Let me first describe the perfect conditions for the viewing of this weekly phenomenon: Stand in the center of 115th Street between Broadway and Riverside, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., and cast your gaze upward approximately eight flights. You should be able to hear poorly scream-sung Taylor Swift from the early 2000s, and if you happen to catch a glimpse of jumpy legs and jerky arms, know you’re in the right place.
This is what my roommate and I call a “study break.” These moments start with an antsy feeling: the inability to focus. Typing becomes sparse, and my ability to retain readings is substituted by a need to escape the pressures of a heavy workload. Study breaks can mean Morton Williams snack runs, Yoga to the People, and memes sent across the room, among other things.
But most often, we blast my roommate’s most famous Spotify playlist, called Carpool Karaoke (it has 994 followers—rest assured it’s a good one), through the speaker—and for the next 30 minutes the room spills over with terrible vocals and a lack of rhythm. We open our window for each of the six inches that the window-stopper grants us. As we make space for the fresh air, I pity the people who live within earshot of our room—those who are subject to our poor renditions of Swift’s “Dear John” and Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom.” But afterwards, I notice how much more relaxed I feel when I sit back down at my desk to get work done. “Cathartic” is the best word to describe our silly antics, but “childlike” is a close second.
Such breaks occur more frequently during the peak of midterms, when stress levels become suffocating. This semester, as we trudged through essay after essay and exam after exam, I took to Instagram to seek reassurance that my roommate and I are not alone in our unconventional stress management. Tweezing eyebrows, staring at the ceiling, yelling to no one, washing hands, and looking at pictures of baby whales are just some of the ways in which my friends temper worry over their workloads.
Now that my midterm exams are over and I am not yet gearing up to repeat the process for finals, I spend some of my time recharging and reflecting on the past few weeks of high stress. Everyone that I talk to has their own unique way of managing their stress in these busy periods, which never seem to be gone for too long.
As a child, I had no knowledge of “self-care.” Jumping on couch cushions, impromptu dance parties, splashing in puddles, and crying when Bambi’s mom died were all just a part of my reality. These things made me happy, but they weren’t necessarily special activities. As I got older, I was taught that there were special activities predisposed to making you feel happier and more relaxed. Also known as stress management, this self-care is characterized by activities such as eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, nourishing your mind with good literature, and meditating. At Columbia, I try to implement these practices into my weekly routine, but often I opt for an in-room dance party instead.
Sometimes, I think conventional stress management is not enough. Or at the minimum, a face mask and Netflix movies don’t feel like the perfect solution for all situations. Neither does a full night spent in Butler. Perhaps there is no blanket approach to self-care. Sometimes, we need to scream to release the tension of piling deadlines, or to wash our hands of a long day’s work. On occasion, photos of baby whales put smiles on tired faces. I propose that taking care of yourself is whatever you make it out to be. As for me, on most nights, that’s jumping around to music with my friend—being a child again, if just for a few minutes, in plain sight.
Enjoy leafing through our fifth issue!