Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Taking A Break

The end of the semester is a stressful time for artists attending classes. There's a lot of pressure to finish projects on deadline, the built up stresses of the semester, the strain of constantly trying to live up to expectations, the pressure for some to make travel plans for the short amount of time they get off, and the social pressure of less stressed friends to go out and blow off some steam. This combination can kill creative drive and can cause what I like to call 'finals rage'.

Finals rage is the blinding anger that begins two weeks before the semester ends and ends three days after you've put the pencil down. Finals rage makes little annoyances huge, and big problems insurmountable. It compounds that small slights, the discouragement built up from a semester of harsh critiques, and the constant reminder that there are better artists out there into an anger capable of punching holes through walls. Used correctly, this force can be directed into pulling all nighters, pushing yourself to your endurance limits, and finishing up those projects, but often finals rage gets the better of us. Mild mannered, kind hearted people become raging lunatics, locking themselves up in their room with coffee, energy drinks,and sugar to winter through the end of term.

I'm particularly susceptible to finals rage, as I tend to take on more responsibility than I can shoulder. Because my parents raised me to be the sort of friend I'd like to have, I have a hard time saying 'no', and tend to allow myself to get taken advantage of and overworked. Social stresses combined with scholastic obligations can result in symptoms such as me being physically locked up on my right side all day (hypertension), laid up with a stress headache, or having crying fits at the slightest provocation. While I'm generally a high strung person with some anxiety issues, these are far beyond what's 'usual' for me. In the past, I would choke down my anger and continue like nothing was wrong, counting on a break from my stressors to cure the problem, but this year it'd gone too far.

Fortunately, this weekend marks a breakthrough in my workload. Just about finished writing my thesis, and basically finished with my internship save for paperwork, I'm exercising my right to say 'No'. I'm taking a break to do the things I enjoy, without juggling a social life that occasionally drags me down. I've been limiting my time online, spending more time outside, going to see concerts, and ignoring Facebook. This is my version of self-care.  I'm not unreachable (my phone is on, in case of emergency), but it is better that I distance myself now before I snap and hurt someone.

If you're facing the same sort of finals pressure, it's ok if you can't take time away from work. Turn off your phone. Log out of Facebook. Set yourself on 'invisible' on your chat clients. Take a moment to relax with your favorite drink, or go for a walk outside the building. You can spare ten minutes to decrease your stress.  If people ask you favors, it's ok to say 'no'.  And its ok to say 'yes' to the things you WANT to do.  Nothing made me hate comics faster than the idea that if I really loved doing them, that would be all I needed in my life.  We all need more.  To love only comics makes us one dimensional, and that, in turn, makes us poor writers and poor artists.

I wish you guys luck finishing out this semester!

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