No matter what I do lately, I can’t help but feel like I’m not doing enough, or that I’m prioritizing wrong, that I’m not contributing enough. I’m tired of it. These are all the things I’ve needed to hear lately, and today I took the time to write it all down. «Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself,» Cicero once wrote, and that is what I’m going to do today.
1. Cut yourself some slack.
Stop feeling so riddled with guilt all the time. Stop feeling guilty for not making enough time for friends and family. Stop feeling guilty for not studying enough. Stop feeling guilty for not having time for your hobbies. Just stop. Guilt is a useless feeling. What has feeling guilty ever done for you? It has never inspired productivity, nor motivation. It only rots away your day, and gnaws at your insides, while you try to accomplish your daily goals. Instead, throw it out the door (if it helps, literally throw some imaginary guilt out in the hallway), and replace it with determination.
2. Be proud of the things that you’ve done.
While you’re at it, recognize how far you’ve come. Think about all the time and effort you’ve put into all your drawings, diagrams, documents, every stray piece of paper you’ve put into your folders. Think about all the work that it took, and give yourself a pat on the back. Why is it that every time you struggle with something you beat yourself up, but when you’re on your A-game you never pause for a second and think “I did this! This is all on me!”? Stand tall, and tell yourself how awesome you are. If you need an exercise, grab a blank sheet of paper and write down 10 things you’re proud of.
3. Don’t let other people get into your head.
You know when it sounds like someone else is way ahead of you, and that they’re studying around the clock, and you feel like you haven’t done anything truly productive in days? I’m 99% percent certain that they feel the exact same way, and you just caught them talking about something they are particularly interested or proficient in. Don’t let other people’s work methods make you doubt your own. You know what’s best for you. The same goes for other people’s worries. Instead of commiserating about how much everything sucks, try boosting one another, and cheering for other people’s victories. By recognizing their accomplishments, you immediately feel better, and perhaps it can serve as an eye-opener that you’re an integral part of the team as well.
4. Give yourself a buffer.
If you know you’re feeling a bit down, give yourself some space. If you need some time alone, that’s completely fine. If you prefer to spend time with people, that’s alright as well. If you need someone to talk to, reach out to someone. Whether it be friends or family, or even a counsellor, a burden shared is a burden halved. If you know that you feel bad if you miss out on daylight, set aside an hour for a walk in the park. If you know that you become grumpy if you haven’t worked out in a while, make going to the gym a part of your schedule. If you find yourself getting hangry a lot, pack bigger lunches. If you need more sleep, don’t feel bad about not being online or ready to respond at every possible hour. You have to look out for number one. There’s nothing noble about working around the clock and powering through something that could have been solved by taking better care of yourself.
5. This isn’t the be-all and end-all of your existence.
This is just one of many exams. Although it may seem like the most important thing in the world, it’s not. School isn’t even the most important thing. There are so many things that make you you. I once stumbled across this blog post by a fellow vet student, and when I read it, I felt so relieved. Being a vet student doesn’t have to be your defining characteristic, and that goes for every other field of study as well. Remember who you are, whether that is a runner, a gamer, a southerner, a writer. Whether this exam goes well or not won’t change any of the important things that make you you.
Update: I put off posting this for a few days, as I felt it wasn’t in keeping with the tone of the blog. However, after talking to friends and family about this, and feeling a bit better, I’ve decided to publish it after all. Writing down these things helped me, so if it makes just one person feel a bit better, then it has served its purpose.