Photography by Nicki Diacik
Stress is a constant.
We ourselves live in a fast-paced society that is fueled on productivity and efficiency. If you are not a task-oriented robot, then it might be difficult to permanently adjust to living in a society that assigns value based on the work completed, versus the energy and emotional collateral that it took to finish these tasks. We’re only human, right?
I personally deal with the struggle of balancing school, school work, actual work, and outside obligations which can make me feel like I am being spread thinly across an array of responsibilities. Sometimes, I find it hard to comprehend how I stay present and practice healthy ways of coping with the stressors and pressure that students like me face regularly. Along with being a full-time student, I work a part-time job, focus on completing hours of school work, all while somehow finding time to hang out with friends and socialize in those little free spaces in-between.
This balancing act is exhausting, and we all do a fantastic job of acting as if we are not on the verge of burning ourselves out as we try to keep the pressure and stress at our wayside.
However, I am strategic in coping with my different stressors by making sure that it never undermines how I treat myself, my body, and my home environment. The best way for me to put myself first on one hand while balancing the world in the other is by going back to basics. There are many things in our lives that we cannot control, but for everything that is out of my hands, I try to focus on the little things which I can control.
For starters, I make sure the food I choose to put in my body is purposeful. Anyone who knows me, knows that nothing makes me happier than fresh fruits and vegetables. In my understanding, what I eat is the energy I gift myself, so I strive to seek out food that will keep me feeling full and focused for my long work days which require much of my hard-earned energy. There are a million different recipes out there which make it fun and even joyful to plan and create my next meal for the week.
Meal prep dissolves the stress of the “dinner question”, which always seems to sneak up on us every night. Affordability varies, as there are different levels of fresh food accessibility depending on where a person lives and their access to resources. However, planning and factoring in that time in itself, in my opinion, is the hardest step of all.
I think of it as showing someone how much I care, except that someone is me and
that is how I interpret self-care.
I also have learned that the environment I create for myself has extensive effects on my mental health and dealing with my daily stressors. It is as simple as taking a few minutes to tidy up my workspace, organize the clothes in my dresser so that the drawers can shut, or even lining up my shoes in a neat little row to avoid that mountain of mismatched kicks. There are a variety of ways to declutter my workspace and home environment so that it is a space which fosters clear thinking, instead of a mess of miscellaneous items which distracts me from addressing deadlines, work, and other stressors that deserve more of my attention. I try to stay on top of household chores because they can be a nice mundane break from intense school work or other stressful events, and this way these very simple medial tasks do not provide me more stress as they pile up from negligence.
Now, I am aware that this practice is easier said than done. I used to be disorganized and kept my home environment, especially my bedroom, mirroring this lack of structure. It is a purposeful thing to devote oneself to decluttering their home environment and maintaining this level of intention throughout a hectic school semester. It is also a huge commitment to plan meals for oneself, get the right ingredients and prep these meals for the oncoming week, I understand this all too well.
At the end of the day, this is how I take care of myself and it is effective in attending to my body’s needs, both mental and physical. I personally like to view my mechanism this way: when every conceivable thing goes wrong in a day or a ton of stressors are surging me all at once; I take solace in being able to lie down and destress in a bed that is made.
Why? Because I am sending a message to myself that I am worth this level of care and that it is only a stressful day. And tomorrow, my bed will still be there to be made once more.