Let’s get this (emotionally stable) bread!
I hate my brain. She’s insufferable in every way possible. Anxious. Hyper-active. Overly-critical. Numb. Dumb. Essentially the worst party pooper and vibe-killer you’ll ever meet. And with the new Semester approaching, I can just feel my long-standing beef with my brain amplifying as the old habits and unhelpful thinking patterns slowly creep back in. Apparently, summer just wasn’t enough fun for her!
But, I know how I feel is universal. Uni’s never-ending deadlines, social obligations, academic and financial pressures are all external forces that inevitably stir up shit within our lumps of pink squishy soft tissue. The brain, like any other organ in our bodies, will always have its moments of distress. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
So, instead of sticking to the routine of waiting till things get so bad that we can’t gaslight ourselves that we’re still live love laughing anymore—it’s time to take preventative action to lessen the impact of when things unavoidably go wrong. Because let’s face it, when you’ve hit the good ol’ rock bottom, no amount of chamomile tea or breathing exercises is going to remedy the damage created. Thus, from one student in desperate need of a calm and collected academic year to another, here’s a guide of habits for reducing the collision of when shit hits the fan…
All serotonin is good serotonin
As we all start filling up our Google Calendars or building up our aesthetically pleasing Notion workspaces, it’s tempting to pack up every little coloured cell or curate a thousand to-do lists to motivate ourselves to be or feel productive. But how many of our planners actually schedule in downtime? Without prioritising the time to relax, over time our brains end up associating anything fun as inherently a form of procrastination or laziness.
Scheduling time for *queue voice of a car bro who’s had one too many vodka cruisers* ~shits and gigs~ should not be some rare commodity, it should be part of your everyday routine.
So, like the rest of your commitments, plan out when you’re going to read your silly little book, crochet a new funky sweater vest, re-decorate your Sims 4 home, binge watch Love Island or some other choice of serotonin-boosting activity. Whatever gets your happy neurotransmitters fired up (okay maybe not like crack cocaine) should have as equal of an weighting as a gym session or a walk. Yes, I AM making the argument that harvesting tomatoes on Farmville is as important as a Ponsonby pilates class. And yes, buying 1010 Farmbucks for the small price of 259.83 NZD is a worthy investment into my mental health, thank you!
Schedule regular worry sessions
I’m sure all my fellow over-thinkers and chronic worriers can relate when I say being anxious is fucking exhausting. Having your brain confined in the same obsessive thought loop or just relentlessly picking apart every social interaction you’ve ever had can pollute all your thoughts. Even when you try to get on with your day, the anxiety continues to hum in the background, like an annoying mozzie trapped in your room, buzzing around as you’re trying to get to sleep on a hot summer’s night.
However, an approach I was recommended and honestly highly rate is scheduling a daily worry session. Give yourself 10-15 mins to go absolutely bananas and freak out about whatever that’s occupying your mind that day. From the immediate external stresses to the unexplainable, this method of condensing your panic helps to make feelings of anxiety a little more manageable.
Build up a reservoir of boring and relaxing content
As much as I blame my poor sleep quality on genetics, 80% of the time I wake up feeling more dead inside than the night before is because my brain does not know how to shut the fuck up. When the lights are off, the night rave commences! In order to combat the unwanted ince ince ince chaos upstairs you gotta employ your handy dandy arsenal of boring content. Whether that’s in the form of rain sounds, acrylic nail tapping ASMR, a 1989 Microsoft Word Tutorial youtube video (a personal favourite)—consuming mind-numbingly boring content before bed is honestly your best bet against an overactive brain. Does it mean you’ll be knocked out as soon as your head hits your pillow? Definitely not. But it does minimise the number of hours you end up restlessly tossing and turning, wishing you could set your brain on fire during the night!
Switch up your environment
For most of us, lockdown has made it clear that being trapped in the same four walls is not great for the psyche. Especially for those of us that associate being alone in our room with not so fun mems—extended periods of staying put in the same place can feel really suffocating and isolating. Even if it’s just moving to the living room, going to the park or the local library—changing up your environment when you’re alone can help shake you out of a rut. Plus, the local park magpies who are ready to gauge your eyes out at any given time always make great company.
Silly little tasks are just as important as your long term goals
As great as ambitions and big life goals are, the process to achieving them is often long and discouraging. That’s where small everyday milestones like making your bed and eating a good meal, etc. come in. Sometimes huge objectives like becoming a Nobel Peace Prizewinner or the next Bob Ross are just too much to think about on your average Tuesday morning! Especially on days when it’s hard to get out of bed, being able to tick even something small off a to-do list can make you feel a little less like a blob of a human.
Journaling is your new bestie
Before you roll your eyes at this incredibly groundbreaking advice, hear me out. I’m not talking about journaling in the form of how those “it” girls on aesthetic TikTok do it with their expensive monogrammed notebooks and iced matcha lattes in some overpriced LA cafe. When you boil it down, journaling is essentially just a written form of venting. You can use whatever you have lying around—old receipts, the back of a maths exercise book from Year 10, iPhone Notes—it doesn’t matter! As long as you document every candid feeling and thought that’s on your mind, you’re good.
Not only is this super therapeutic and prevents you from just bottling everything up til you explode, but it’s incredible to look back at older entries and see how you were doing 6 months ago. As someone who’s kept semi-regular journals since they could write comprehensible sentences, I can guarantee you that those old cringe entries that never fail to induce unbearable levels of physical pain, are instrumental for keeping yourself accountable of your growth. Yes, I may still be the world’s most horrible person, but at least I no longer read One Direction fanfiction or write extensive entries about how my crush was definitely ready to marry me (despite never speaking a word to one another). And that’s on character development!