COLUMN: Stop romanticizing exhaustion

A typical conversation in one of my classes goes something like this.

“Oh man, I didn’t get to bed ‘til three yesterday. I was volunteering and had to work on homework for hours afterwards.”

“God, I know. I didn’t sleep last night because I was just so busy with all my extracurriculars and school.”

When did it become socially okay to normalize over exhaustion, and why do we all play into the subconscious competition that being busy all the time is the only way to live life?

Between racking up extracurriculars and grades to put on resumes and job applications, we don’t have time to notice how horribly our behavior actually affects us. Not only physically, but mentally.

Between classes, work and extracurriculars, most college students don’t have time to properly combat exhaustion. Yet, we keep telling ourselves that we’re not doing enough.

When the decision to join a club or pick up an extra internship could be the difference between an accepted grad school application or a job after college, we place importance on making sure that we are busy every single hour of the day.

I have fallen victim to this many times. If those other kids could handle a crazy social life and five classes and ten clubs, why couldn’t I?

Last year, I fell so badly into this trap that I never took the time to stop and ask if anything I was doing made me happy.

Exhaustion isn’t fun. It isn’t something that should be romanticized as part of a typical college life, nor is it something that we should accept as part of the norm. Being tired all the time decreases your mental capacities and prevents you from working as efficiently or as productively as possible.

The National Institute of Health found that when pharmaceutical students did not sleep enough, they had lower grades and average test scores. Moreover, a lack of sleep has been correlated with a increased risk of Alzheimer’s and obesity.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, but we all know how sleep deprivation makes us feel. We’re eternally exhausted, and can’t focus on anything for long periods of time. God forbid we try to function without a minimal amount of caffeine or a nap in public. Why are we willing to do this to ourselves?

I’m far from innocent when it comes to this problem. I spent most of last year extolling how much I could do and yet was so deeply unhappy with everything that I was doing.

It’s still the start of the semester. We all have the ability to turn around tour bad habits from last year. We can choose to do less — not nothing at all — but less.

We can choose to enjoy what we do. We all have the ability to help ourselves, and the best way to do that is by recognizing that we can’t do it all. And sometimes, it’s more important to prioritize mental and physical health over another lines on our resumes.

Please take care of yourselves this semester. Please sleep.

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