By: Kitty Cheung, Staff Writer
Spring terms have usually been pretty shitty for me. School stress, combined with the wrath of allergy season, has typically led to burnout detrimental to both my physical and mental health. Ironically, during the spring of my first year of university, I achieved a 4.0 GPA.
As a fresh-faced first-year, I was eager to get involved in the university community and excel in my academics. Having entered school in autumn, I had decided to spend the fall term taking it easy and focusing on transitioning into university life. Come spring, I was buzzing to take on all sorts of volunteer and employment opportunities alongside schoolwork. I signed up to volunteer for a large-scale event in my program, applied for jobs, and continued attending club events for organizations that I had joined after Clubs Day.
While I was proud of the work that I had put towards school, I had frequently been experiencing nosebleeds and stress headaches during that time. My seasonal allergies were causing me to sneeze often, and my lack of regard for self-care meant that I was blowing my nose so often that I would induce nosebleeds. At times, I would be experiencing a handful of nosebleeds in the same day. The symptoms of my allergies also include dry eyes, and so I remember finding it difficult to even study because keeping my irritated eyes open long enough to read a sentence was a struggle.
I kept a high standard for myself in terms of work ethic and productivity, but I was sacrificing my basic needs for sleep and nutrition, not even making time to invest in allergy medicine, and generally keeping unsustainable work habits. I felt as trapped as the helium balloons stuck in the roof of Convocation Mall, gradually deflating over time.
This most recent spring, I took on three jobs along with four courses. Despite the stresses that I had faced during first-year, I told myself that I had learned from my earlier burnout. The jobs that I had chosen all had flexible schedules, which I figured would allow for adequate work-life balance.
One of these jobs involved acting as a peer mentor of sorts, which included connecting students with resources to help support their university experiences. I felt like a fraud. If a fellow student admitted that they felt stressed from school, I would give self-care tips or recommend campus resources such as Health and Counselling or MySSP ー tips and resources which I could have benefitted from but felt that I didn’t “need” just yet. I wasn’t practicing what I preached when I tried to promote positive mental health or self-care.
These experiences led me to promise myself that I would prioritize my health and basic needs over my academics, creating a more self-care-oriented mindset. This line of thinking meant that, for example, on a given night, going to sleep early would be better than staying up late to stressfully work on an assignment.
I failed a class that term.
And to my great surprise, the world didn’t end. Thanks to the hard work that I had put in earlier in my degree to build up my CGPA, the effect of this failure was marginal ー not ideal but by no means devastating. My degree did not come crashing down, I did not lose my scholarship or my somewhat GPA-dependent job, and my mother did not disown me.
I took this as a lesson to be kind to myself. On a day-to-day basis, prioritizing my health would be so much more rewarding and valuable than a few GPA points. As someone who had previously put a lot of my self-worth in my academic performance, this failure came as a definite blow. However, my sense of self-worth is so much stronger than a mere letter grade. It was alright to pride myself on my work ethic, and I still do, but I could also put more trust in my earlier diligence.
Overall, my advice is to make friends with your future self. Work hard now to make work easier for your future self, but most importantly, take care of yourself (i.e. get enough sleep) so that Future You can kick ass tomorrow.