"There are more important things than working myself to the bone"Courtney Cook

Life in the Cambridge bubble is notoriously hectic. Family, friends, flatmates, even pets: it is nigh on impossible to keep up with them all when I’ve got two essays due, supervisions to attend and all the other highs and lows of Cambridge life to contend with. Yet it is these relationships that keep me grounded and remind me that there is a life outside of the relentless eight-week term. Is it worth putting off that work so that I can snatch a half hour phone call with my best friend from home?

"I have learned to treasure the precious minutes I spend catching up with my loved ones"

Absolutely. Whether it’s while I’m cooking, during a walk for a much needed dose of fresh air, or over lunch, I have learned to treasure the precious minutes I spend catching up with my loved ones. It is these instances, however brief, that allow me to take a breath, stop taking everything so seriously and remember that there are more important things than working myself to the bone. Sleep, for example. Or the crunch of the autumn leaves underneath my feet when I go running. Or the ten o’clock cup of tea that has quickly become a tradition in my household.

Unlike any other year at Cambridge, final year has swept me off my feet with the number of deadlines and the amount of reading I have to do. What with balancing extracurricular commitments and trying to keep on top of everything life throws in general, I can honestly say I have never spent as much time in the library. If there’s anything positive that has come out of the pandemic, at least there’s no danger of me completing an assignment while morbidly hungover. 


Mountain View

Our relationships are vital to our mental health

But this also comes with its own trials: the lack of much else to do makes the prospect of not working seem impossible. I have always buried myself in work during difficult times in my life. And the pandemic is no different. The amount of stress and anxiety is, to use a word I have heard possibly a thousand times in the past few months, unprecedented. This has resulted in a huge increase of internalised pressure to work hard, get ahead, keep going. Some days, it feels as if I am barely staying above water.

But for each bad day, there is a better one around the corner. I have no perfect formula for the right amount of time spent on work compared to socialising or relaxing, but I do know that keeping up with others is my lifeline. Whether it’s mum sending me photos of Leo, who is the best cat in the world (that’s not an opinion, but solid fact), a shared joke with a friend from home, a rare phone call with my brother, or just a hug in our shared kitchen, these are the moments that are not just important, but essential.

"There was, and will still be, a life outside of Cambridge"

The digital age makes staying in touch so much easier, and yet so much more complicated at the same time. Is the friend that you only message once a month actually as well as they say they are? With Cambridge as non-stop as it is, am I taking enough time to talk to my parents? Is sending that meme really enough to feel as though I’m making an effort? I don’t know. But any time spent on personal relationships is better than nothing. The normality of chatting to someone outside of your room, your course, the entire city, is often the best solution to the mental strain that many of us are feeling this term. If nothing else, to remind you that there was, and will still be, a life outside of Cambridge. People who love you no matter whether you complete that essay today or leave it till tomorrow, because you actually only had 5 hours sleep last night and really need to go to bed.

I’m working on cutting myself some slack for the rest of this term and spending more quality time with people, even if it’s just over the phone. Of course, this may all go out the window as term goes on; as the week 5 blues hit and dissertation deadlines loom. But regardless of what happens, I will always find time for chats over coffee in the kitchen, to listen to a friend in need, to get out of college and discover a new cafe to work in. Keeping up relationships might be tricky, regardless, it is never impossible.