Alison Lanier is a rising senior at Wellesley College, double majoring in English with Creative Writing and Cinema and Media Studies. With internship and freelance experience in magazine and book publishing, her focuses include creative fiction and nonfiction, writing for the screen, and editorial publishing work. She is currently working as a writing tutor, a writer and editor for several campus magazines, and a freelance writer and proofreader.
When days are busy and routine becomes stagnant, campus life can begin to feel constricting—fast. It’s important to admit that campus boundaries are not also the boundaries of your college experience. Feeling confined to the space where you live, work, and play, in my understanding as a tutor and a student, can diminish the work you’re doing and, more importantly, your mental health. Take the time to get off campus and give yourself some breathing room.
Especially on an academically-charged campus like mine, hours start to feel jammed together. Experiencing stress and revisiting stress-filled places go hand in hand. The idea that all your fun has to come from campus is a dangerous myth that admissions officials tend to perpetuate, in their efforts to draw in new students with stories of thrilling—and often idealized—campus life.
While campus offers any number of activities and distractions, the answer to this sense of confinement isn’t to bury yourself in new clubs to disrupt the cycle. When I found myself falling into a daily grind that really did seem to be grinding my nerves, I tried to address stress by joining the campus comedy group. This choice led predictably to a fresh wave of emails, scheduling, and worries. And, again predictably, it didn’t make me into a happy, comedic person. I encourage you to think outside the box—or in this case, outside campus.
Know your deadlines
Before you take time off, know what really does need to get done. It isn’t worth punishing yourself by taking time to get away, only to have assignments hanging over your head. If you can, make one last push to get any work with looming deadlines resolved. Letting things get too close to the last minute will not do your mental health any good, nor will it add to the quality of your work when you do get back to it.
But if you are really mentally locked-down, don’t throw yourself against a brick wall either. When I tutor students who try to force their minds through a stress-block, I recommend getting their thoughts in order before trying to formalize them into shape. Collecting a list of resources, organizing your thoughts on paper, even physically taking stock of and arranging the relevant notes—all these things will ease your stress and make you more effective when you return to the task at hand.
Making your escape
There are any number of options to transport you out of your campus bubble. ZipCar, mass transit trains or buses, Uber, and especially Lyft are excellent transportation options for students on a budget. In rural areas, rent a bicycle or use your own, carpool with friends to save on gas money, and head toward a local hiking trail, a kayak-able river, a beach, or even just a small town in the vicinity you haven’t yet explored. Find a new bookstore, a non-chain café, or a park—somewhere to let your brain unwind.
In the suburbs or cities, look up all those serious or silly tourist things—aquariums, historical sites, museums, famous shops, self-guided walking tours. Your school will likely have an office of student events/activities where you can find discounted tickets and often transportation to off-campus events, like musicals or symphony hall concerts.
Taking yourself out of a pressure-cooker environment is the best way I know of to reliably shake pressure off your shoulders, especially when, from the vantage point of a library or a late-night desk, the pressure begins to feel inescapable. Both your mind and your schoolwork will thank you for a temporary change in vantage point. Carry that point of view back with you, and use it to refresh your campus outlook.