Relaxing is complicated.
Countless Turnitin deadlines to hit on the same day, union socials you promised you would ‘show face at’, investing in quality time with your flatmates – it is no wonder why everyone is facing extreme burnout so early on in the academic year. The feeling of being overwhelmed can be brought on by a variety of things, whether that be taking on too many responsibilities or something unexpected cropping up. It is easy to feel suffocated by the voice in your head telling you must do everything.
While it is beneficial to have help guides and stress relief remedies at the click of a button, perhaps we have reached a point where we should doubt brands of self-help that mainstream society provides as a ‘fixture’. I must admit, I adopt quite a pessimistic view when it comes to believing that relaxing remedies will actually work, when it is a lack of routine and distractions from the overload of uni pressures that are solely to blame. We are encouraged to engage in the practice of techniques which are not guaranteed to benefit your mental health, and we must scroll through social media help guides, articles and the phenomenon of calming products on our shelves to achieve this.
Health is not one size fits all. However, this is the approach employed by consumerist culture to persuade millions to tune into podcasts and meditation spaces. Though I agree these can be very helpful, the sheer mass of options out there once again sends our minds into overdrive. It may take an in-depth dive into Spotify listening sessions or YouTube clips to find the technique that is right for you, though once you’ve found it, that’s half the battle. It is not only knowing what you must do in order to escape emotional exhaustion but making sure your body is up for actually doing it. To relax is more complex than branding would have us believe. Yes, you can drink a box of calming, pure relaxation teas, or curl up in front of your favourite boxset show, but to do so relies on putting aside your overanxious energy that’s still circulating after a busy or stressful day. Reaching a calm state is never impossible, but expecting it to fall into place all at once is naive.
For those a little like myself who find the options to stop feeling overwhelmed to be themselves overwhelming, ask yourself what truly brings you a moment of pure happiness. Yes, the conventional remedies will help you to switch off, but the power of escapism – in a hobby you once loved, a hobby you have neglected, a hobby that got caught in a space between being a teenager and growing up = may prove more effective. Recreational sport with friends, opening a sketchbook, playing an instrument, or going for a walk. The mindfulness we strive for is almost always hidden amongst the simple pleasures, enjoying something we’ve always loved.