How to truly take a day off when you’re stressed

By SANIYA RAMCHANDANI | November 21, 2019

So it’s been a stressful week (as every other week at Hopkins tends to be) and all you want to do is curl up on your couch with warm cider and watch a movie.

But it’s a Monday night and you have an early morning class tomorrow that you just can’t skip and a quiz on Wednesday that you just have to spend the whole of the next afternoon in Brody studying for. 

There’s this gnawing feeling in your stomach as the anxiety rises, and the to-do list that you keep in your head starts getting longer and longer.

You suddenly realize that your laundry isn’t done and there’s nothing in your fridge to eat and you need to buy a new phone charger and you promised your roommate you’d help him with his homework and you need to be there for your best friend because she’s having a bad day. Stop. Breathe. Take a day off.

How? It’s impossible to magically clear your schedule, right? Wrong. Mental health has to become a priority, and we’re only useful to the rest of the world if we take care of ourselves. When I’m drowning in a sea of mental notes and calendar reminders, I’m simply not going to be at my best, and as a result, any work that I try to do will suffer.

The cure to this, I’ve found, is very simple. I email anyone who needs to be notified of an absence, sleep-in, clear my head and start over. Here’s a detailed guide of how to take a day off:

Step One: Contact anyone who needs to be notified of an absence; professors, bosses and student organization leaders usually fall into this category.

We’re all human, and the likelihood that they’ll be understanding is very high. But even if they aren’t, this is something you need to do for yourself, and you can’t let anyone make you feel bad for doing that. Taking a breather does not make you weak, it makes you self-aware and builds resilience.

Step Two: Put your phone away. Personally, I know there are certain people whose calls I simply cannot avoid because if they truly need something, I really can’t ignore that. 

So instead of locking my phone in a drawer (which I highly recommend if you can), I put it on Do Not Disturb, turn the ringer on, and keep it out of sight and reach.

Step Three: Do something you can’t do on a daily basis. I watch a lot of TV, so on my days off, I read a book instead; this is something I love doing, but sadly don’t have enough time to do regularly.

Escaping into another world is an easy way to leave my troubles behind, and I haven’t found a better way to do that than by diving into a captivating novel.

Another favorite activity of mine is a long hot shower and some pampering face masks. Curl your hair, paint a landscape, write a song, do something low-pressure that keeps your mind and hands occupied.

Step Four: Once you feel a little calmer and more refreshed, begin to make a really detailed to-do list on paper. Don’t worry too much about how long it gets or how inane some of the tasks might seem, just put it all down, and try not to leave anything out.

Once it’s all there, cross off the things you can really live without — try using Amazon Fresh instead of going to Giant, get a manicure next week, order dinner tonight and refrigerate leftovers for lunch tomorrow to save you some time cooking, and delegate any tasks that you possibly can.

Once you’ve condensed the list as much as possible, put some time estimates down next to the tasks, and always overestimate.

Step Five: Take a look at your calendar. Realistically put everything into your schedule, making sure to carve out time for dinner and TV, and leaving a flexible hour or two to see friends or go to the gym. 

Make sure you schedule-in taking care of yourself, because that is far more important than the 0.2 difference in your GPA will ever be.

Step Six: Go to sleep! If there’s nothing that needs to get done immediately, get some rest, because the best way to gain a little perspective and let your brain recharge is through a nice, long eight-hour nap.

Lastly, don’t ever let yourself compare your situation to anyone else’s. So often, I hear people talk about how much or how little they’re doing in comparison to their close friends, or how different their grades are.

Everyone has their own things that they’re dealing with, and as long as you’re keeping yourself happy and healthy and you’re doing your best in every possible way — this doesn’t mean studying as hard as you can by the way, it means balancing your personal life with your academic and professional one, making sure that you give both equal importance — there’s nothing to worry about.

We were all chosen very carefully for this wonderful four-year opportunity, and taking a day off is just a part of ensuring we can make the most of it.

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