With the home stretch of the semester commencing, stress levels on campus seem to be at peak levels. Although there is a light at the end of the tunnel, for many of you (including myself) that light seems nearly unattainable at times. Personally, balancing my jobs, schoolwork, and finding room to take care of myself seems like an endless battle. Time management is arguably a job in itself; spreading yourself too thin can very easily lead to self-destruction.

Although it may seem cliché, in this moment in time self-care is the key to finishing this semester strong. I constantly have a feeling of guilt every time I want to take a break from student life. Often, I feel undeserving of a break, and I believe the rigorous lifestyle students have has conditioned us to operate as machines rather than conscious human beings.

Last semester was my first semester at UTSA. I entered as a transfer student and wasn’t necessarily mentally prepared to consume such a colossal change in scenery. I guess you could say I “self-destructed.”

This semester, I made some positive changes and was recently reflecting upon them to see what exactly I was doing differently. I noticed I am doing much better and have made immense progress in light of the low points I endured last fall. Last fall, I realized I wasn’t working to improve my mental health, but merely masking the problems with temporary distractions. I didn’t really have an outlet to put my mind at ease, and I found myself taking more toxic routes to find a sense of calm. From my personal experience, the overindulgence of these “distractions” deter you from reaching your full potential.

So what have I done differently this spring? Well first, I made it a goal to push myself creatively. It’s an indescribable feeling when you express yourself through any outlet and get to say, “damn I made that, nobody can take that away from me.” It all started when I began writing for the Paisano. The Paisano has been an outlet to vent (to an entire campus of people) my thoughts and passions, and I have been able to hear the perspectives and thoughts of others on my pieces. Along with that, my fellow staff members turned out to be my saving graces and my support system. UTSA has seemingly infinite organizations and finding one that aligns with your identity can really go a long way. It’s good to know that you’re not alone on campus and you have people who you have things in common with.

Another thing that helped me the most was learning to love hanging out with myself. I started going to concerts, museums, movies, lunch, etc, by myself. I believe that you learn a lot about yourself when you’re alone. You don’t have the exterior pressure of doing things you aren’t up for and you make decisions for yourself without the fear of judgement or having to be on someone else’s schedule. So in the last stretch of this spring, I would encourage you all to take some time for yourself. Whether it’s a scenic hike or a Netflix binge watch session, nothing is more liberating than finding peace in being alone. You learn to fall in love with yourself, and it makes you less dependent on other people. Learning to love hanging out with yourself more than a room full of people allows you to self-reflect and reset your mind. Don’t feel guilty for taking a break. Amidst the chaos of trying to get that degree, remember to be kind to yourself in the process.

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