priorities; yes med school and grades in general are a priority, but your mental and physical health and happiness should always be number one, because that’s why you’re doing all of this. Without your health, you can’t do anything. Without happiness, what’s the point of working so hard in the first place? You are doing the best you can and that is enough. If you don’t have enough time, cut something out! You don’t need 18 minors, 20 extracurricular activities, and 34 meetings that you don’t even enjoy! If you don’t get the grade you want, then look at it as an opportunity to do better in the future. Budget your time better, use that google calendar, but as of right now, if you feel like you’re at a breaking point, don’t try to force flexibility. It comes with time. I know it seems counterintuitive to take a break when you are having a panic attack about not having enough time, but you. Need. It. Push yourself, but don’t break yourself.

  1.    Remember that you are an effing BEAST

You’re here. Cornell gets shat on a lot, but face it, you’re at one of the best schools in the world. World-renowned professors, resources, and students like you. It took so much work to get here, and no matter how much help you received, you did what it took to land yourself here. You have pushed yourself to limits some people, maybe even you yourself, might have thought impossible, and you looked darn good doing it. If you can do that, you can learn how to balance sleep, health, and school. You can cut out things that are making you unhappy. It won’t be immediate, but it will be worth it. And if anyone can do it, you can.