The world we live in today is characterised by fast-spaced actions – and packing as much into your day as possible. University students are expected to balance studying full-time, whilst also working at least one job – with many also finding it necessary to work multiple jobs at a time. Not working? Entitled. Not studying full-time? Lazy. Not studying *gasp* at all? Hang your head in shame. On top of all of this, students are also expected to socialise with friends, attend family events and incorporate some form of exercise into their daily lives. The stress and pressure students are experiencing seems to be universal – with memes dedicated to this stress shared all over social media platforms each day.
With the pressure on students today at an all time high, it is no wonder that university students are reporting record-high levels of low mental health. A report by headspace in 2017 found that of the 2,600 Australian tertiary students surveyed, ’65 per cent of the students reported high to very high levels of psychological stress, and more than half suffered panic attacks, had trouble sleeping and experienced feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.’ Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health is reporting academic pressure, lack of sleep and uncertain graduate employment as some of the key factors affecting students’ mental health.
As a third year university student, I fully understand these levels of stress. Along with full-time study, I work two jobs – most days I eat lunch in the car while driving between work and uni. Most of my free time is spent in the library completing a never-ending list of university assignments, whilst socialising with friends has become more and more rare, with most catch ups now taking place over a study session. This fast-paced life, filled to the brim with study and work is not rare or specific to me at all – it is the experience faced by most of my friends and fellow students.
With all of this stress and poor mental health facing students today, it is time to embrace slowness – something that is so frequently seen as laziness, but could actually be the key to improving our mental health.
In its essence, the slow movement is “against the notion that fast is always better”. This can apply to things like food or fashion, but in this case the slow movement is about slowing down the way we live our day to day life. However, this desire to speed through tasks is harming us – and slowing down is essential to improving our mental health. As Kayla Minguez, writer for Medium explains, “Rushing around doesn’t help you do things better. If anything, it only increases your chances of being stressed and negatively affecting the people around you.” The slow movement encourages people to take a deep breath, recognise what is and isn’t important in their lives, and adapt accordingly. Instead of rushing from one task to the next, it encourages slowing down between each task, and taking the time out for yourself to truly enjoy each day rather than spending most of it in a mad rush.
Gina Gutwirth, an Arts/Law student, knows all too well about the importance of slowing down. “I was totally burnt out after the second year of my degree”, she explained as she listed all of the commitments she took on to do with uni, work, family and friends. In the third year of her degree, Gina started saying no to extra commitments, doing less work shifts and not going to every single social arrangement she was invited to. She says she instantly felt the change, “Suddenly, I was getting more sleep, getting better marks at uni and my relationships actually improved, because when I was seeing friends and family, I wasn’t as stressed and moody and was more able to actually socialise”. Now in her fourth year, Gina has said there is no going back to her jam-packed, busy past, saying that “people can call it laziness, but joining the slow movement has been the solution to so many of my problems”.
If this sounds like something that you may be in need of, try to put aside that feeling of needing to be busy and try saying no to that extra work shift. It can even be as simple as staying home instead of going to a party when you really need a night at home. The slow movement may sound daunting, but it isn’t actually about making huge changes. Small changes like these along with eating slowly, not saying yes to everything and working smarter instead of harder may seem insignificant, but can actually drastically improve your mental health and stress levels.
Slowing down doesn’t mean you have to meditate every day or practice yoga. It is simply about making small changes to your everyday life that will lead to a more relaxed and stress-free you. Try it out – your mind will thank you.