Over break I’ve heard many of my fellow classmates, and myself included, talk about their break resolutions. We all have grand plans for ourselves. I’m going to eat healthy, get a wonderful night’s rest and begin to exercise again. And as much as I want to smile and tell everyone how much motivation I’m going to have over break, I know myself. You tell me how the gym is. I’m going to be in bed, snuggling with my dog eating a family-size bag of potato chips.
I know it isn’t just the nursing students like myself who are feeling the crushing weight of finals week over their poor-postured and scarf-clad necks. You can see it everywhere, in the library, in the last-minute labs, in the Dunkin Donuts’ lines. But, is our chaotic schedule a good enough reason to excuse us from taking care of ourselves? I’m not quite sure it is.
I’m guilty of it too. You stay up late finishing assignments, then spend the night tossing and turning because you have another late night tomorrow and you’re so stressed you’re physically sick. Then you wake up early, grab that triple-turbo shot coffee and artificially energize your way through another 18-hour day.
As I’ve struggled to meet these unreasonable expectations, I’ve watched both my health and the health of the others take a turn for the worse. And my only thought is: is this worth it all? And I’m not talking about that shiny degree we’re all striving for. What about this stress? Does the constant worry dictate our life, bumping simple self-care to the bottom of the to-do list?
I could sit here and rattle off facts about stress and it’s notoriously negative effects on the human body and spirit, but I know we’ve all spent years listening to them. Even as stubborn as I am, I think they may be right. It makes more trouble than it’s worth. Stress doesn’t always end abruptly either. Stress often lingers, wreaking havoc even when it no longer has a purpose.
So as we come into finals week, we all should take a breather and sit to evaluate ourselves, mentally and physically. No one is going to just stop being stressed all of a sudden. But giving yourself time to do something other than schoolwork, even for an hour, makes a big difference. I simply took one night, quit my homework at eight and got a good night’s sleep. It made every bit of difference in the quality of my work the next day. That and a dent in my staggering caffeine consumption rate.
And those break resolutions? Let’s turn those into extremely cliche, but totally necessary, New Year’s resolutions. This is the only life we have, the only body we’ve got. Even if it’s just taking a walk twice a week, cutting out a glass of soda here or there or allowing for a guilt-free nap once in awhile — taking care of your own needs to be a priority as well.