’Tis the season of late-night classroom naps and endless tears in Wawa mashed potatoes — welcome to the home stretch. Isn’t it convenient that Thanksgiving Break is scheduled so close to finals that you barely have time to breathe once you return? Especially for those graduating this winter, the two-week period of rapidly wrapping up your final days as an undergraduate is intense. There is not an easy escape under the constant pressure to perform other than to cry into our pillows.
Speaking of spilling emotion into potatoes and pillows — crying ‘just because school is difficult’ is absolute crap. Such intense emotion isn’t always necessary because of the stresses of classes; rather, the expectation of being forced to perform a specific way that maybe you are incapable of doing for a multitude of valid reasons. Maybe we cry because we are frustrated by the ways in which we are forced to think. Maybe we cry because we are set up to fail by juggling a million tasks that may be impossible. Maybe we are often in situations where we feel unheard, and so the quiet struggle leads to a literal cry for help.
These aren’t tears of sadness or regret, more so the cause is such intense frustration that the body has somehow been trained to exert this by retreating back to the defense. But, how exactly can we take this defense and use it to our personal advantage? Obviously, it is tough to stop a biological framework that causes such intense reactions, but there are ways in which we can use these tears and frustrations to better understand how to take care of ourselves.
We can start by stopping to feed the ‘we are stressed because we are simply in school’ myth. Instead, we can recognize that we may be feeling overwhelmed because of the impossible expectations institutions put on us. Also, we can learn to speak out when feeling mistreated or unheard. Even revealing to others when the feeling of frustration may be rising up eases tension. As we enter another busy season of exams and papers, it is especially important to stand up for yourself in a way that is productive and healthy. This exam season, attempt to erase the shame connected with showing emotions so that we can get to a point where tears aren’t our motivation to get better.