If you are serious about your academic path, being in university and keeping up with all the coursework is time-consuming, and sometimes overwhelming. If you also have a job at the same time. It is far too easy to lose yourself in work. There’s always something you could be working on, because as a student you don’t really get to have a break. Reading, research, exams, papers, presentations, and the list could go on and on. The same holds true for anyone, who is ambitious, and dedicated to their job. It’s just that the small print is different.
Last year, I got to a point where I was ready to drop out of university. I was working way too much, I only slept four hours every night, and did not take care of myself. There was no balance at all in my life and I felt like it was impossible to even just take an afternoon off. When you are living like this, you can achieve a lot very fast. But before long you will need to face the consequences. For me, these included health issues and feeling completely drained. When my performance suffered, my first solution was to work even harder. But surprisingly that did not really help. This all led up to me wanting to quit university.
Now, people who know me personally, know that I am not a quitter and I am not going to give up without giving it my absolute best first. This is why I decided to take a step back, and to learn to take breaks. For me, this meant going to a techno club once a week and dancing through the night (sometimes until noon).
This might not sound really relaxing to some of you, but doing this allowed me to let go of all the stress from the past week, to feel free, and to find myself lost in the music once a week. And in a way this was very liberating and soothing. After dancing the night away, I was physically exhausted, but my mind was at peace. This is the important part. That kind of physical exhaustion can be healed with a good night of sleep, but if you need a special cure for a mind that is constantly set on overdrive. That one night of freedom gave me so much happiness and relief that it was enough to balance my work and university life.
I did not drop out, but finished with pride in myself and the honor of a completed degree. I still take “techno breaks”, although now they consist of hours of diving into soundcloud (Vancouver isn’t exactly a techno city. Yet.). I never feel like I am wasting my time when I get lost in music instead of putting in more hours, because this is me time. Everybody needs time for themselves to reenergize.
What I am trying to say is that it is important to look after yourself. It is too easy to push physical and mental health aside when you are focused on building your life. If there is something you truly love doing, make time for it at least once a week. It is not just okay, but also necessary to take breaks. It will be hard to let go of your routine, because you are trying something new, while giving up something familiar. Sometimes you will struggle to make time for yourself, I did. I even told my dancing partner to literally drag me out of my house if I cancelled. Whatever helps, go for it. Build your life, but also live your passion, and take care of yourself.