Friday, March 1, 2013

Letter from the editor: Tips and tricks to combat college cabin fever

By Benjamin Quinn, Photo Editor
As college students, we are expected to behave in contradictory ways. We are encouraged to follow our dreams, then discouraged when our dreams pay out less than $100,000 a year.

We are told we have a choice between a healthy social life and healthy grades, and we are expected to have both. We are told that we should find a job right out of college in order to pay our debts, but we graduate into a job market that never seems to have any openings.

Perhaps most basic of all these college contradictions is that we are expected to explore our world and prepare for our foray into it, but we are prevented from doing so due to, well, college.

It is all too often that we spend long stretches of time in our rooms or the library, straining our eyes at the fifth revision of an assignment that ultimately makes up a small part of our "key to the future." We’re perfectly capable of doing it, of course, but it takes its toll.

The feeling of sitting inside and tapping away at the keyboard while the world churns on without you is painful, and can’t be alleviated through expensive study away programs.

It’s enough to make you go a little stir-crazy.

I’m an introverted person. After a large amount of social interaction I have to take some time to recover, which is often spent in my dorm room doing something unproductive. I find that having some shamefully idle time alone can be the only way to get me through a stressful day, and I take my access to privacy very seriously.

At the same time, I love social interaction. I crave it in the same way that I crave exercise: it can be a fun way to exert energy and is personally nourishing, but doing it all day would kill me. However, the opposite is also true: unplugging from the world can be refreshing, but to avoid socializing would be like depriving a plant of sunlight. So when I’m recharged and ready for socializing again, my college obligations chain me to my chair.

Depending on your work load or personality, you might not have the same experiences as I do. But we all know the feeling of having "real life" get in the way of our attempts to get a life.

Fortunately, to keep myself from contracting cabin fever, I’ve developed several different ways of compensating for the restrictions that school and work often put on me.

Procrastination is not only the enemy of productivity, but also of your mental well-being. One way to keep from distraction is to keep exactly that in mind — when you are buried in your room, you are depriving other people of yourself.

Another way of avoiding cabin fever is to do what you think you’re missing out on. After a solid block of work, take a half-hour off and go bug your friends or work on what you love doing most, such as a hobby or that fiction you have been pecking at throughout the year.

Skipping out on what you love can not only cause boredom, but I have found that it deprives you of a crucial part of your identity that you rely on to sustain morale.

Most of all, every once in a while do something to remind you of the outside world. It’s easy to feel so isolated that there appears to be nothing of importance but you and your assignment. If you feel like you’re hitting this point, take a break from campus. Go for a walk or have dinner at a nice restaurant — anything to break the monotony of campus life.

If you feel like what I’m describing fits you alarmingly well, you aren’t alone. If you think you’re the loneliest, most asocial busybody on campus, remember that many of the people around you are thinking the exact same thing, no matter how socially active they may seem.