Some thoughts on Self-Care on Campus
For me, coming back from fall break I usually hit a lull.
Frances + Brendan just posted a great post on studying habits. And that's valuable and you should all go read it. Effective studying and time management skills can be really helpful and if you're in a slump those things might be a good place to start. But sometimes a funk is more than just how you're opting to spend your time. Sometimes it's hard to discern when it is good to push yourself and create that routine, and when your body is saying absolutely stop and take a pause. And I can't say what that difference is for everyone, but I know that when i don't feel relaxed by doing my work or invigorated by what comes up in the classroom, that is a sign for when to take a step back. And here's advice for what to do when you find yourself needing to do that too.
Give yourself permission to take a break from studentdom.
Get out of Oberlin. I have a lot of experience doing this. This past Wednesday I drove to Lake Erie at midnight to be under the open sky and hear the waves against the shore and let my brain become empty against the sand, even just for ten minutes. The Lake has become such a special place for me and a few close friends. I've gone there for the past two years on my birthday just to celebrate getting through one more year. Other recommendations for places to escape to: Dimitri's Corner in Wellington, Kiedrowski's Bakery in Amherst, Kreigz, the Lorain location is bikeable but go to the Vermillion location for the true out-of-Oberlin experience, and Cascade Park in Elyria.
If you don't drive or have friends who drive, look into the Enterprise Car Share program.
Do some pleasure reading.
I have this list I've been working on since tenth grade that my American Lit teacher gave our class entitled: Books You Have to Read in Order to Be Considered Human. Every once in awhile I pick one to get through in between readings for class. Right now I'm reading Harukor: An Ainu Woman's Tale by Honda Katsuichi.
Be outside. One really great way to do this is to take a walk. Go to the Arb and get lost. Take yourself past North Fields and get lost. Head down the bike path and get lost. If walking isn't an option for you, sit in a patch of sunlight for ten minutes. Last week I made myself lie out in my backyard and feel the crunchy leaves under me and the sunshine above me. It made me feel cradled and like I was in a cocoon. It didn't make me happy but it did make me feel better.
Try to talk about what you're feeling. This is a really hard thing for me to do, but I also know that it's really important. Oberlin can feel so isolating, but there are people who care about how we are doing here. Check in with people, check in with yourself, share with those around you what you're thinking and be honest. You can also talk to a Dean about what you're struggling with and how it's affecting you academically. In my experience, Monique Burgdorf and Matthew Hayden really listen. There are also always Sexual Offense Policy Advocates (SOPAs) and the folks at Peer Support Center, all of whom are students trained in listening skills and who want to support you. You can also make a Counseling Center appointment. I know they have a bad rep on campus and it is definitely warranted, but they are working on it. They have hired more staff, are expanding their hours, and trying to incorporate the student feedback they've received over the last two years. Also, you can definitely ask to speak to a counselor of color and/or a queer counselor if you want someone who will know exactly where you are coming from. I went for the first time last week and it was sort of a highlight of my week. Talking about things definitely makes me feel like I can have more control over them.
Journal/Draw/Sing/Dance/Stretch/Listen to Music. Sometimes you're not ready to talk and that's okay. But giving yourself a creative outlet of some sort can really help straighten out your thoughts and what you're feeling. Find a nice notebook and a quiet space and let yourself do your thing. Or sneak into South Gym or the Kahn Dance Studio in the dead of night and make your body move in ways that feel good for it to move. Or craft your favorite playlist and put it on repeat. (Right now mine involves a lot of Adele's Hello + Floetry.)
Be kind to yourself. It is okay to not be your best self all the time. It is all right to not meet all the external expectations placed on you here. If you're having a hard time not blaming/judging/being too critical of yourself, tell yourself to treat you as if you were your best friend. Would you think them any worse for turning in a paper late or not going to a workshop? Of course not, because they would still be the incredible person you know them to be. And you are, too.
Bear with November, everyone. This is a time for thinking critically about what it takes to survive and thrive as a student, and for taking care of one another as we figure out how to do so. Please feel free to share in the comments what you do to take care of yourself in moments of stress and difficult times on this campus. Sharing resources and story swapping is a crucial form of community care and I invite this blog to be a space where we can support one another.