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Relaxing should not be a guilty pleasure

Study for religion and film tests, write reflection paper, plan the next SALSA meeting, work on intercultural communication project, schedule interviews for documentary, write blogs for internship, look for post-grad jobs, attend meetings for extracurriculars, write articles for the paper – all of this has to be completed before fall break arrives.

Does anyone have time to breathe?

I am here to tell you that scheduling time to relax and breathe, to enjoy recreational activities is just as important as studying for that religion test.

With SGA’s push for increasing awareness of mental health, it is important to not only recognize that mental illness has a stigma that we need to demolish, but also where mental illnesses can stem from. According to the American Institute of Stress, the psychological strain of stress can lead to constant weakness and fatigue, trouble learning new information, social withdrawal and isolation, problems in communication, reduced work efficiency, difficulty concentrating, frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts, feelings of loneliness or worthlessness, mood swings and depression.

These issues can obviously make it that much harder to write a good paper, or to earn that high grade on a test. Yet, it isn’t surprising when you hear about someone pulling an all-nighter or two to finish everything. Coming to Concordia, I found this to be a normal way of life, until last semester.

Last spring, I studied abroad in Spain. During my time there, I experienced the Spanish lifestyle of working to live, and taking down time as seriously, if not more than work life.

If I ever felt any sort of stress, my host parents told me to take a nap, go for a walk with them or Skype my friends and family back home.

My classes reflected this lifestyle. I had courses with the locals where I was the only foreigner among the 50+ people in class. Forty percent of my grade was based on showing up to class – 40 percent, almost half my grade. In class, one day was lecture and the other day required us to walk around campus to take pictures or capture video footage. We never had homework. Never. At the end of the semester, we had one project that took about an hour of our time outside of class, and a test which I did spend a good deal studying for (mainly to learn the Spanish terminology).

I still learned. I still earned high marks. With not even a quarter of the course load.

With that much free time, I was able to invest my time into friendships, into exploring, into the culture. I learned more about myself and important life skills than what sitting in a classroom could have taught me. Spaniards are about doing what feels good and right for them at that moment. This value is scientifically represented through Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s value orientations. One value focuses on the preferred forms of activity in culture – growing, doing, being. The Spanish culture is about being in the moment and connecting experiences to individuality. The U.S. is about doing, living a fast-paced life and being productive. Although both have its positives and negatives, why not combine the benefits of both practices – enjoying the present while being productive – into one lifestyle?

While we cannot ask our professors to cut some of the assignments and tests out of their syllabi, we can find the time to let other activities fill our schedule. Yes, that means increasing the efficiency of time management skills and planning ahead in order to stay on top of assignments and not feel guilty or stressed when doing an activity for fun.

Before we become responsibly engaged in the world, we need to become responsibly engaged in ourselves. Recognizing when we have a lot on our plate and when the feelings of panic and despair set in is when you need to take a step back. If you cannot take care of yourself, how can you help take care of the world?

Do not feel guilty from taking a break from studying to watch an episode of The Office, or to go on a run or get coffee with a friend – you will be helping yourself as much as the people around you and the tasks on your to-do list.

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