We’re nearing the end of Week Seven, a mildly terrifying prospect given that mentally we’re very much still in Week Four. Returning to St Andrews from Independent Learning Week tends to coincide with the sun stubbornly setting before 6pm, colder and worse weather, and a general sense of impending doom. That’s right… it’s deadline season! With half term’s European tour behind you, it’s a long, deadline-filled, caffeine-fuelled slog towards December.
In our experience, it’s at this point in the semester that two things start to set in: stress and seasonal affective disorder. If you don’t deal with them properly (real ale can work wonders, but it has its limits), it will make things far more unbearable come Week Eleven. So, the big question: how to deal with stress?
Being neither your mother nor your therapist, it’s probably safe to skip the obvious tips: get some fresh air, take Vitamin D, and make sure you are spending enough time with the people that you love. As with many things at university, you have a choice when it comes to stress. You can become obsessed by it, or cope by ignoring it entirely. Neither is ideal. Recognising that it’s a commonly felt emotion and testament to the expectations you have of yourself can help you to employ stress beneficially.
Otherwise, stress can delude you. Inevitably falling into the trap of thinking that all library time is productive library time, you begin to find it normal that you and your flatmate are going for smoke breaks at 1.30am. You kid yourself that the later at night you stay in the library, trawling through reels and bogus genealogies, the more brownie points your tutor will give you. Wrong. Good work is rarely done after 11pm and Red Bull is never a catalyst thereof. And anyway, brownie points don’t exist (sorry).
You might also feel the urge to cut a fringe; if you’re of the less fair sex, a mullet. This is a bad idea. As a rule of thumb, anytime you feel your cortisol levels rising, you should stay away from big life decisions. This includes but is not limited to, joining the military, entering the hair dye section at Boots, and getting a panic boyfriend (the Rugby team isn’t a substitute for a personality).
Get out of the house. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of living in Scotland before, there comes a time when the sun sets before 3pm. Yes, really. It’s vital, no matter how hungover, cold, or sad you are, that you get up and out of bed and make the most of those four hours of daylight — because you will notice the difference when you don’t, by which point it’s too late. Change up where you study (the fluorescent library lights really aren’t essential to finishing that coursework), allow yourself time off, and celebrate the small wins — whether that’s by treating yourself to an early night, a pint, or getting a bit overexcited on Depop.
Most importantly, though, there’s one key thing to remember — and like all good life lessons, it’s brought to us by Sharpay Evans and co: we’re all in this together. We’re all at mental capacity, cold, exhausted, and a lot of you will start to find St Andrews claustrophobic. If you’re in first year, don’t find this alarming, the bubble will regain its charm before you know it. Crucially, though, you aren’t too busy for your friends. A twenty minute break for a walk and a chat because Samantha is getting overwhelmed is not going to make or break your average for the semester. It might do you some good to get away from that essay for a while, and you never quite know when you’ll need someone to return the favour.
Look after yourselves, look after each other, and look after your body temperature — no one wants to be the silent-floor-winter-sniffer.
Alex & Amelia