Surviving College: The Cycle of Exhaustion

Sometimes we just feel too beaten down to care anymore. We allow ourselves to fall into unhealthy patterns, making bad decisions at every turn. I miss feeling healthy and in control of my life. Homework and the freezing weather of NYC have beaten me down. But I want to feel healthy and in control of my life again. I want to wake up early every single morning and jump out of bed like the old days. I want to go to the gym and spend hours working off the calories from my meal plan. I want to have time to do my hair or put some makeup on in the morning instead of running out of the room ten minutes after I wake up because I am late for class again. I want to paint my nails and go on cute dates around the city. But most of all, I want to feel happy and confident in myself again.

I have been wanting all of these before I set foot in New York. I remember talking with my closest friends about how mature and productive we were going to be in college, what we would accomplish, and how well we would manage our time doing everything we wanted. When you fantasize about college, you never fantasize about the crippling workload, the constant loneliness, the thousands of miles between you and your friends, the deprivation of beautiful home-cooked meals now reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas, or the exhaustion.

Everyone has experienced lethargy from lack of sleep. But college elevates exhaustion in a heightened, torturous form of sleep deprivation. For many other college students like me, the unhappiness over the sudden changes in your life is the main source of this tiredness. Your unhappiness keeps you awake at night and keeps you asleep throughout the day. Not an actual state of sleeping, but in a foggy middle ground of daydreams so you can’t really say you’re awake but you also can’t just fall asleep because you only wrote one-hour worth of your three-hour art theory lecture with a ton of work left. When I’m unhappy with my lack of control, I escape into my dreams.

However, life keeps moving while I am asleep so I always feel like I need to catch back up when I wake up. This is the exhausting part. You rush to catch up to life, worrying and stressing even more, and then just as you’ve caught up and the angst fades, the exhaustion has caught up to you as well, and the cycle repeats. I’m stuck on this Ferris wheel of being jaded and sad, but at least I have noticed it. I have seen my mistakes, my missteps, and now I know how to fix them, right? Naturally, that is where this conversation should go since I am giving my advice to whoever is reading this, but I can’t make that claim.

Life isn’t about having all the right answers and living in a perfect world where you never fail. Nobody has all-knowing power, but we can make guesswork at how to find happiness. I want to be happy as I was when I was eight when I was playing sports, venturing through the forest, building forts with my brothers, swimming at the beach, or crafting sandcastles. Nowadays when I have free time, I watch an episode of Bojack Horseman or The Office, scroll through Instagram, or laugh at Key and Peele skits on Youtube, but I no longer play outside.

I saw the Ted Talk “Why you should take time to play.” As a high schooler then, I didn’t connect to the video the first time I watched it, but now that I am in college with barely any free time, I should watch it again. Realizing you’re unhappy and not in control of your life will not automatically restore happiness. But realizing that you need a change and actively committing yourself to it will form a new, healthier cycle.


  • Check in with yourself
  • Discover what has changed about you and how this makes you feel
  • Make conscious decisions to change, out with the old and in with the new


By Solana Joan Suazo

Solana is a freshman at NYU Steinhardt, studying art and psychology. Solana spends many hours walking around lower Manhattan with her friends, sketching in the park, or finding new inspirations for her art around the city. When she isn’t playing volleyball or meditating, she’s usually watching Game of Thrones with her roommate, daydreaming about California beaches and buys, or painting a new picture for art class. She loves coffee, chocolate, and ramen, of course.

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