Eloise Armary, Artist Focus Editor
After a year and a half of online study and a severely cut down social life, coming back on campus and living in a new country is really exciting. Suddenly, my life is fast paced, there are events every day, I meet new people all the time. I love what my days look like and I constantly feel in a rush. I write for the student’s paper, I play music, I write and share my poetry, I have started a society and a podcast. It really contrasts with the quiet days paced by my routine; though I didn’t dislike it.
In lockdown, I fully explored my introvert self. I read books, watched films, played music and wrote poetry. It felt like I had infinite time to do all the hobbies I wanted to do. All the time that wasn’t scheduled for other events, I had it for me. And I really enjoyed it.
This is a lesson that I want to remind myself of this year. Me-time is as important as any scheduled event that I could go to. Schedules put by other people always seem more important than the schedule I put for myself, because it feels that I can always move it to another time; which ends up being never. When I have a paper to hand in for a deadline, I bend myself in half to finish it on time. I can cancel social events, time with my partner and even buying food; because I deem my studies to be important. But when it comes to doing things for me, I never cancel on other activities I have planned. And it’s fine for a couple of weeks, but after a time of not being creative, not going on a walk, not doing silly things – just for me – I start going crazy.
In my first year of study, where I balanced intense study work and social life, not taking a break in the week was what got me sick. Once I’m ill, I can cancel everything and focus on myself. My body tells me: enough, now rest. Every year I learn to know myself a bit more, and I recognise signs that tell me I need to slow down: waking up in the morning is harder, one coffee doesn’t feel enough, the idea of going out looks painful. I read a lot about mental health and self-care, and every day I have to ask myself: are you doing too much? Are you laying the path for a burn-out? I remind myself: have a bath, listen to music, light up a candle, read a book, cuddle with your cat.
But it’s not as simple as that. Having had a whole year of such low activity, I struggle to feel the barometer, I don’t know what is ‘a lot’ or ‘a little’ for me anymore. I sometimes think that I avoid uncomfortable events or activities for my mental health’s sake, but when I go I in fact enjoy myself and have a good time. If last year was a low activity year, this year could be a high activity one, and that could work fine – every year has a different pace and rhythm. However, I know there is a limit as to how much I can handle in a week. Sadly, I am interested in three times more activities than I could fit in my schedule. How do I choose? I start activities, then more ideas come up. I want to do them, I say yes and I start them. But how do I know that I won’t stop everything in February, when winter is dragging and my energy level is at its lowest?
When do I say: enough? When do I say ‘no’? I think I still need a few more years to figure it out.