Life can get incredibly busy. Five days of 9-5s is a long time. A number of times I have heard people complain that their weekend just passes them by and it is understandable, to say the least. In proportion to a full-time job, you really only have two days which are typically used to catch up on sleep and perhaps prepare for the dreaded coming Monday to give you a reasonable chance of survival. Life is sort of like what happens on the road and that one driver is tailgating you. You are doing fine, you are keeping to the speed limit but the driver is wrongfully pressuring you to drive faster while refusing to simply overtake. It is frustrating, it keeps you on edge and it forces you to put your foot on the gas when really, you will be the one ending up with the ticket.
The lesson is, when life does become overbearing, you forget that time can be used for anything else but sleep and catching up with work. It’s a sad truth; we are a working culture, maybe not as much as the Chinese (but then who is), but work/career is worth working hard for. So we forget to step back and make sure that we are actually doing well, not just surviving. Before you know it, you are just coping with life, not living it. 'Coping' should not be your standard response to someone asking about your general well-being and while work may not let up for a while, making time for yourself can and will make things lighter.
1) As with most things, start small and give yourself a good old 20 minutes just to sit by yourself and learn to clear your mind. You’ll probably find that it’s not as easy as it sounds because your thoughts are so incredibly dynamic and drift onto the pile of work that is waiting for you. Ironically, true relaxation needs training. Yes, it sounds like a huge drag but if not now, when? There are two answers to that; never or even worse, during the night when you are trying to catch your Z’s. Of course, your nightly thoughts invade further; you go so deep that you hit some philosophical conundrums, wonder about God’s existence and how that affects what you’ll have for lunch tomorrow. It’s a terrible cycle but you can puncture a hole into that ever-growing balloon by giving yourself that outlet.
2) So chances are implementing no.1 was bloody hard. Clearing your mind is not so easy and suddenly Karate kid seems a little more relatable. This is because we are people of action, of doing and really just demonising laziness. Often times we have to do something to clear our heads so take out a notepad. By this, I mean a physical, old-school, paper-made-out-of-trees notepad, not your laptop with Wi-Fi and therefore an enabler of slither.io, twitter and any other addictive games and social media. I won’t have to explain to you why that is necessary because we’ve all fallen victim to it a billion times and while these things allow you to procrastinate while working, it does the same thing when you are trying to relax. Can you remember a time where you just sat still, with no company, no gadgets, no music, no TV in the background and just trying to tap into your feelings? How are you actually doing?
3) Ask yourselves these questions once you’ve given yourself a few minutes to clear your mind and shake off what has happened in the last 24 hours. Often times it’s the simple questions that lead to complex answers. Why? Because you’ve never asked them before, you’ve neglected the basics. You’ve probably asked and researched way more about Trump and Brexit than you have about how you are feeling right now. How are you? It is important to make them open-ended, it allows you to elaborate, just put the pen to paper and write.
4) What’s making you happy? What can be improved? Note: they are positive questions, not ‘what makes the world suck right now’. They ought to stay personal and allow you to either solve the problem or change your attitude or perception towards it. The point is not let these things make you feel drained but instead, remind you that you are what you do and create. Naturally, this will lead to some problem-solving; what can you do to improve it? What are you looking forward to in the short-term? Long-Term?
We are a society that prioritises efficiency. We commonly dislike reading a whole article (so kudos if you got this far), we want to read the headline, perhaps the odd bullet points on what the article will discuss and if you’re a real hard worker; you’ll skim read. I understand the need for it as an ex-student and that habit has remained with me in many cases but at this point, even waffling is encouraged. It’s your waffle; there will be some meaning within it for you. It’s a strange thing to encourage it when your lecturers would give you a hard time with those very red correction marks on your page but this isn’t for your lecturer. It is for you.
Allow for a day or two to pass. If you write something down on paper, something that you’ve been thinking about all day, it will cease to preoccupy you as much as it did before. That’s number 1 mission unlocked. Number 2 is to read it, again, with as clear a mind as possible and analyse yourself. Your own thoughts, with as little bias as possible and approach it as you would a friend. Don’t be overly critical; let it be a positive piece of paper, a teacher, a reminder, an insight.
Maddie Anandarajah is a Student Job blogger, she graduated from Greenwich University in 2014 with a BA in Criminology and has obtained a Master's in MA International Relations. Check out her blog here.