This semester has been nothing but craziness. We’ve officially hit March, and I’m sure the memories of being sent home almost a year ago are filling all of our minds. Luckily, we won’t be leaving any time soon, and while this is a great thing, it can also  be hard for a lot of us. Other than the few Lagniappe days, we are given no real extended breaks this semester and it can be difficult to give yourself the mental and physical breaks that are vital for our well-being as college students.

Luckily, I’m here to help you find ways to prioritize your health and give yourself the mental break you may be needing right now. First off, you must remind yourself that you’re not the only one feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or overworked. Most people are feeling the exact same way and talking it out with a friend makes a big difference. Sometimes all it takes is admitting that we’re stressed and exhausted, and having a friend tell us to take a deep breath and that it’s all going to be okay. This is something I have a hard time telling myself, but I try to listen intently when my friends give me this advice. 

We live in the most amazing city and there are so many ways to get off campus and clear your head. There are always the obvious methods of prioritizing your health and wellness including walks in Audubon, a trip to any of the local coffee shops, or simply just sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful weather. Even when I am beyond stressed and think I have no time to do anything but homework, I force myself to step away from my desk and go for a walk, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. If we can’t have a week-long spring break, we can at least give ourselves a 30 minute break during the day. Don’t worry, you won’t fail the test just because you allowed yourself this break, it can actually be beneficial to clear your head for an optimal study session! 

Another tip I have found so useful over the years is to not leave everything until Sunday. I used to always tell myself that Sunday was the day to get all of my work done, so I would just leave it all until then. This would leave me spending my entire Sunday locked up in the library stressed about everything on my plate. I’ve learned how nice it is to have some free time on Sundays to do things unrelated to school. I try to space out my work throughout the week so that it’s not piled up on Sunday and I can enjoy one of the few days with no classes. This new approach makes my Sunday way less scary! 

It’s also important to give ourselves days off even if the school doesn’t. Look at your schedule and find a day (or a few) that you’re able to take a break from school and create time for yourself. Even if these one or two days aren’t filled with exciting events or adventures, it is so important to give yourself a mental break and a moment away from school. This is usually the time of year where we all work ourselves hard, knowing that respite will come when we finally reach Mardi Gras and spring break.  Unfortunately, these are not the light at the end of the tunnel this year, so it is up to us to create our own light. 

Lastly, there’s no reason why we can’t plan our own staycations! Finish your classes on Friday and find your own adventure. A few things you can do in New Orleans for free are walk down Magazine Street and look around in all the fun shops, walk around the ByWater, or take a trip to the fly to soak up some sunshine, since vitamin D is essential for both our physical and mental health. Sometimes it’s nice to pretend you’re a tourist for the day –  take the streetcar downtown, stroll around, and get a beignet! You can also head to City Park to walk around, have a picnic, get on the water in boats, or visit the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) where students get a discount on admission.

All in all, the past year has been incredibly tough and we’re all only human. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we’re just young adults and that we need to let ourselves relax every once in a while. Don’t let your Lagniappe days become just another study day. Lagniappe means gift, so treat them exactly as that, a well-deserved day to treat yourself and prioritize your health. Aside from the Lagniappe days, carve out time for yourself, and remember that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed.

Cover Photo by by Paul Broussard: “Where to Watch a Sunset in New Orleans”

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