In college, it’s natural to be competitive.

However, there seems to be some unspoken competition among students to determine who can be the busiest and most stressed all the time. Students glorify the idea of always being occupied with something, and if you’re not smothered with work all day, every day, you’re lazy.

The American Psychological Association conducted a study on stress levels in American adults. When asked to rate their stress on a scale from one to 10, nearly a third of adults rated themselves at a nine or 10, which is extreme stress.

Stress is often linked to a fear of some kind. On college campuses, stress may stem from a fear of uncertainty or doubt. Students are afraid that all their hard work at a small, liberal arts school isn’t going to be recognized after they graduate and get thrown in with the other thousands of recent graduates. Then, people start viewing their classmates as competition and begin undermining other people’s accomplishments and try to make themselves seem busier and more successful.

Why does being exhausted mean you’re doing well? Why do we glorify having no time for ourselves?

It seems like most times I try to make plans with my roommates, they’re too busy with school work. I always try to make it a priority to see my friends and take a break from work every day. It can be hard though. I find that when I’m stressed, I don’t focus on taking care of my body as much as I should. I usually neglect eating when I’m stressed because I think I need to finish an article or reading before I can move on to my kitchen and cook up something. I’ve acknowledged this bad habit and have been trying to focus on myself more this semester. So far, I’m way more relaxed and really don’t get overwhelmed as easily as I used to.

By constantly competing to be the most stressed out, we inadvertently send the message that self-care and proper rest are not important. This is so far from the truth. We need rest and decompression after or during long, hard days. Take a break whenever it feels necessary, not just when you think you can allow yourself the time.

Just because someone practices self-care, doesn’t mean that person is not a hard worker. Everyone works in different ways and paces. Some people push all their work to Sunday evenings and still do well. Others need strict schedules and to-do lists in order to feel on track and accomplished.

When we don’t take care of ourselves, things fall apart.

We need to stop focusing on how stressed we are and start looking into ways to relieve stress instead. Being healthy mentally, emotionally and spiritually is most important, and most things are easier to achieve when you’re in the right state of mind.

To start taking better care of yourself, set aside at least an hour every day for yourself. Some of the most common ways people alleviate stress are walking, listening to music, watching television or movies, playing around on the internet or taking a nap, according to the American Psychological Association.

Naps between 20 and 40 minutes can improve performance by 34 percent, according to a study by NASA. Mostly everyone can set aside at least 20 minutes every day for themselves. If you can’t, maybe consider switching majors.

Thinking about life after college is stressful, but focusing on only the future distracts from your present needs. Taking time for ourselves makes us feel better prepared for anything life throws at us. It also reminds us that there are more important and better things in life to worry about.

Email Laura Schmidt at opinions@cardinalpointsonline.com

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