Don’t undervalue the casual

You might feel even more stressed with a pastime, but it helps in the end


Beside and below this editorial you will find two letters that both seem to be calling for good things: one calling for more attendance at sports games, and one for coping with stress. They represent what students often feel are two forces pulling them in opposite directions: the urge on the one hand to become more active, more involved, more engaged, and on the other to simply slow down.

What I’ve found in my four and a half years here is the two are not in as strong contradiction as it seems. Like many choices between extremes, it’s a question of balance. The times that I consider among my healthiest are those in which I have been engaged, not in nothing, nor in something that absorbed all my time, but in a casual hobby or regular get-together.

The good news is that as an average student, this is not actually a call to do much. It doesn’t necessitate being an executive of a club or an employee of the Medium; those were and are very stressful experiences for me, and even though the return on investment has sometimes been greater doing them, I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone who’s trying to cope with stress at this instant. It just means going to places, often with people, and taking it in.

One obstacle associated with that is guilt. From talking with my friends, I know I’m not alone in typically feeling like I’m not spending my time wisely if I go to an event and just enjoy myself. We often feel we have to be spending all our energy or we’re not getting ahead—or making the most of our university education—or running low on stories to tell friends—or any such thing. But when you step back the picture changes focus. My current destressor is a home church on Mondays that, for the first part of the year, I felt too busy to go to. Then I made myself go because I missed (and felt obligated to) people, and now I never regret going. When I come back I feel calmer and more ready to deal with the week.

It might seem like overdoing it to return to the subject of mental health for a second week, and moreover via personal anecdotes. Part of it is as a response to Ms. Ryrak’s invitation to share coping strategies, and the other part is that the topic is still live. At the principal’s town hall last week, UTMSU’s executive director, Walied Khogali, rightly ressed the university staff again for a commitment to strong mental health strategies at UTM.  As Ms. Ryrak points out, $27 million from the provincial government won’t singlehandedly fix the problem, and while individual action to find relaxing pastimes (and why not our underappreciated sports?), we need campaigns—even if just for information—from those who can run them.

For now, don’t undervalue the casual hobby for refreshing your mind and ultimately making you more, not less, able to cope with having to do so much in so little time. Besides, there’s always a chance of the byproduct of actually becoming interested in something while you’re there, and then you might be the one asking the questions next time.