In the second week of school I had three papers, two quizzes, and five reading assignments due. Being English majors, we sometimes get a reputation that we’re not that busy. “Don’t you just, like, read old literature books and talk about them in class?” Well, yes, that is part of it. What others don’t take note of is that all of our “literary theory” approaches we use in our reading and writing stem from several disciplines like history, psychoanalysis, linguistics, politics, and anthropology. Being an English major is not for the weak-hearted, nor for the student opposed of analysis and heavy reading.
The second week of school is currently over, and finally, I’m finding time for myself. I find it vital that we students take out a few moments in each day to regroup. Breathe. Stretch. Grab a coffee or tea, and drop that copy of Jane Eyre for a few minutes. Don’t wait until you’re in full on panic during mid-terms to take a moment to relax. Processing our education as we work and live through it is imperative- I have a few classes behind me now that I hardly have any recollection of; I worked so frivolously through them, I didn’t get to truly process what I had learned.
Simple things like taking some time to read or finish a book outside of the syllabus has refreshed me from academia. Read something funny, or whatever type of genre that’s of interest to you in leisure. For me, on top of all my school reading, I finished Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs and I’m currently on to Wild by Cheryl Strayed. These books gave me a mental break from the reading I have to do; I can just laugh and be present with what I am choosing to read.
For the over-thinker, the analyst, and the worrier, meditation has been such a refresher for me in the moments where my thoughts are racing.
How many papers do I have to write this semester? Really?
I have to read ALL these books for every single class?
How can I get this done when I work 25 hours a week?
How will I have a social life or any fun?
I’ve simply learned (and still am learning) that worry is the most useless emotion we can ever possess. But also using the right tools to keep me cleared and in check are valued and important.
Noisli http://www.noisli.com/ is a great site that plays background music while you work (or sleep, or read!) they also have an app for the iPhone so you can take the calming sounds of thunder, light rain, the woods, and even the ocean with you wherever you go. (Even in the third floor of the school library can you hear tranquil waves.)
Headspace https://www.headspace.com/ has done pure wonders for me. Headspace is a mindfulness meditation app that you can take with you anywhere. I’ve only done five of their 10 minute sessions, but boy, do you really get some “head space” post meditation. Practicing mindfulness meditation is something that scientists have proved to help in relationships, creativity, stress, productivity, and anxiety. Being a student and balancing work, a 3.5 GPA, friends, romantic relationships, family, and finances absolutely warrants a break from said thoughts. Headspace has helped me with that.
Being a student of any major, not just English, isn’t easy. But particularly with English, we may become swamped with the race, gender, class, and cultural aspects of Beloved or Nietzsche, Plato, and Aristotle’s essays. Take a moment to soak it in, breathe it out, and be mindful of the day as well as your current book or paper at hand.
Get more from T.W. Abel here.