Yes indeed, everyone. It’s that time again.
That time where all mental peace and motivational quotes are thrown out the window and replaced by gallons of caffeine and anti-depressants mashed together in a delicious I’m-dying-but-forcing-myself-to-be-alive sundae.
That time where yours truly wakes up in the morning and promptly has a mental screaming fit about how freaking much she does not want to move.
How she begs herself to PLEASE get just ONE more minute of sleep…
And promptly rolls out of bed five seconds later.
Because, darn it, she’s got tests to ace, times to break, kids to hug, money to make, and SHE WILL DO IT IF IT KILLS HER.
This is my internal monologue on a daily basis.
I wake up at 5 AM for swim team, go to school for seven hours, work for three, and spend the rest of my awake time eating, exercising, helping my sister with homework, and fighting through my own, in whatever order the day chooses. And however much time is left in the day is what I have to sleep and take care of myself.
This struggle is obviously not unique to me. I can name countless other high-schoolers who are enrolled in AP classes and participate in seemingly endless extracurriculars. We barely have enough time to stop and breathe, let alone get enough sleep to succeed the next day. Let alone take a minute to meditate, eat healthy, sing in the shower, or whatever other self-help techniques people prescribe to destress. When the world seems intent on forcing us to do absolutely everything we can possibly shove into a 24-hour day, how can we be expected to take care of ourselves when self-care is pushed to the back-burner of everyone else’s expectations for us?
It is so easy to underestimate how hard it is to be a teenager. So much is expected of us; from college resumés to jobs to good grades to generally fitting in with society, one can hardly wonder why depression and anxiety rates are going up. The answer is impossibly easy: we’re burning out our teenagers before they truly enter the real world. We’re taught that without impeccable grades, we can’t get into good colleges, and if we don’t get into good colleges, we won’t get good jobs, and if we don’t get good jobs, we won’t have good lives. Success, one of the single most immeasurable concepts, has been quantified to a dangerously simplistic level. Either you were born good enough to handle the weight of the world, or you weren’t, and you’ll never succeed. Our society today has taken survival of the fittest to a whole new level, and the price is the sanctity of the next generation.
So what’s the solution? For the life of me, I haven’t been able to figure that out. Simply lowering the whole world’s expectations isn’t feasible. But allowing the current situation to fester isn’t functional either. We as a society aren’t equipped to make the drastic kind of change necessary, but we also aren’t equipped to deal with the degree of mental hurting in our kids. I honestly can’t give you the answer, because there is no panacea here.
But the one thing I’ve found to be critical is leading by example. If you’re a parent, an older sibling, a peer leader, or even a classmate that others look up to, take that time for yourself. Leave work a couple minutes early, take a day off from practice, take breaks during homework, etc. Show that it’s okay to prioritize yourself. That you don’t always have to do everything. Because at the end of the day, the consequences of missing one day of practice are infinitesimal compared to the consequences of not taking care of yourself.
There are times when the world needs you to be at your best. And there are times when slowing down is okay too, even necessary. So when you wake up in the morning and promptly have a mental screaming fit about how freaking much you don’t want to move, allow yourself to take that one more minute of sleep. Do it happily, freely, and don’t worry if you’re a little late. You can only do it all when you’re well-rested.
Your fellow crusader.