Every semester, there comes a point where it is clear that we all need a break. It has arrived.
We are well past mid-term and most people are feeling the strain of hard work, deadlines and college life overall. Despite the summer-like weather in recent days, there are only two weeks until late November, Fall Break and virtual instruction for the remainder of the semester. Unlike most semesters, we’ve been adjusting to Covid-19 guidelines. Though they are designed to help keep our community safe, these restrictions have added to the stress of the semester by limiting activities, events and chances to spend time with groups of people. Plus we’ve been dealing with the contentious political climate and the rising infection and death rates across the nation (and the world). It is no surprise that people are tired, irritable and running out of coping skills. This happens every semester, but this is a semester like no other.
I might like to pretend that I am an objective observer of this phenomenon, but it’s just not true. Early last week, a scheduling conflict led me down a sad and difficult road. I found myself fretting, fuming and a little panicky. I wrongly assumed that someone was trying to take advantage of the system. I assumed they were placing their own needs ahead of everyone else’s (particularly mine). Turns out, I was wrong. It was just a simple mistake. I am sad and ashamed to admit that I assumed the worst of my neighbor. I saw ill intent where there was none. Once we began sorting things out, it became clear that there was an easy solution that works for everyone. I was upset for nothing.
Martin Luther reminds us that we are called to live our love for God in the ways we treat our neighbor. In the Small Catechism, he writes that this includes coming to our neighbor’s defense, speaking well of them, and (here’s the key for me this time) interpreting the things they do in the best possible light. I failed spectacularly in that last week and I am sorry. The demands of the semester, the Covid-19 situation and the political season have taken their toll on me, like nearly everyone else. I am grateful for the gift of forgiveness and a chance to begin again.
If you are finding yourself stressed, overwhelmed and short on resources, you are not alone. Take a deep breath. Remember that you are loved by the people in your life and by God who holds on to you, no matter what you do or think. Try to find ways to care for yourself – walk in the sunshine, take much-needed nap, listen to music that lifts your spirit, talk with a friend, rant to your parents, laugh at a video, eat a nutritious snack, an endorphin-creating workout; whatever helps to step away from the frustration and reset your mind and your attitude. Find time to pray, asking God to help you see the struggles you face clearly and objectively. Ask for help in finding your way through. It is always important to be patient with yourself and the other people in your life, particularly in times of stress. Remember that we are all dealing with so much right now. And remember that there is forgiveness and always a chance to begin again.