We’ve all been in this situation: it’s only Monday and you already have 55 pages to read for class tomorrow, two essays due this week and two exams to study for.Overwhelmed, you turn to our friends to let out your stress. Your friend empathizes with you but makes sure to let you know that you have it easy because they have even more to do. Sure, you’re stressed out, but they claim they’re feeling even worse.
Everyone is busy in college. We all have work piling up and to-do lists taking residence in the back of our minds. Everyone is stressed — but somewhere along the way, this stress, and even suffering, became a sort of competition. It doesn’t matter how bad you have it because someone has it worse, and they’re going to tell you all about it.
People seem to be almost proud of their unhealthy habits. They brag about how little sleep they’re getting and how many energy drinks they’ve downed. I’m guilty of this as well, making sure to let people know how I tend to use coffee as a substitute for lunch. This trend takes damaging habits and turns them into quirky personality traits and fuels a battle to see who is truly the most stressed.
I think this phenomenon ties in with our society’s obsession and fixation on productivity. Time spent relaxing is seen as time wasted, and we make sure to emphasize our lack of down-time as proof that we’re being good and productive. We need to let everyone know that we are booked, busy and not spending our time on seemingly non-productive things like eating and sleeping — even though going without them makes us miserable. And we all know that misery loves company.
When you’re stressed or in pain, it can be cathartic to vent to someone to let all of those bad feelings out. But these venting sessions can quickly escalate into competitions of who has it worse, which can then make you yourself feel worse.
Pain and stress should not be a competition. Just because someone somewhere has it worse than you does not mean that what you’re feeling isn’t real or painful. Just because someone has more work than you doesn’t mean that you’re not busy and you can’t be stressed. If you’re in a doctor’s waiting room and see someone with a broken arm, it doesn’t make your cold any less bothersome.
We should all stop bragging about our unhealthy habits as if they are something to be proud of. Although it is sometimes hard to balance self-care with the workload of college, we should take pride in finding time to relax and take care of ourselves instead of worrying that it makes us seem less productive than our peers.
In a college setting, being busy is relatable, and everyone has a workload that can be overwhelming. But the next time your friend is telling you about everything they have to do, try to empathize with them instead of retorting with your even busier schedule. Stress and pain aren’t a competition and shouldn’t be treated as such, and just because someone has it worse than you doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about feeling overwhelmed.