Hi guys! It has been a while, a long while, too long… But as I am sure you can relate, life has gotten on top of me! Deadlines and dissertations have been overwhelming and while the first two terms of this masters course have caused me great pain, I am channelling this pain into entertainment for you – this really is my form of self-care. Today’s post is all about what to do when life gets on top of you!
Okay, despite this very spiffy opening paragraph, my answer for what to do when life gets on top of you is… who the heck knows. Yes, that is my big reveal. A little anti-climatic maybe, but on the whole largely accurate. Sometimes things are overwhelming and that is okay. Sometimes it feels like you can’t do everything you think you need to and you want to give up. That’s okay too. I understand the pressure to be perfect and to seem like you always have everything together. I understand what it is like to feel the weight of expectation on your shoulders. One thing I have realised and want to share with you is: I can’t come and kill myself. Seriously. Thinking of the bigger picture always helps to ground me. I always try to do everything and all at once and honestly? It’s not healthy and is o b v i o u s l y going to be overwhelming. As a chronic worrier, however, I’m not going to pretend to be cool, calm and collected about the mountain of work that is sitting behind my laptop screen as I procrastinate by writing this post… So stick with me!
Okay, so priorities – I feel like prioritisation often comes up on posts about feeling overwhelmed, probably because it’s quite helpful. Now, when I say prioritise, I mean your mental health and wellbeing as well as the order in which you tackle your work. Again, you cannot come and kill yourself.
The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful with many deadlines and much preparation for my dissertation fieldwork trip (post pending!). I was getting very irritable, snappy and sometimes generally unpleasant. I knew this was because I wasn’t eating well or sleeping properly trying to get everything done on time and to a standard I was happy with. One night, I said to hell with it. I’m miserable, I’ve not been very kind to my friends and family and my work hasn’t been that good, I need to sleep. I slept for about 14 hours. It was glorious. When I woke up, I ate well too. Of course, this didn’t stop my mind worrying about the roughly 16 hours of time I had “wasted” that I could have been working. Reading back on the utter garbage I had written though, I knew that prioritising sleep and lowering my stress levels meant that I’d probably be more focused and able to write a better essay. It is okay to need a break, in fact, it is necessary. DO NOT listen to the lecturer who tells you that you only need two hours sleep (yes he really did say that).
I would also say on the front of expectations, I prioritised myself again. It is incredibly anxiety-inducing to feel like you’re not meeting the high expectations others have for you. While this spurs some people on, it has the tendency to make me crumble under the pressure. Once again, I cannot come and kill myself. I knew that bowing to expectations (cough, cough applying for a DPhil/PhD) would make miserable. It takes a lot of courage to tell people to stick their expectations or at least back off a bit because they’re making you stressy, but it is important. It only adds to feeling overwhelmed. I definitely don’t have all the answers (or any of the answers) for this one. Expectations and how people respond to them are very individual and nuanced and it is okay for them not to spur you on but rather make you feel overwhelmed.
Also, I found that a lot of the expectations I thought people had for me were self-projections. For example, the week just past was littered with deadlines. I just took it as a given that these deadlines were rigid. Another student, much braver – and more sensible than me, simply emailed the lecturer and asked for class-wide extension as we all had several deadlines that week. Our lecturer actually said yes! (God bless the student who shall not be named, you are an angel). This reminds me of the saying ‘if you never ask, the answer is always no’ or maybe it was the scripture ‘ask and ye shall receive’*. Either way, the sentiment is the same, a problem shared can sometimes be a problem halved – even if it’s just a chat with a loved one about what’s on your mind.
Life overwhelming? You cannot come and kill yourself
To conclude this long and rather rambling post that I may delete in the near future, it is very much okay to find things overwhelming or to feel that life is getting on top of you. Everyone feels this way sometimes, even when they appear to be perfect and put together. I have shared some tactics for how I manage feeling overwhelmed, feel free to ignore them as, as I’ve said – no one has the answers! One thing I do know though is that you cannot come and kill yourself with stress (especially not academic stress)!
Thanks for reading!