By: Sofia Driscoll
Your professors have started lecturing content on the first day of classes, you’re not sure where your break has gone, and your socks are absorbing the cold, black slush on the ground as you walk: it’s the beginning of spring semester at Marquette University. The truth is, it can feel really overwhelming to get back into the swing of things after the lengthy winter break. So, I’d like to highlight three tips to help make the first few weeks of school (and hopefully the whole semester) a bit less worrisome for your mental health.
1. Say what you need. When we’re pressured to do well in school, work multiple paid jobs, and hold leadership positions in at least a few clubs, it’s hard not to disappoint somebody. So, many of us throw boundaries out the window and don’t ask for what we need, taking on everything but the kitchen sink and hoping to keep both ourselves and other people happy that way. But, doing that is a recipe for spreading ourselves too thin and burning out. The legendary researcher and public speaker Brene Brown says this: “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.” We can’t always get what we want (cue Rolling Stones), but we can always assertively and respectfully say what we need: a practice that not only makes us happier and less resentful, but often does the same for the people around us.
2. Practice mindfulness. We hear the word ‘mindfulness’ a lot in health circles these days, but to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant until recently. Mindfulness is a practice where we intentionally focus on the present moment. This doesn’t mean suppressing thoughts about the past or future; it just means noticing them, letting them float through our minds, and not engaging with them or getting stuck on them. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and they don’t all involve sitting silently with your eyes closed. We can be mindful while walking to class, while eating, while working out, or while doing any other activity that we already do. Also, according to the APA, practicing mindfulness is effective at reducing rumination and stress as well as boosting working memory and focus: all great outcomes for college students.
3. Buck perfectionism. While perfectionism might seem like something to strive for, it’s actually more of a hindrance than a help. Perfectionism is not to be confused with healthy striving. Rather, perfectionism is when we set unreasonably high standards for ourselves, beat ourselves up when we don’t meet those standards, and raise the standards even higher when we do meet them rather than congratulating ourselves on a job well done. By kicking perfectionism to the curb, we are more able to be spontaneous, move forward from mistakes, and cultivate positive relationships with ourselves and others.
Obviously, these things are much easier said than done, and I definitely can’t say that I’m perfect at them. But, they’re all practices to keep working at, even when we slip up sometimes. I’m wishing you all a fantastic semester!