It’s springtime at Yale and in New Haven. One would think that means brighter times: daylight, fewer scarves and maybe — knock on wood, cross your fingers — no more snow. But if you’ve been following the news lately, you know that “brightness” doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
The University is under fire for its mental health policies and resources. Asbestos is the latest plague to strike Saybrook. The student contribution is overburdening families and exacerbating inequity at Yale; cultural houses are underfunded and falling apart; the Yale Corporation has effectively written off divestment as a pipe dream.
Outside the ivory tower, a feud has erupted between the mayor and the police union after a video surfaced online showing a scuffle between an officer and a high school student. Tragedy has struck with violence in the Middle East, fire in Manhattan, a plane crash in Germany.
And that’s just the past few days.
It’s easy to focus on these sorts of issues and incidents. It’s no hard task to read column after column, status after status, slowly working ourselves into a frenzy. Let’s demonstrate! Yell! Fight! Everything is the worst!
That’s great. Some of the most inspirational moments from my time as a student were with the many students who were engaged with the challenges confronting campus and committed to the betterment of our community.
But to stay centered on what’s wrong at Yale and in the world, to keep doggedly in pursuit of progress both on and off campus, is demanding, exhausting and cynicism-inducing. Worst of all, it’s incredibly unhealthy, particularly on a campus that already suffers from a challenging mental health climate.
This spring, amid the stresses of finals, society tap and summer jobs, I beg you to think about how you’re going to take care of yourself. At Yale, we underprioritize self-care, given a student culture that instead values success and prestige. That Rhodes Scholarship isn’t going to be won by getting seven hours of sleep a night, am I right?
Or worse, we have a misplaced sense of what truly caring for ourselves actually entails. No, taking a study break to jam a Wenzel into your mouth before returning to your work doesn’t count. Neither does exchanging a few words with a friend for five minutes over a rushed lunch, or drunkenly making every single Woads this semester (although, props if you do).
Good self-care doesn’t look the same for everybody, but, universally, it takes time. Time that we allow ourselves to meditate, to go to the gym, to write in a journal, to get enough sleep, to call our parents; whatever it is we need to do to give ourselves some space from the often-brutal day-in, day-out life at Yale. Think about how much healthier our campus would be if each of us allotted an hour for self-care a day.
Naturally, one of the biggest arguments I’ve received against this proposal is this lack of time. Given five classes, an a cappella group, two executive committees and research with a professor, there’s just no time to care for ourselves, people tell me.
But that’s not really true — what these students are actually saying is they just don’t prioritize self-care as highly as they do these other activities. It’s not an issue of time management, but of prioritization; caring for yourself properly starts with learning how to say no.
That’s hard on a campus like Yale, where the longer one’s list of obligations, the more respect one tends to garner. Still, I encourage you to give proper self-care a try, even if only twice a week.
At the very least, try to approach the rest of the year with some degree of positivity. To always focus on the negative, as some of us have the tendency to do, is draining.
Instead, take a minute to remind yourself of some of the greater things in life. For me, that’s remembering that warmer temperatures are just around the corner, that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is coming out in a month, that sushi still exists.
Yes, there are important fights to be had and progress to pursue, and each and every person who works toward these goals is worth celebrating. But I implore you to take self-care just as seriously as you take the fight for a more equitable Yale.
It’s spring: Go outside and enjoy the sun (or, you know, the drizzle).
Nick Defiesta is a 2014 graduate of Berkeley College. He was a columnist for the News and a city editor on the Managing Board of 2014. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of his employer .