OPINION: The bare minimum can be just enough


Hailey Stessman

While it can be difficult to squeeze a break into your day, some simple habits can work wonders. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

In three months, it will have been a year since the nation entered its first phases of a lockdown due to COVID-19 that would later transition into a lingering state of quarantine with no end in sight. Despite the fact that time has ceased to exist and I have accepted that I am simply floating through space, I am aware of how much I have changed over the course of quarantine.

Pre-COVID Hailey could crank out multiple coherent research papers at an almost alarming rate in the span of a couple days. Now, my head is the epitome of “head empty, no thoughts”. After typing one sentence, I declare quietly to myself that I have reached my limit. Productivity? Never heard of her before. A healthy sleep schedule? Impossible.

It’s strange to see how much living through a pandemic has completely altered the habits we used to swear by. Mornings begin later, our “to-watch list” diminishes, and our couches become our best friends. Although there has thankfully been a general consensus that we shouldn’t feel shameful for this lull in our productivity, I have noticed how difficult it can be to put it into practice.

“Do I have something scheduled for today?”

“Maybe I should check my planner.”

“I feel so useless and lazy.”

You aren’t alone if you also have those questions running through your head on a daily basis. In the same way it can be difficult to accomplish tasks and stay motivated, it can also be challenging to allow yourself to fall into a state of relaxation. Why is there so much pressure to be productive at the same time we are being told to take a break?

Through our roles as students and workers, particularly in a pandemic, we are functioning as components in our society that has programmed us to believe we constantly have to be busy. The instant gratification that comes with accomplishing a task simply fuels the drive to keep going without rest. In the spur of the moment we may not realize how far we are actually pushing ourselves before taking a breath.

If you have fallen victim to the clutches of overworking and can sense guilt rising up within you when contemplating a break, please let me tell you that every little bit counts. Simple gestures such as being sure to drink enough water or putting some lotion on your dry cracked hands carry worth and value. Your body and your conscience will be thanking you.

Despite what self-help accounts tell you, you do not have to go all out when relaxing. It is important to find out what works for you. While I sure do appreciate a warm bath with some lavender and a few lit candles, it can sometimes be nearly impossible to let my mind slow down enough to the point where I can enjoy the bath.

So if you are experiencing this frantic panic or you feel as though you are not physically and mentally capable to take a break, know that you are not alone. But I do encourage you to take some small steps or integrate simple habits to ensure you are taking care of your physical and mental body.

Here are some of my go-to tips when I can’t seem to let myself take a break:

  1. Drink a glass of water. It seems simple enough, but it can be easy to forget to drink enough water throughout the day while you work. Hydration is crucial.
  2. Massage your hands and wrists. Whether you are typing away or writing an abundance of notes all day, you may be experiencing some tension in your hands. Take a couple seconds to put on some lotion and really focus on stretching out your fingers, wrists, and forearms.
  3. Allow yourself to daydream. Staring at a screen for too long can strain your eyes and lead to burdensome headaches. But even If I can’t get up from my work, I simply stare off and let my mind wander for a couple of minutes. It may seem a little strange at first, but a few moments when my gaze isn’t focused on my work does wonders.

Most importantly, remember to focus on your breathing.

I know you may not feel as though you deserve a break, but try to trust me when I say you do. Sometimes the bare minimum can be just enough.