These past few weeks have challenged me more than I could’ve imagined. I’ve dealt with sickness while simultaneously taking some of the most important exams of the semester.
I think I had it in my head that I could outrun — or better yet, completely avoid — the sicknesses my peers were getting when they’d go out every other day of the week. Though the coughs that echoed throughout the lecture hall always did scare me, I found myself thinking about how grateful I was that I wasn’t the one coughing. While the second wave of prelims had begun, so did a month of unending sickness. I will never underestimate the impact of sickness on my work ethic ever again.
I first got sick at the beginning of fall break, before I visited home and finally got real rest for the first time in months. The sickness was short-lived and the timing wasn’t too horrible, so this one didn’t really seem to be anything but a subtle annoyance at the time. When I came back to campus I celebrated a single week of good health. How nice it was to not have a pounding headache at the break of dawn. This didn’t last long. The weekend rolled in and I felt it once again. That tickle, the one in the back of my throat that I felt the first time around.
While it was almost comedic at first, this time it would hit twice as hard. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to go into immense detail on the sickness, for your own sake –– so I’ll get to the point stat. I spent my entire week at a low, trying to throw myself back into my normally energized state so I could complete my studying. I would have to take a final and two additional prelims in this drained state. Everything was dull. I spent days on end preparing for these exams; only until after they’d ended had I paid the price. Something I always tell myself is: when there is hardship, there is always a lesson to be learned.
I will never let myself walk away from a roadblock without taking something forward with me. What was the lesson here?
Life’s natural trajectory follows an eb and flow. When you’re experiencing a low, know that it’s going to be followed by a high — struggle is temporary, but necessary for growth.
While these past few weeks have been some of the most significant lows I’ve experienced in a long time, Taylor Swift’s Midnights album was there to keep me comforted through the many late-night study sessions. Having tunnel vision and understanding that there will always be a struggle along the way, but keeping in mind what we’re working toward is arguably the most rewarding feeling.
I promised myself — because I deserve it — that I wouldn’t give up. I would keep pushing my limits and produce results on my exams that I’d be proud of, but at the expense of my health.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been practicing the action of making gratitude lists. The name is self-explanatory, and the action is intuitive. I encourage you once a week to take 10 minutes out of your day and write down all the things that you’re grateful for. The act of creating a gratitude list retrains your brain to focus on the good things in your life; you’ll be less tempted to give into a negative thought process. In fact, it will be easier to get through repeated hardship, the times of life when these lows seem unremitting.
Harvard Health Publishing affirms that positive psychology research has shown that expressing gratitude is correlated with experiencing greater amounts of happiness. The act of expressing gratitude is not only good for the mind, but helps to keep yourself in good health. The key to expressing gratitude is repetition. Repeating these feelings of gratitude introduces it as a norm within your mind. Examples of expressing gratitude can include thinking back to good childhood memories, feeling grateful that you get to sleep in a warm bed at night, acknowledging your positive qualities –– the list goes on.
Whether it be embracing the eb and flows of life or making a gratitude list, give yourself time to reflect and notice major improvements in your health and attitude. This month of sickness was definitely challenging, but I’ve learned to navigate through tough moments like these.
Adam Senzon (he/him) is a freshman at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. My Two Sen-ts runs every other Tuesday this semester.