I’m that person who says “I can’t wait for the dark evenings and crisp winter mornings.” I’m usually bopping around in my boots and beanies, sipping on a hot chocolate, happy that it’s winter again. And I mean, Gavin and Stacey are having a Christmas Special this year after nearly a decade! This should be the best winter ever. But this year, I REGRET SAYING ANYTHING. CAN IT BE JULY AGAIN PLEASE? The winter rut of 2019 hit me hard & the fact I’m struggling through Final Year is not making it any easier.
I’m freezing, I’m tired, I’m uninspired and I’m unmotivated. I feel lazy, irritated (and probably irritating) and I’m not looking after myself, mentally or physically. I was thriving in Summer, living my best life, reaching my goals. But this winter? I’m feeling anything but.
Enough was enough and a couple of weeks ago for the a thousandth time this year I said to myself, “Catherine, wise up”. I’m blessed with good health, in the final year of a degree I have dreamed of doing since I was 14, living with four of my best friends and fortunate to have many more around me. The last thing I should be doing is feeling sorry for myself because it’s cold and dark outside, I have assignment to do in a degree I signed up for and that the moon is making us all act a little funny. I decided to take it upon myself to find out why I might be feeling this way, and ways in which I can stop it.
A common reason we may start to feel stuck in a rut is when every day starts to feel the same. As a final year student with endless work to do, I felt the need to be in the library by 9am typing away, scanning journals and questioning whether this degree was really for me. Attending a lecture and seminar in the afternoon, before heading back to the library for another hour or two just to make myself feel “better”. When really, I was tired and my heads so fried that I’m not making any progress at all and I had just spent 2 hours on a paragraph that most likely isn’t going to make the final draft of my assignment. Final year was draining me. I thought I was doing myself a favour, working super hard, getting ahead of the game, but I soon realised I was burning myself out and it was affecting me in more ways than one. I even got BANGS in week 5.
I knew I had to let myself relax, take a chill pill or 5. Coincidentally the next morning Meibh and I had planned to go for a walk up Cavehill and go for a Brunch date afterwards. I know it sounds cliché when they say heading outdoors really clears the head. But seriously, my head hadn’t been as clear in weeks. After the best Avo Toast I’ve ever had, shoutout to Output Espresso, we were true to our white girl selves and went to Starbucks to do some work, where I completed and submitted my first assignment, without feeling stressed. Which is not surprisingly considering studies show that being outdoors lowers stress and enhances creativity. So, the next time you feel under pressure with work, don’t lock yourself in the library, go get some fresh air and relax for a few hours. You’ll be surprised with what work you’ll produce after.
“Nobody’s Perfect.” (Hannah Montana, 2006).
When having a little snoop around this topic on Google I found an article that explains how Perfectionism can ironically make you feel stuck and effect your progress. Well… My name is Catherine and I’m a perfectionist. Something I thought I should be proud of. I even have it as one of my top qualities on my CV, oops. But after some reading I found out how being a perfectionist will have you going around in circles, never happy with whatever you have done. Completing an assignment will have you saying “could I have done this better?” a thousand times before hitting the submit button on turnitin, rather than giving yourself a pat on the back for completing an assignment which was really hard and challenging and something you should be proud of completing. Learn to squash perfectionism and recognise that something being done is better than being left undone. Focus on completing things, at a standard you’re proud of and show cases your abilities of-course, but move on afterwords and don’t beat yourself up on whether it’s perfect or not. After all, does perfection even exist?
The little things matter
And then, there was just little things. I asked myself, was I looking after myself? Was I eating well? Was I sleeping enough? Spending time with people who made me feel good and doing things I enjoyed? And to be honest, I wasn’t really. So, I filled my wraps with salad for lunch and added a few pieces of broccoli to my meals at dinner time. I let myself sleep for 8 hours rather than set an alarm for 7.30am at 2am. When my friends at Uni asked me to go for coffee after I said, “I’d love to” rather than “I’m going to go to the library.” I arranged to see friends I hadn’t in a while, making plans I had to look forward to. I got back into some good habits I had let slip, remembered how important it was to get fresh air everyday and most importantly set some time aside just for ME!
It’s pretty easy to get a little down in the dumps, but you’d be surprised at the little things that can make you feel a little better and help you ride through the storm. But most importantly, be easy on yourself, you’re doing the very best you can.
Sometimes these feelings may be more than just being stuck in a rut. Such feelings may be signs of something more serious. If what you’re feeling is more than just being stuck in a rut, talk to a friend, a family member, your doctor or contact a mental health helpline right away.
Catherine Maguire is a Final Year year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire