Blog Post: Mental Health and Expectations

This week's blog comes courtesy of Craig Lord, a 4th year Journalism student. 

There is so much adversity when it comes to studying at university, and not all of it is necessary or productive.

All post-secondary students are accustomed to stress and exhaustion. All of us know what it’s like to suffer in pursuit of an education.

I’m not even going to add “nearly” as a qualifier to that because I think this system encourages it by design. (This is a whole other issue to tackle, though. I digress.) In this environment, self-care should be highlighted, promoted, and implemented in our daily lives. 

Netflix binges. An extra hour in bed. Two glasses of wine, when you need it.

Conscious decisions, made for the sole purpose of relief and mental wellness, are imperative to keeping our heads above the water.

I’m writing this because I feel like there’s something we’re overlooking, and it’s getting in the way of the self-care we need.

We need to drop the expectations once in a while.

Expectations come from your parents, your teachers, your employers, your friends, and most importantly, from you.

I have too many expectations of myself. Maybe you do too.

Success leads to assumptions. Once you start succeeding, we expect more success to follow. When you got into university, dreams were already being dreamt of where you’d be catapulted to next: law school; a moneymaking career; a job in government; maybe even THE job in government?

That’s just not fair.

Ambition can be great, and a habit of excellence is nothing to be ashamed about. But when those expectations begin to turn on you, when you feel yourself slipping short of grabbing that brass ring, you might pull yourself into danger.

It’s easy to justify one all-nighter to wrap-up an essay, but boy do those pile-up in a hurry. It may be doable to hold a part-time job while you’re studying, but when you’ve been told you could and should “do it all,” joining every club and volunteer opportunity on campus, you’re soon stretched too thin to enjoy it at all.

This level of intensity can have disastrous effects on your physical and mental health. No goal is worth even the temporary sacrifice of your body and mind.

The expectations from parents can be direct and can be hard. They might not understand what you’re going through, especially if you’re a first-generation student.

Expectations from friends can be even tougher, because of how positive they’re intended. (“You’re the man! There’s no chance you’ll fail!”) Sometimes we need support in the form of acceptance and understanding rather than encouragement.

I’m not writing because I claim to have the answers to these problems. I’m writing this to tell you that the only expectations you’re really in control of are your own.

And you need to give yourself a break.

You need to realize that there’s a value in taking that breath. You need to realize that you will be successful without doing it all, because when you get “there,” wherever “there” is, you’re just going to keep driving yourself into the ground with the habits you built here.

I cannot tell you the best ways to do this for yourself, both because self-care needs to fall to the self, and because I haven’t figured it out myself.

The only thing I’ve figured out at the time of writing is that I have a lot of expectations for myself, and that many of them are negatively affecting my mental health.

And to be honest, I need to expect better for myself.