Smith: It’s OK to take a break

Editor-in-Chief Sage Smith urges fellow college students to ask for help when they are struggling and encourages them to take a break when needed.

Sage Smith

I spent multiple days logged out of my Instagram, with spotty cell service and essentially no Wi-Fi, and it was one of the best feelings I’ve had in a long time.

Camping is an activity I always loved while growing up even though it didn’t happen often. Running around with my brother and cousins, looking around for acorns and pinecones to collect and sitting by the campfire hours after sunset; it was all great— and before a smartphone took over my life.

Being a college student and journalist usually means having a lot of social media platforms. In the previous week I thought a lot about my Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, school work, homework and personal hobbies, etc.

I realized my time was not only divided unequally, but it wasn’t focused on what I wanted or needed it to be. This happens to me a lot; I lose sight of my goals and values because my world starts to spiral out of control.

I constantly feel like I can’t catch up with what I need to do. Then the intrusive thoughts of calling myself lazy and convincing myself I should drop out of college set in. Those negative thoughts aren’t true and aren’t what I actually want. I just need a breath sometimes.

I’ve written about how much I value nature, so that was also a part of the weekend. I got to sit by a lake and take photos with my camera and when we returned to the campground after my cousin’s motocross races, I ran off with my brother and cousins again. We climbed on the playground and laughed about our friends. It was genuinely fun.

Before the weekend really started, I signed off my Instagram. That was the one thing I thought I was allowed to “get rid of.” Twitter is journalist central and full of news, so I have to keep that. Facebook isn’t distracting and TikTok gives me way too much serotonin to delete.

But even eliminating one source of distraction and stress did me wonders. I also got a few days ahead in school, which was very much needed.

I always get caught up in my endless to-do list, which results in me being overwhelmed to the point of tears, and the countless notifications that pop up on my phone all day long certainly does not help.

Your peers on Instagram that brag about going without their phone for a certain amount of time might be annoying, but they are so right. It feels like literal weight is taken off your shoulders. The few days where I was much more disconnected than usual were so refreshing for me.

It is so easy to get burnt out and behind in school and then your mental health starts to slip and it feels like a total downhill slide from there. If you’re the type to never ask for help and refuse to take a break even when you yourself are at your breaking point, I understand. I feel the same way.

I’ll work myself into the ground while at the same time, never catching up. But I’m here to tell you that it actually is OK to take a break. Turn off your phone and take a nap for a couple hours. It is OK to ask for help. Sign in to AccessPlus and set up an appointment with an academic coach through the Academic Success Center.

School and work are priorities, but it’s OK to struggle with them and no one should feel ashamed for struggling. Plenty of my friends and fellow students are also busy all the time and scared about their GPA or appearing weak for not being able to handle everything thrown at them.

I’ll tell you the same thing I tell any of the Iowa State Daily editors when they can’t catch a down moment and have a million things to get done in such little time: take a few deep breaths, read through your to-do list and prioritize what needs to be done first. Then go from there.

I’ll also tell you the same thing those editors tell me when I am at max level of anxiety and feel like I’m horrible at everything: it’s OK to step back and take a break. Everyone else will be alright and I can continue working after taking a moment for myself.

I may not be the greatest at asking for help or managing my own messy life, but I love to listen to others rant about their stressors and then suggest ways for them to navigate that stress.

Reach out to me by email  [email protected]  or on Twitter @heysagesmith and let’s talk about how crazy our lives are and maybe we can help one another get through. We can be in this together.