It’s coming up to four years since I first began studying at LSE and despite the many changes I’ve observed, one thing that hasn’t changed is the hustle culture (yes, even post-COVID19)! I have participated in this culture, so I certainly am not excluded from this discussion. The tendency for students to work non-stop might not necessarily be something specific to LSE, but rather students across the UK and elsewhere.
While working towards our academic goals is important, I question the mental, social and physical consequences of over-prioritising academic work. At what point does academic productivity actually become counter-productive? Rather than fuelling this urge to overwork, what would it look like for us to implement rest? In this blog post, I reflect on the ways that I resist an obsession with my academic commitments and instead pursue rest. If there are things that help you unwind please feel free to comment below!
The first thing I do is log out. This might sound incredibly basic but for me logging out is how I mentally clock out of academic work. I log out of Moodle, I close all the internet tabs and I log out of all social media accounts (If I’m feeling cheeky I might even turn off my phone!).
Logging out and turning off all the devices that might tempt me to work forces me to focus on other things that might need my attention. Resting doesn’t necessarily mean not doing anything at all. So rather than being hyper-fixated on the extra readings or catching up on tweets (which can be both entertaining and draining), I might decide to do a deep clean of my home. Or pick up a book that I’ve been meaning to read.
Reminding ourselves that we are not solely students is important.
I think for me the point about taking a break and logging out is about me reallocating my attention in ways that are helpful to my wellbeing. I turn off my phone and exit Moodle and reallocate that attention to something else. If we’re interested in cultivating a healthy/sustainable work-life balance realising that other aspects of our lives also requires attention is the first step.
As much as we may love academia, reminding ourselves that we are not solely students is important. We are human, we have bodies, we live in spaces, we have communities, friends and loved ones, pets – each of these things require good quality attention and care. So despite how hard it may be, resist staying logged in and choose to give other parts of your life the attention that it requires. (I realise I sound a tech-pessimist, I love social media, however, organising my time and managing what I give my attention to and how long attention I give things has personally helped me).
If I’m not trying to catch up on that novel I’ve been putting off or if I’ve already deep cleaned my space and connected with my loved ones, I am plugged into the series Grey’s Anatomy. Watching this very long series (It has 18 seasons and I’ve binged watched until season 12) has become the highlight of my me-time. Finding this series and watching it from the beginning means that I am committed to this show and each of the characters. I don’t mean to make watching Grey’s Anatomy a personality trait, but the point is that rest can also mean finding the time each day to watch/do something that you love. Yes, even if you have two 5000 word essays due in a few weeks time (It’s me, I have two 5000 word essays due in a few weeks time), give yourself a little time every day to plug into something that brings you a little bit of comfort.
I am no gym enthusiast and I’m even surprised that I am writing about exercise especially because I refuse to run for the bus (I hate running). But there’s something about taking an extended walk or a bike ride that is really calming to me. It doesn’t have to be a hardcore full-body workout, but as you may know, exercising can help with boosting your mood, can help you have a good night’s sleep and lower your stress levels.
So while exercise can help take your mind off academia and unwind, its benefits can also aid with academic performance. This it’s why it is important to rest and do things that you enjoy that are not directly related to academia. It doesn’t just have to be exercise, it can be picking up a hobby – baking, biking or even dance. At LSE there are plenty of societies and it is never too late to explore the societies and pick one you’d like to be a part of.
So far I’ve listed a few things that I do to rest and take a break from my academic commitments. I think the key to sustaining a healthy work-life balance is implementing rest and leisure into your routines and making it a commitment. Like most students, it’s easy to feel guilty when you take a break from the reading and writing, but with scheduling rest into your routine, you can ‘account’/’control’ how much time you spend not studying so that you can plan how you study.
However, I think guilt is a natural feeling and I don’t want to shame students for feeling that way. I just hope that this blog reminds you that taking care of yourself is necessary and should be prioritised! Despite the challenges, make life at LSE a little bit easier by putting yourself first. I hope you’re able to take some ideas from what I’ve shared here!