Give yourself the chance to acknowledge mental burnout

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective.

Britta Roper, Staff Writer

This is the most tired I have ever been.
I am a first-year student in college. I am constantly surrounded by someone new, different, exciting or even difficult. I sit for hours in front of Zoom, which is often more draining, psychologically and socially, than in-person class. When I attend an in-person class, it is outdoors in whatever weather Santa Barbara deemed appropriate, rain or shine. My mask stays on for hours a day. I am burdened by hundreds of subconscious preoccupations and worries that are just waiting to be recognized. I feel the weight without recognizing the root.

Self-care takes multiple forms. (Jordan Lewicki)

If that describes you in any way, you are not alone. We are a mere day away from the sweet freedom of spring break. We are almost halfway through one of the most challenging semesters we may ever face.
How are you? More importantly, what are you doing for yourself?
You may have heard this one before, but self-care right now is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself, but how?
It’s quite simple, and the results will astound you. I am not here to prescribe a face mask or remind you that you should be journaling more. No, self-care is much more complex and special than these modern trends. It’s unique to you, and it’s important that you find out exactly what helps you recharge and come back to yourself.
First, I recommend taking some time to understand yourself. Start with simple personality questions. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? If you need help understanding this, try reading these descriptions from the Myers & Briggs Foundation:

“Extraversion (E)
I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.

Introversion (I)
I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.”

How do you react to these descriptions? What fits you, and what doesn’t? Take some time to think about who you are. Use qualifications, like extrovert or introvert, or look into personality tests, like the Enneagram or 16Personalities. Or forget the tests altogether. Whatever is helpful for you, make sure to take some time to truly understand who you are.

After this, the second step to creative self-care is much easier: respond to who you are. For example, if you are an introvert, take time to develop those ideas. Make art, journal or listen to thoughtful music. Do this alone, if you can, though that can be difficult in a residential hall. If you are an extrovert, ask a few people out to coffee in a crowded — but COVID-19-friendly — place. Go skating on Cabrillo Blvd. on a busy day. Find somewhere with just enough excitement and energy to find positive recharging.
Use these qualifiers for any other part of your personality. If you are artistically inclined, make art or music. If you are a verbal processor, ask a friend to listen to what’s going on in your head. Follow up on who you are in concrete and constructive ways. This will look different for everyone, and will often vary day-by-day or week-by-week. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

This brings us to my third point: reflect. How was that specific self-care practice for you? Was it a good way to decompress, or should you try something different? Write your reflections down somewhere or share with a close friend. Note the progress you make, or the progress you don’t make. It’s all a process.

In the end, know that your exhaustion or burnout is seen, heard and shared by many. It has been a challenging year. Finding the time and methods to care for yourself in creative and constructive ways is difficult. I recommend a very simple approach: First, understand yourself. Then, respond. Finally, reflect. You may discover much about who you are and how you can love yourself.

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Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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