Welcome to the last day of the semester! For many of you, this is crunch time! There are exams coming up, assignments due, deadlines for your thesis, conferences and presentations, and so many more things to keep track of. I am here to remind you that you can do this. You are almost there, and although this has been an especially hard year, be proud of what you have accomplished and the fact that you made it to this point. I am also here to remind you that, even though you may feel crushed by deadlines and guilty any time you are not working, you need to take care of yourself.
Your mental and physical health is the most important thing. This culture that we have that glorifies the ‘all-nighter’, working insane hours, comparing your stress levels and your lists of things that need to be done to others, and not prioritizing taking breaks, needs to change.
A few years ago, I had just gotten back from my first ever field season in Alaska. In the field, I was outside all the time, exercising a lot, and eating and sleeping on a schedule. When I came back, I moved into my basement apartment with one small window. I never left my desk, never stopped working, often forgot or couldn’t be bothered to eat, rarely went outside, and slept terrible hours. Does this sound familiar to anyone? The result of this unhealthy behaviour was a noticeable deterioration in my mental health. After months and months, I was finally convinced to see a doctor who diagnosed me with depression. Although my doctor prescribed me medication, he told me that the best thing that I could do was to get back into sleeping, eating, and exercising again. He told me to think of taking time for myself to do these things as part of my prescription. I did, and with some work, I can now manage my mental and physical health much better. What really amazed me was that even though I was working fewer hours, I was just as, or even more, productive than before!
I still sometimes need to be reminded to take breaks, so if you need that reminder too, here it is! Go for a walk to breathe in some Spring air. Do one of your hobbies for 15 minutes before going back to your computer. Make yourself a snack that makes you happy. Play with your pet or chat with your friends or family. Do whatever you need to do to be happy and healthy, because your mental and physical health comes above everything else. Good luck with the end of the semester!