Worth Your Time
by Davis Silver
There is no debate that the most dreaded and taunting time of the year for college students is exam week and the week before. Sleep deprivation, constant anxiety, and unrelenting FOMO drown your thoughts until it becomes time consuming to even catch a breath. But despite the stress, your happiness and mental health are indeed salvageable if you choose to acknowledge their importance. Trust me, I learned the hard way that my mental health matters even when I may feel that other aspects of my life should take higher priority.
I love to sweat – to stumble awake in the morning and head out the door for a run. I love the sensation of turning bright red, of feeling my cold stomach and limbs. The dress code is simple, the route repetitive, and the therapeutic effect undeniable. I jog past a changing cast of characters as I go from city streets to the bridle path of Central Park. I watch the sun creep in through the trees as the graveled path opens up in front of me. I have the rest of the bridle path to sweat, to think, to pray. By the time I complete the circuit, my train of thought has either led me to an epiphany or a dead end. If my thoughts haven’t led me anywhere, my run isn’t over yet. I loop back and begin another circuit. I haven’t always loved to run like this.
February 18, 2016. I pull my hair into a tight ponytail, adjust a pink jersey that clashes with my neon green lacrosse stick I am cradling. I tear down the field. I take my first step to the lane now open. Suddenly I am met by a check to the head. I keep going, but I am no match for a second check, and then all I see is darkness. Later, I hear the diagnosis: a severe double concussion. To avoid further injury, contact sports can no longer be a part of my life. I will never play lacrosse again.
Though a concussion and exam week may seem entirely different, they indeed hold crucial similarities. Just as exams drown your thoughts, forming a coherent sentence felt like struggling for breath. Just as constant studying is insanely overwhelming, answering questions brought tears to my eyes, as the worry of sounding stupid flooded my mind. Just as you may feel like nothing is going your way, pouring myself a glass of water felt suddenly dangerous as I feared putting random objects into my cup (I had done this unknowingly with pills a few days after the injury). And just as you may feel like everything you have learned this semester has suddenly disappeared right before the most important test, I couldn't even keep up a conversation, the words lost in a gray fog of confusion as soon as they were spoken.
My world had flipped upside down in a single second. I had missed two full months of school and social obligations, and felt anxiety over the work I would have to make up and the gossip I would have to be caught up on. I had lost the best outlet for my stress and frustration. Full recovery from this loss meant a search for other outlets, for other happy places. What made me happy? The immediate answer was simple: running.
In the midst of dead week and final exams, searching for outlets and happy places, as I did after my concussion, are crucial steps in maintaining mental health through tough times. Be selfish. Take time for personal reflection as you examine the things that bring you joy. Encourage your friends to do the same. Be experimental. Try different activities until you find the one that takes your mind entirely away from what is causing you stress and anxiety. Be productive. Do not deprive yourself of your outlet just because you feel like you don’t have time. Your mental health matters just as much if not more than the grade you may receive. Whether it’s running, baking, reading, writing, or even simply meditating, it is worth your time.
Davis Silver is a freshman at the University of Alabama in the Blount Program. From New York City, Davis was inspired to write for T+D because of her passion to uplift people from all walks of life.