University is our platform to grow, but the experience we have is nothing but our own creation. We begin to write on a blank canvas; skills we’ve learned, people we’ve met, and memories we’ve shared. However, at times, the fresh drops of paint on our canvas begin to fade, seemingly resisting the existing colours and patterns. Could it be, that the ink was faulted, or that the canvas had overpowered its effect? Or perhaps, it was the stroke of hand that allowed such a flaw in the masterpiece.
When we think about mental health, we think about an emotion and how to cure it externally. Many, begin to crave change in their relationships or environments, with the thought of these factors limiting their wellbeing. Though, as Carl Jung says beautifully, “everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
If we strive for stress management or relationship therapy without wanting to internally examine our own being, we are simply putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. It’s not always the canvas itself that’s flawed, but the way the paint on it flows. It’s not always the surface that limits us, but rather, the foundation underneath. You can’t create a newer you without reflecting upon the older you. This process differs from person to person, but the main underlying factor remains the same. Let’s break this down further, step to step.
Disclaimer; the purpose of this article is not to undermine existing mental illnesses, but is only for the objective of detoxifying and making the most of the university experience.
Step 1: Put down your ego. Being here at Schulich or any other competitive school, there is a natural tendency to want to “one up” others. Not just those outside your program, but in your program as well. However, high chances are that you build up this wall for yourself due to being afraid of vulnerability. We continuously try to regulate this perception of ourselves being “different”, that we forget that each one of us have a lot more in common than we discern. As a result, we brush off sharing our emotions thinking no one will understand, and we hide them within the walls of our mind. It’s nothing but a loop. Without you showing genuine interest and care for another, you close off everyone around you. They think they cannot open up to you, due to this fake “perfection” you have created in their eyes– and vice versa. Maybe instead, we should stop living and breathing a resumé and create an acceptance of each other’s struggles.
Step 2: Change your mentality on competition. While competition can act as a very powerful motivational force, it’s important for us to embrace cooperation along with it. Referring back to step 1, don’t be afraid to give. Give your time out to others, help them brush on their skills, develop empathy and learn to listen effectively. You may think you’re helping them, while in reality, you’re fostering your own development.
Step 3: Tune into yourself. In other words, network internally. Similar to physical health and our body’s diet, we are continuously feeding our souls and impacting our mental health. So, what are you feeding yourself? While this may sound a little cliché, it truly does make a difference: surround yourself with positivity. University isn’t just a platform for you to grow in your report writing skills or analytic ability but one to change your mindset. If you’re stuck on complains and negative remarks about how you’re going to fail stats or that accounting case due next week, you’re not allowing yourself to grow. Nevertheless, seek out for help if you’re struggling—but adopt a growth mindset and reach out to the guy or girl who doesn’t complain about the tiny thorns that come their way.
Step 4: Detoxify. Once you’ve explored the roots of your stress, go on a fast from then. Whether this be your friendship with a certain group of friends, your relationship with someone, or your obsession of social media distracting you. We all have friends who post on social media to let us know they’re screwed for tomorrow’s exam, and we’re guilty of it ourselves. Restrict your use of social media if this plays a huge role in your insecurities and anxiety. Set aside a day or two, or certain times of the day when you don’t browse any networking site. Turn off notifications for certain apps, and I promise, you’re not a loser if you find out about an upcoming event three hours after it’s posted.
Step 5: Trust your struggle. Know that it’s okay to take your own time. Just because your friends seem to have their lives figured out, it’s okay if you don’t. Chances are they’re just faking it as much as you’d like to. Eliminate your internal pressure and trust yourself. You are not entitled to be perfect; you’re a work in progress. A successful person doesn’t chase a certain fixed destination, they believe in the power of passion and struggles to guide them. If you’re comfortable with where you’re at in your life, set bigger goals and allow yourself to struggle.
Moving forward, we need a culture shift in the way we present university for ourselves, and the people around us. This is your time to explore who you are, but building healthy relationships and ending toxic ones goes a long way in caring for our mental health.