Making the choice to put your health first

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Graphic by Kash Patel

This past week I was supposed to be at TIFF, volunteering outside a few of the theatres, doing the best I could to both pad my resume and enjoy the festivities for what they are — one of the premier film events in the world.

Instead, I sat at home watching movies on the small screen from an ancient X-Box that serves as my DVD player.

The thing is, I got sick on the day of my first shift after overextending myself at the Get Involved Fair. After a really rough night, of which I’ll spare you the details, I called in sick.

The next day, I wasn’t feeling much better and, two shifts down, I wasn’t going to be able to make my minimum number of shifts.

This opportunity was something I was really excited for and something that wasn’t easy for me to give up.

My mental health suffered a lot: I was recently told that I need to volunteer more if I want to be competitive in various kinds of applications, and I was genuinely looking forward to the festival for a fun, engaging way to break the back-to-school stress, so missing TIFF felt like it was the end of the world.

There was literally nothing I could have done differently, and that’s a hard thing for me to digest.

Whether you want to volunteer at TIFF, finish your assignment in one night or even just hang out with friends, your health needs to be kept first, even when that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Do you remember those triangles from high school philosophy class? It’s called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and it’s where the triangle builds on each next thing when the previous requirement for a happy life is filled — and Maslow, bless him, put basic health needs as the foundation for a reason.

You can’t do anything if you don’t have your health. Food, sleep, water, etc. are all essential for your success at whatever else you do.

I sacrificed sleep, so the triangle came tumbling down on top of me: burying me in a stack of regret and ultimately led to both my physical and mental health getting flushed down the literal and metaphorical toilet.

That, perhaps, is a lesson to learn from. We’re only finishing up week two of the semester, heading into week three, so we’re probably not yet thinking of major assignments, but midterms are creeping up on us quickly.

Pulling an all-nighter or surviving only on coffee may seem beneficial at the time, but it will only make you suffer in the end. It may help for your midterm that day, but it’s not going to help for the midterm two days after that when you’re so tired you’re dozing on the walk back from Starbucks.

Starting early, obviously, is the easiest way to avoid the last-minute cram that leads to the sacrifice of your health. The earlier you start, the longer you have to work on your assignment, and the less likely you’ll be to have to panic and rush through at the last minute.

That, of course, is easier said than done. I get it, I’m a last-minute student too. Pulling an all-nighter every so often really does happen — but you also need to remember to do it in moderation and know your own limits.

Sometimes, sacrificing the two or five per cent on the late penalty for a paper may be worth it if you’re really going to have to push yourself beyond your capacity. Your paper is probably going to suck anyway if you’re not even able to read what you are writing. Missed opportunities and regrets may come from putting your health before your wants, but it’s absolutely necessary. As they say, you have nothing without your health.

Whether you want to volunteer at TIFF, finish your assignment in one night or even just hang out with friends, your health needs to be kept first, even when that’s a hard pill to swallow.

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