Post written by Bronwyn Graham, Mental Health and Wellbeing Assistant
Starting your first year at university is a big deal. If you’re like me, this is probably the first time you have almost full control over how you spend every hour of every day. For me, first year came with the freedom to order a large pizza at 2 am after a late night out with friends, the freedom to forget about doing laundry until I was down to my very last pair of underwear, and the freedom to spend three hours scrolling through Tumblr without a parent nagging over my shoulder to ‘get back to my studies’.
While this new-found freedom was great for the first few months of my first year, I couldn’t help feel as though I could have been doing something more meaningful with my time. After all, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “with freedom comes responsibility”. It was time I partook in activities that didn’t involve the regret of consuming a large pizza (all to myself) or a hangover in the morning.
So, by my second semester, I had signed up for every club I was even slightly interested in, went to almost every event put on by my residence association, made significant friendships that have lasted to this day, and volunteered for a few key charity fundraisers. While my involvement in all of these activities added meaning to my new freedom, I was also unconsciously wearing myself out. I still didn’t feel comfortable, I was often sick, perpetually tired, and a little disappointed in the work I was producing.
I was so consumed by trying to do it all, making a ton of friends, and feeling more connected to the UBC community that I was ignoring another vital connection – the connection to myself.
University is a time to discover yourself. It’s a rare opportunity to explore what you value most, try new things, have the freedom to make mistakes and grow from them. What I’ve come to learn over the past four years as a UBC student is that in order to effectively contribute to an inclusive, caring, and respectful community, we must first offer ourselves that same respect.
For me, it took widely overstepping my comfort zone by taking on more things than could fit on my plate to realize I wasn’t honouring and respecting my boundaries or values. After becoming more aware of the dwindling pieces of my wellbeing and the consequences that arose from not taking care of myself, I knew a shift needed to occur. Here are some things I’ve learn about the importance of establishing a connection with myself:
- Communication is crucial. As almost everyone will agree, communication is key to maintaining a healthy relationship. Normally this implies a relationship between two individuals, but who says it cannot apply to the relationship you have with yourself? Having these internal conversations will help put things into perspective, ensuring your actions are deliberate and honour your goals and values.
- There’s no need to do it all. Taking a step back from activities or clubs, and working through which ones you feel add value to your life will benefit you in the long run. Once I established a personal connection, I was better positioned to realize that not all of the activities I was participating in were meaningful. Now that I’m only involved in a few key clubs and programs, I feel as though my impact on the community is much larger and more significant.
- When I take care of myself it’s easier to care for others. When I take the time to eat well, move my body, get enough sleep, and care for myself I am better primed not only to succeed academically, but also to fulfill my role of being a respectful and caring member of the UBC community.
While it’s important to take advantage of being in a new environment and own the opportunities that are here for you, it’s also important to find a balance that works for you by checking in with yourself. With respect for yourself and your wellbeing, you’ll find a way to honour your boundaries and establish that connection. It’s okay to slowly dip your feet in, rather than diving head first into the deep end – if that’s what you are more comfortable with. Because in order to fulfill our role of being respectful and caring members of the UBC community, we must first allow ourselves that same respect. When you’re well, you’ll be better able to serve the overall wellbeing of your new community!