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We need to stop glamourising stress

Why has it become a trend to emphasise how busy you are?

I don't quite remember the first time I experienced stress over academic performance. In school nobody ever really seemed to care too much about how well they did, there was a need to pass exams but the fear of failure didn't feel the same. Sadly stress is just as much a part of university life as poor diet choices and limited funds are. However the growing trend of people to glamourise the feelings of stress and uncertainty is concerning.

Being busy is not always a signifier of hard work

We all know a person who does it, we may even be that person ourselves. But why?

No one can look you in the eye and honestly say they enjoy being stressed. Yes it can work as a useful motivator to people and yes some people can work well under high amounts of pressure but that does not mean they enjoy being stressed.

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Being stressed and constantly busy should not be something that's cool or aspirational, nor should it be a symbol of hard work. In fact trying to work constantly will most likely do you more harm than good.

So why has it become a trend to emphasise how busy you are?

Stress sucks the life out of anything we've ever enjoyed

Being overworked has always been manipulated to appear as something aspirational, long before we were all part of a hyper connected world. Advertisements are a common tool for pushing the narrative that constantly being super busy is desirable. However, it seems as though the rise of social media has allowed us to do this ourselves. On a platform where it is so easy to curate your life from a certain angle it’s very easy to link being busy into something fulfilling. It also allows for people to be hyper critical of themselves even more so than ever, it’s a lot harder to ignore feelings of guilt when comes from the posts of friends rather an ad designed to be ‘aspirational’.

Existing in a high stress environment creates a sense of obligation. Instead of pursuing your interests or academic work out of enjoyment it becomes very easy to find yourself doing it purely out of obligation and for appearance, sucking out the enjoyment and passion which led you to it in the first place.

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And makes us feel terrible for doing anything besides from work

Guilt is another one. Taking time away from doing work or brings with it a sense of guilt. Should I be sat enjoying a film with friends when I could be working? Have I done enough to allow myself the time off or is there something more I could be doing? In a place where it feels as though being constantly busy is rewarded and perceived laziness is frowned upon, taking time for yourself feels wrong. Allowing yourself time away when you feel overwhelmed or stress should be a given. Not something others, our even own minds, should be making us feel guilty for.

High amounts of stress levels fit into a wider climate of poor student mental health. We don’t have to look too far to see reports detailing grim statistics of students suffering from mental health problems. University dropout rates are increasing and counselling services are desperately oversubscribed. The constant pressure to appear as a productive and successful student creates an unhealthy environment and exacerbates existing issues.

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Treat Yourself. (even if it just to a coffee)

Allowing time for relaxation and self care is a must

Learning that it’s okay to give yourself time off is hard. However, it's crucial to acknowledge that despite initial appearances no one is constantly productive with their time. There will always be moments where you aren’t performing at your ‘best’ and that’s okay. We shouldn’t need to feel like we have to push ourselves because arbitrary standards of achievement make us feel like failures if we do not. We shouldn’t have to do this to ourselves. We shouldn’t have to live in an environment which champions unhealthy lifestyles.

There is nothing wrong with working hard and reaching your potential, but it shouldn’t consume your entire life. Taking a break is normal. Whether it's seeing friends, going out or even just eating your favourite food, having time away from work is crucial.

Having time to relax and enjoy your life is normal. Be proud of your achievements but don’t sacrifice your health. University isn’t easy and seeing others constantly talk about everything they’re doing won’t help with self-esteem.

Work hard, by all means, but please look after yourself.