Creative writing blog: Fostering wellness while living with stress

“What have you done for wellness this week?”

If I’m being honest with myself, probably nothing. I’m stressed out of my mind and I get next to no alone time to decompress at the end of each day. I am pushing my boundaries farther than they have ever been pushed before. Yet, every week, here we are at this question and I spew out some bullshit answer like “I organized my schedule” or “I spent time catching up with friends!”

Just because I can answer the question does not mean that I am well.

I suppose I should be honest, that is the whole point of the question after all, but no one  wants an honest answer when they ask. They want a generic, happy-go-lucky response, and I want to give one too. It saves everyone from having to deal with the awkward situation of staring uncomfortably at each other because they’re at a loss for words. It also makes me feel as though I’ve done something more than just school work in a week.

Sometimes, I just want to get everything out there. I want to admit that I’m stressed or that I’m barely keeping my head above the water in most situations, but as soon as someone knocks on my door, I smile and offer to help because that’s my job. As a residence fellow, I have to be okay at all times. That’s why everyone asks what I do for wellness each week. I need to be mentally well enough to help my students when they are not mentally or physically okay. If I’m not okay, sixty-four students are at stake. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a single person’s wellness. Often, it feels as though I am not allowed to have a bad day or a bad week. I’m not allowed to close my door to the outside world and just breathe for a couple of days until I feel better.

Some days I get overwhelmed, but I don’t like to admit it to anyone. On the outside I keep up the facade of having my shit together all the time. Every morning I get up and I put on my makeup, and I do my hair. It makes me feel as though I can face the world, whether that is my current reality or not. “Look good, feel good”that’s my motto.

The days I don’t look good are the days when I feel trapped under my mountain of school work and responsibilities. They are the days I wake up late and feeling anxious about being able to complete even the most simple tasks, like talking to my manager or having conversations with my students. On these days, my head reels, and I just want to cry and get a hug from my mom, but I can’t. My students come first, so, when they come to me to rant about their roommate, I talk them through it. I talk them through the stress of school and I tell them failing is not the end of the world, and that their parents will still love them, even if they don’t keep their scholarship. I tell my students that sometimes it’s okay to skip class in order to protect their mental health, that their mental health should always come first. Unfortunately, I don’t practice what I preach. I spend so much time helping other people that I don’t have time to help myself.

But the reality of the situation is that I am allowed to have bad days. Without bad days, I wouldn’t be able to pick myself up to have good days. My job is to let people know it is okay not to be okay. Admitting that to myself is step one. University is overwhelming. Being an adult for the first time is overwhelming.

What did I do for wellness this week?

I had a few bad days.

Graphic by Manoj Thayalan