Guys, it’s not October anymore, and I’m starting to feel the cold creeping in. And it’s not a cute chill. It’s the “contemplating how much I really need food to live because that requires going outside” kind of cold. On top of that, it is getting a lot harder to keep pushing off papers and studying until tomorrow because the tomorrows are numbered. As of Nov. 1, we have 35 days until the last day of exams. That means you have less than 35 days to learn the entire muscular system, the history of India and figure out an elegant solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This whole month makes me feel like Arnold Perlstein from “The Magic School Bus.”
But it’s not the time to drown your stress in spiked cider or hide behind a poorly maintained beard (yeah, I’m talking to you, No-Shave November crowd). This article is a call to arms to resist the siren’s call of destructive coping. If you are anything like me then A) you’re the greatest and B) you tend to succumb to a crushing bout of seasonal depression when the creeping deadlines and falling temperatures coalesce to make a bleak, frigid pit of despondency. Normally, this is the time when I pull out my stale, moth-bitten blanket of numb despair and withdraw into a social hibernation. Sometimes, I literally don a blanket, and it becomes the fuzzy shell of my hollow being.
I don’t want that again. Presumably, you don’t want that for yourself either. But there is a way to make the inevitable “funk” of finals a little less inevitable. We don’t have to become blanket monsters. Of course, to some extent we all have to start sacrificing some of our ‘downtime’ and socializing to make it over this last, muscle-tearing hurdle. However, absconding from society is an unnecessary extreme that only perpetuates the stress cycle. There is no need for us to feel so utterly desolated right now.
You probably want to know how to remedy this situation. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to send half of campus to counseling, move us closer to the equator or eliminate the oppressive capitalist system that pressures us to commodify our existence. But there is hope, and the first step is this moment. To avoid the slow slide into the gaping mouth of emotional oblivion, we first need to be honest about the problems we are facing. Everything’s not okay right now. There really isn’t enough time. We wish we could be doing other things besides cramming knowledge about carbon-based molecular structures or Baroque art movements into our fried brains. But we have to and that causes us to react in less than healthy ways.
We also need a Leslie Knope level of forethought. Well, maybe not to her color-coded extreme, but after you read this (do finish reading, please) take some time to actually think about this November. Do you want to be a disgusting ball of stress who involuntarily babbles about how few hours you slept or how much work you have? Will you stand idly by as you descend into stress-induced melancholy and madness, or will you fight to hold on to your humanity and health? Once you have a reasonable goal in mind, identify the warning signs that you’re slipping and make some strategies that prevent further decline when you see them. With a conscious plan for managing this looming problem, it is possible to make the final trudge manageable. Now is not the time to go on autopilot. The worst thing you can do is just put your head down and slog through because then you also close your eyes to your mental health. We all have the power to guide our lives consciously, but it takes commitment to ourselves, which is no small feat, and the occasional thoughtful article to pull us from our negative trajectories.