by Thomas Goutos, Orientation Sponsorship and Finance Assistant, Orientation Team 2016, Student Life Programs
Self-reflection is an important tool to help with any situation that I do not feel I can solve in the moment and as a way to help better myself. Self-reflection involves looking at how you acted in past interactions, events etc. and analyzing your performance and the outcome of the situation to see if there was room for improvement or if something was forgotten. For me, this works most of the time, and up until last semester I would’ve said that it works all of the time.
Last semester was the hardest I’ve ever had. The classes themselves weren’t that tough, they were fair, but things in my personal life started heading downwards and my school work took the brunt of the impact. To make a long story short, there was a death in the family, a fight with a friend, and then I failed two midterms.
It was only recently that I realized that self-reflection was partially responsible for causing my issues. In an attempt to counteract the damage, I kept internalizing all of my problems as they sprung up; trying, and failing, to take them on one-on-one. So I procrastinated, telling myself that once things started to turn around, I would make an effort to improve. But these were not things I could just think about alone and magically solve, I needed help and I was too out of it to notice. As a result of this I started to become angry for letting these things happen to me, a misguided thought that slammed a heavy negative weight down across my shoulders.
For the rest of the semester I was in a fairly constant state of depression. Most of the time I lost the desire to communicate with friends, but worst of all was that it started feeling like my thoughts were starting to grow crueler. All of a sudden I was directing hate at any passerby for no particular reason. After I realized this was going on, the shock of how much I’d changed finally hit me and allowed me to crawl and scrape my way out of rock bottom.
Now, I already mentioned that self-reflection got me into one of the worst situations of my life, but it also helped me move on. I learned that I needed more time to deal with my problems, they were too large and too many all at once for me to use my standard methods of coping. I’m using self-reflection now to write this article and see what people who find themselves in similar situations and I can do in the future to prevent similar circumstances.
There are two key things that I am now trying to employ, the first is “storm tracking”. This is the term I use for monitoring the high pressure academic areas during each semester i.e. midterms, exams. Try to keep some of your awareness on the upcoming “storms” because just being more aware of when these times are approaching can help you handle unexpected situations better. The second one, and I cannot stress how vital I believe this to be, is external help. Being self-reliant is rad, but eventually everyone needs help and I think most of us, including myself, can be a little timid when it comes to asking others for a hand. My experience helped me see that you don’t necessarily have to ask outright if you’re not comfortable. Maybe just ask a friend to hang out, do something with a family member — you’d be surprised how people can accidentally help each other all the time. If you’re up for it, give Ryerson’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling a try, it exists specifically to help you — no matter your situation you can always go to them.
I understand that everyone is different but I urge you to at least give these a try because even a slight improvement is a good one. If sharing this helps anyone then it will have been a success.