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Pallid skin, dark circles and red eyes were all I saw as I stared at myself in the mirror last week. These days, even when I manage to go to bed before the sun comes up, I’m jerked awake several times throughout the night by the stress that I’m not doing enough. Since last March, I’ve felt like a hamster on a running wheel, trying to maximize productivity and race ahead before the world un-pauses. Relentlessly trying to keep busy, it took me a while to realize  — I’m exhausted and I’ve neglected taking care of myself.

Reflecting on this, I dug up a journal that I kept back in high school when I was at my lowest. On page 105, I compiled a list of “Things to do when I feel worthless, everything is crashing down around me, all the tasks I have to complete linger and weigh on my back, my mind won’t stop moving and I’m just so tired.”

  1. Delete all my social media apps and unplug from the internet
  2. Stretch
  3. Listen to a podcast: StoryCorps Podcast, Modern Love Podcast, Checking in with Susan David
  4. Try something new: learn to juggle, learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube, learn a cello piece
  5. Go for a drive and blast the music
  6. Watch some funny videos: Brothers convince little sister of zombie apocalypse, The Life of An Upstairs Neighbor, Little Girl Can’t Say Ice Cream, Can you tell the time?, My Waffle Wedded Wife, T Rex Dancing Ballet, Hysterical and contagious laughing boy in music class, who made this burger
  7. Write a short story
  8. Lay down on the floor in the center of the room, breathe and “just be”

As we reach the end of this strange academic year, I want to remind you to congratulate yourself on all the things —small and big— that you’ve accomplished. The world has been a crazy place to live in for so long, and it’s vital that we remember not to minimize our accomplishments both as a society and as individuals. Now, I encourage you to take 5 minutes to stop; stop thinking about the deadlines you have coming up, the emails and texts you need to respond to, the work that you need to get done before you have to hop onto yet another Zoom call, and ask yourself the following questions:

How am I feeling right now?

What is something I am looking forward to this week?

Have I eaten a fruit AND a vegetable today?

When was the last time I had a glass of water?

When was the last time I got some fresh air?

What is something I am grateful for?

What is something that made me happy today?

Have I said something nice to myself today?

It’s okay to be sad about everything this pandemic has taken from us: those late nights “studying” with friends at the UGLi, graduations, birthdays, Sunday brunches at aMa’s, study abroads, free samples at Costco and the list goes on. Don’t fall into the “toxic positivity” loop. You’re allowed to not put on that fake happy mask every day. You don’t need a reason to feel sad, stressed or unmotivated. If today was a good day, that’s great! But if it wasn’t, gently remind yourself that that’s okay too. Whatever you’re feeling right now is valid. Staying positive doesn’t mean knowing everything will turn out okay in the end, but knowing that no matter how things turn out that you will be okay. Give yourself a break and do something that brings you joy.

We may be socially distanced, but you are not alone. I know things are tough right now, but you’ve made it this far and you are so strong. Have faith that the dark clouds will soon pass to reveal the shining sun. Slow down to breathe, and remember that you’re doing great.

MiC Columnist Victoria Tan can be contacted at tanv@umich.edu