I’ve been in education since I was four years old, bar the couple of years that I took out in between my A-Levels and university anyway. Now, at twenty-two I’m sat, staring out into the void that comes after third year and for the first time, the future seems somewhat uncertain. Admittedly I now have a job secured so my future has a faint outline and my stomach isn’t churning quite as much as it was a few weeks ago but when you suddenly find that you have the world at your feet, you tend to find that your stomach is uneasy regardless of whether you know which direction you’re stepping in next.
And that, I think is what makes the third year of university so terrifying. Sure the late nights and early mornings spent on assignments, the frequent trips to the library and the presence of the dissertation are equally all terrifying on their own but more than anything I think its the fact that there is no clear path after all of this that is the scary part. But what I’m coming to realise, as I teeter precariously on the edge of my future, is that standing still might actually be scarier than jumping.
So maybe it’s the glass of wine that was in my hand as I wrote this or maybe it’s my inner adult finally pushing my student persona to one side but I’m starting to feel excited about the future; I’m actually starting to believe that this next phase could be the best one I’ve experienced yet because now, finally, I’m in charge of the ship…
That isn’t to say that third year has been a walk in the park. I mean, lord knows I’m not always as calm and content as I make out and I’m currently watching stress work its way through my housemates as if it is a contagious disease but what I am coming to see is that the future isn’t quite as terrifying as it once seemed and that the present doesn’t have to be something that you constantly fight against either.
And so, this post is as much for me as it is for my overly stressed out housemates and for all of those out there who are also conforming to the stressed final year stereotype as I promise myself (and you all) that there are a few things that you can do between now and the end of the exam season to help keep your sanity…
Starting with the most obvious of tips, actually do the work! It seems surprisingly common to go into denial when you’re stressed but I promise that if you simply set aside a few hours to crack on with the essay that you’ve been pushing to one side for weeks, you’ll feel far more relaxed in the long run.
On the flip side, it seems that if you’re not in denial then you’re working too much. You still need a break and I don’t mean just one a week, I mean once a day. No one, unless they’re part robot can work 24/7 and as counterproductive as it seems, I promise that you’ll be more productive if you schedule in a daily dose of downtime!
Of course, no ‘well-being’ post would be complete without a mention of eating and drinking well but that’s because, while it is the oldest trick in the book, it works. As tempting as it can be to think that the answer is at the bottom of a bottle of wine or a tub of icecream, I can say with certainty that it isn’t. By all means treat yourself occasionally, we all know that third year calls for a treat as a necessity from time to time, just don’t make it an all-to regular occurrence!
And perhaps most importantly, remember that third year doesn’t equate to the end of the world. Yes, for most of us third year does mean that we are coming to the end of our time in education but it’s more than that, it symbolises the start of everything that we’ve been working for all along. Plus, the chances are that if you’ve made it this far then you’re going to make it to the end just fine – you haven’t made it to the final hurdle for no reason!
And that’s that. Put simply anyway. We’ve got the world at our feet now and there are few things more liberating than that. So keep your cool, it might feel hard now but it’s going to be worth it in the end – just remember to live a little in the meantime too and you might even find that you’re able to relax enough to actually enjoy the process along the way. After all, no one wants to look back on their time at uni and only be able to remember the time spent studying, there is far more to life than that!