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From Muddled to Mindful: Seeking Emotional Wellness by Jenny Li

We’re in the thick of exam season, and most of us are feeling the pressure. Over the past two weeks, I’ve studied, revised, and crammed to no end. I’ve put my grades first for who knows how long. I am a second-year student and I’m already obsessed with my honours thesis!

When I was a child, the concept of emotional health was alien to me. I grew up feeling that I had to be the best at everything should I amount to anything. Stress was glorified -- if you weren’t feeling the heat, you weren’t doing enough. There was no such thing as over-commitment. Who has the time for a break when everything around you emphasizes efficiency and competition?


The consequences of overworking hit me, and it hit me hard. I wasn’t sleeping right, wasn’t eating well, and wasn’t showing myself any sort of mercy. I cried myself to sleep when I achieved a 95% on a test or a quiz. My mental health was in tatters, and I simply made do with it through junior high and high school.


Obviously, I am an extreme case. However, I’ve learned that success cannot come at the price of my own well-being. While I obtained ridiculously high grades, I didn’t enjoy the prospect of going to school. I enjoyed learning, but my classes felt like a chore. I played sports and presented at piano recitals because I wanted to prove something. Every day was a performance of how much I could achieve and how well I could achieve it.

Gradually, I became fed up with my toxic lifestyle. I was frustrated with always falling sick, dealing with headaches and throbbing eyes in the morning, and stressing out over a 95%. In order to truly enjoy what I was doing, I had to make time for myself. I feel good when I spend time with my friends, curl up with my dog, or simply go for a coffee break. I am able to better experience the world around me and enjoy the life that I lead. It was by putting myself out there and embracing volunteer roles -- not to put another line on my CV but to genuinely make a difference -- that I met my best friends and enjoyed some of the best days I ever had.

Enactus is a case in point. I am very passionate about emotional wellness and mental health advocacy, so I was drawn to Enlighten Wellness as soon as I arrived at StFX. My team and I conducted a survey and learned quite a bit about students’ experiences with local mental health support. We worked to promote mental health awareness at Bell Let’s Talk day. We went to regionals, met folks from across Atlantic Canada, and presented our project through a formal business pitch.


Now, as the Vice President of Grants, I work with a team of dedicated youth to secure funding for all of Enactus’s projects. For example, we helped Enlighten Wellness obtain the funding to set up and maintain their Mindful Mondays, where people like me could get a much-needed break and clear their heads.


In my fourteen years of scholarship, I’ve learned that the best thing to do is what I love. A failed midterm, missed quiz, or less-than-ideal final can be made up. The experiences of university life cannot. There will be another assignment, but there is only one today. There was only one yesterday, and there will only be one tomorrow.


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