As I walked back to my residence hall, I was dreading the paper I had to write. I didn’t have the time and lacked motivation to do the work.
I was honestly just trying to fill the awkward silence when I complained about it to the classmate I was walking with, but before I could even finish my sentence he cut me off to tell me about the three essays he had to write, 70 pages he had to read and the exam he needed to study for.
Great. We both have a lot of work, but I wasn’t trying to have a competition to see who had it worse.
As midterm exams approach, the chances of overhearing someone brag about how few hours of sleep they had or how many papers they have left to write are high – and that’s an issue.
Students constantly compare how much work they have and how stressed they are, but this pattern creates a harmful dynamic that glorifies competition and an unhealthy amount of stress. Conversations that turn into subtle competitions over workloads and stress levels only adds to students’ stress and is bad for overall health.
Instead of competing, we should all remind each other that relaxing is not self-indulgent, but a way to maintain a healthy life. Taking time to decompress is as necessary to the mind as water is to the body. Stress can have debilitating effects on the body including making individuals more prone to illness and destroying healthy sleep habits.
Regardless of health concerns, students still feel the need to showcase their busy lives – especially during midterms and finals. Oversharing your workload is an unproductive use of time and leads to a gross idolization of work and a never-ending feeling of emptiness. If students constantly complain about their workload, they will constantly feel like they don’t do enough.
Perhaps the pressure to stand out from other potential job seekers has caused students to take on more responsibility. Americans are on course for the first time in history to be less economically successful than their parents due to increasing income inequality and high costs of living, according to a Stanford University study. As a result, students are hoping to maximize their chances of success by taking on more than they can handle. Although it may not be explicitly spelled out, making other students aware of your lack of sleep due to studying provides a flawed message that students can only provide value in their grades, internships and other commitments.
When my classmate shared with me his obscene amount of work, I felt defeated. My single paper, regardless of how I felt about it, was minuscule in comparison to his mountain of work. I wondered whether I was doing enough with my time and ultimately felt like I wasn’t. If this is the type of person I’d be competing for a job with, I couldn’t help but feel like I was ill-equipped to enter the workforce. I knew I shouldn’t, but I felt like I needed to do more.
Because of students like my classmate, we all feel the need to externalize a seemingly endless dedication toward bettering our academic and professional success. In doing so, students have created a toxic environment riddled with workaholics and burnouts. As we get closer to midterms, the chances of seeing a friend post on social media about their study regimen and commitment to staying up until they master a difficult concept is almost inevitable. After all, sleep deprivation is only temporary and GPA is forever.
Instead of taking to social media to brag about your stress or endlessly complaining to your classmates, students need to stop the cycle this midterm season. Sharing stories of sleep deprivation and high stress is not beneficial to anyone. Students should focus on maximizing the productivity of their studying while still finding balancing their physical and mental health so that everyone comes out of midterms both happy and successful.
Michael McMahon, a freshman, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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