As a student, one is often subjected to many stresses from many fronts of life. Some find ways to nip them in the bud, some don’t realize it until it is too late, allowing the stress to consume them, tumbling down the spiraling stairway into the darkness, unable to find their way back.
Over the past semester, I have found myself under a lot of stress, unable to balance life and work, and slowly finding myself sinking in the quicksand under my feet. Fortunately, my family and friends were able to notice the symptoms before I did, and provided me with the help I so desperately needed.
“You’ve lost a lot of weight recently, are you eating okay?”
When I was asked this question, I had to dig up old photos of myself and compare it to guy standing in the mirror. Truth was, I have not been eating well. Work often took up far too much time and attention, before I knew it, morning had become noon, and noon had become night. Still, the thoughts in my mind were not of “I’m hungry”, it was of “There’s no time left today, I need to finish my code”. When I took a hard look at myself in the mirror, I realized I needed to eat. The carefully curated dishes from dear Mother were not an option here, and I needed to take responsibility for my body. And hence, I cooked and I ate, I regained my energy and I went back to work. It felt good, refreshing and for the first time in a while, I felt I was in control.
“You look pale, you look tired, have you been outdoors lately?”
When Mother asked me this question, I almost laughed. How does a dark-skinned Malaysian ever be “pale”. Yet the mirror doesn’t lie. It was true, my daily routine involved taking the bus to campus, going to my lectures, then heading back into my room, never to see daylight again unless it was absolutely necessary. It was necessary, however. My sunken eyes couldn’t stand the sunlight after my self-imposed solitude. And so I made up my mind. I began walking. I stopped taking the bus to my lectures. I walked and I walked, I found that I was severely out of shape, and so I walked some more. The fresh air, the chilling wind and the exercise came together and shook me out of my comfort zone, and pulled me into the real world. For the first time in a while, I felt alive.
Stress has the curious ability to trap a person in a vicious cycle, where everyday gets slightly worse than its predecessor. Worrying about the future and past tends to apply some very real harm on the present. If you’ve felt the same way I once did, break the cycle, make the changes. Working under stress doesn’t give you the rewards you expect, it comes with a hefty price tag. Speak to a friend, or a family member. The University of Southampton offers enabling services for students who requires this help. If you do find someone who has been under a lot of stress, save him from himself, and lead him from the darkness he has placed himself in.