Honors students are known across the University of Iowa campus for their heavy course loads, being involved in numerous activities, and maintaining strong grades while still trying to balance the everyday responsibilities of being an independent adult. Unfortunately, the continual difficulty to say “no” to additional opportunities or even take a break also plague high-achieving university students. Learning how to prioritize one’s mental health is a learning curve that comes with time, but even taking the first step can be daunting. Taking an hour or so out of the day to relax and decompress is not as easy as it may seem. Often, there tends to be lingering stress or anxiety about the seemingly endless list of tasks we have to complete. The weight of these responsibilities on our shoulders can prevent us from truly taking a step back and catching that much needed breath. So what is that first step? What can we, as honors students, do to prevent burnout without guilt eating at our insides?
A common suggestion is to sit back and watch a television show, which can allow your exhausted and overloaded brain to relax. But when feeling overwhelmed with the extensive amount of work you have to complete, it can be difficult to find the motivation to start a new show or movie as it can eat up more time out of your schedule than you had budgeted for. However, by not giving yourself the mental reprieve you deserve by doing something mindless like watching television, academic and professional stress will just continue to surmount. This is where the concept of a comfort television show comes in.
Comfort shows look different for everyone, but most people will have one. It’s that show that you’ve seen about a million times, can quote nearly every episode, and probably follow the main actors on social media. For me, that show is Gilmore Girls, a comedy-drama set in a picturesque little town in Connecticut called Stars Hollow, where mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory navigate a tumultuous relationship with Lorelais’ wealthy and somewhat estranged parents. Throughout the series, we are introduced to numerous quirky and fun characters. I have seen each episode of the show more times than I could possibly count, and somehow, rewatching a show from my early high school years takes a significant load off of my mind. The familiarity, the comfort, and the escape from reality, even if for only twenty minutes or so, works wonders for me. I’ll turn on Gilmore Girls when I need to fold laundry, cook dinner, or even when I need to take a 15-minute break from my homework, and can return refreshed and ready to tackle a new task. Since I have seen the show from beginning to end a ridiculous amount of times, the dangerous temptation for just one more episode doesn’t exist. You don’t get stuck in that weird alternate universe where you suddenly blink and realize that you just spent five hours of your day binging a brand new show. With a comfort show, you have the self-control to watch snippets or have it on in the background without losing valuable studying time.
For a long time, I thought the concept of having a comfort show was unique to Gilmore Girls and myself, a special symbiotic relationship. Yet, the more I talked to those in my social circle, the more I realized I wasn’t alone. For my partner, the show was unquestionably Game of Thrones. For my roommate, it was The Office. For my younger sister, it was Grey’s Anatomy. Interestingly, we all had a different answer, but were completely and utterly confident in what that comfort show would be. No matter what your preferred method of de-stressing may be, remember that taking time to prioritize your mental health is one of the most important things you can do; no matter how silly it may seem in the moment. Take care of your precious self.
Molly is a student at the University of Iowa, double majoring in Political Science and International Relations with minors in Spanish and History. Post graduation she hopes to attend law school. When she is not studying or working, she enjoys knitting and hanging out with her cat, Graham.