COLUMN: Readjusting to 'normal' education isn't easy
I was both excited and relieved when I heard that Central Michigan University was going back to face-to-face learning for the fall semester.
My senior year of college wouldn’t have to be spent in front of a computer screen, and I could go back to being involved with campus life once again. I could finally receive the education I was getting pre-pandemic, and rid myself of the feeling of dissatisfaction from taking courses online. I really felt that the state of mental exhaustion I was facing would finally come to an end- boy was I wrong.
I know I cannot be the only student at CMU that feels more exhausted now than when classes were held strictly online. This semester has allowed both mental and physical exhaustion to sweep my body. Attending classes, working a job and staying involved with organizations on campus fill each and every one of my days.
Every day of this semester I find myself questioning how I was once able to accomplish everything I did before COVID-19. How did I spend all day on campus? How did I continuously make it on time to all of my classes? How was I not burnt out from running around just to get through a day?
As I sit and question these things, I wonder if this semester or even if next semester will ever get easier. Will I eventually get back into the groove of things? Will I always feel so overwhelmed when I look over my planner? Will I finally get my entire life together soon?
Maybe I seem overdramatic, but these are the thoughts racing through my brain as I try to accomplish each week of this fall semester.
I do want to just say that my goal is to not throw myself a pity party. I know that receiving a college education is a privilege, and I am very fortunate that I am able to attend CMU and work toward my future. However, I think recognizing this exhaustion is valid, and that we, as students, need to realize that adjusting back to receiving this “normal” education isn’t easy.
Not even a few months ago we could tackle learning through a pandemic in our beds by clicking onto our Zoom calls right before class. Now, we have to leave the comfort of our homes to be physically and mentally present for class while we still face the COVID-19 pandemic.
So I am not surprised that there are days where we aren’t going to want to leave our beds, or days that physically and mentally drain everything out of us.
However, we need to try to not let it impact our time at CMU. That is easier said than done, I know. Everyone’s stress levels are going to be different, but I want you to know that if you are feeling this way you are not alone.
As I continue to try to personally combat this adjustment, I turn to a few things to help me through it all:
Create a list
I find that making lists for myself in a planner or on a scrap piece of paper works best for me. Start with listing up to five of the most important things you need to get done for the day. You then want to follow that with a separate list with everything you need to get done in the week.
I know the list can be daunting, but it is important that you do not let yourself get overwhelmed in this process. I am guilty of setting unrealistic expectations for myself, and that is when my stress kicks in. Be real with yourself and your capabilities by really envisioning what your day looks like.
Writing out all of the things to do allows me to conceptualize everything and lets my brain slow down for a moment. I know that lists don’t work for everyone, but it is important to at least give it a shot.
Be honest with yourself
The worst thing you can do is not recognize the stress you are facing. I used to hide my feelings and anxiety because I kept telling myself that other students were doing more than I was, so I didn’t have a reason to be stressed. I wouldn’t be honest with myself, and that was damaging.
I am telling you that if you are feeling exhausted right now then it is valid, and you don’t need to provide any explanations. Recognize these feelings and plan a way to help yourself.
Communicate with others about what is going on
I think it is a fair assumption to believe that many individuals at CMU understand the high stress level of college. Don’t be afraid to talk to your peers and to be honest with them. No one is going to know what you are feeling or how much work you have if you do not open up about it.
I know it can be difficult to be vulnerable with others, but sometimes talking to a friend or a peer about this stress further validates that you are not alone. These conversations help me realize that every student feels overwhelmed at some point, but this time will eventually pass.
If your feelings require a more thorough conversation, reach out to CMU’s counseling center. These professionals are on campus to genuinely help, and they can give insight you may need.
No one said adjusting was going to be easy, but also no one said it was going to be this hard. Remember to stay strong during this semester, and try to make the most out of being back in person.