Bad coping mechanisms

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

If there is one thing Tech students love to talk about, it is their workload. 

Whether it be touting the difficulty of their classes around for people to see or complaining about which interview offer they should reject; if you go to Tech, you cannot escape it. 

There is no denying the rigor of classes here at the Institute, and the majority of students are involved in numerous extracurricular activities, internships, research, etc. 

Yet there exists widespread issues with lack of sleep, lack of free time and terrible coping mechanisms. 

Is it unavoidable at a school with high-level academics and difficult courses, or does Tech perpetuate this issue on a systemic level?

One big change that I have experienced in my two years at Tech is a skewing of my sleep schedule. 

There is such a focus on hyper-productivity that every waking moment seems like an opportunity to get ahead on assignments and studying. 

Thus, why not stay up a little later to maximize viable work time? 

With this ideology running through my mind, the time I go to sleep has slowly been pushed further and further back from 11:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. 

I am not alone in having experienced this phenomenon. The pressure to succeed is intense, especially at a school where all of your peers are extremely intelligent and accomplished. 

It is hard to focus on much else when everyone around you is always “on the grind.” 

At Tech, every student is forced to have tunnel vision when it comes to academics, and especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have found their mental health deteriorating. 

The transition from online classes to in-person classes has been brutal for many with course formats changing and more exams switching back to closed-note and in-person. 

Armed with this knowledge, Tech and its administration has done very little to combat these issues. 

For example, in Spring 2021, instead of having a full week of Spring Break, students were given two non-consecutive “holidays” in the middle of two separate weeks (and no, Sting Break did not cure my exhaustion). 

These were not even three-day weekends, and the majority of students spent that time catching up on work or completing projects for classes since it was mid-week anyhow. 

Unsurprisingly, this resulted in many peers feeling extremely burned out and overwhelmed, as we were not given any breaks for the entire semester. 

Notably, a similar issue arose with Ph.D. and other graduate-level students. 

After over a year of limited lab access, when they could return fully, Ph.D. students were expected to deliver their normal content as well as compensate immensely for lost time. 

This resulted in extreme work hours, at least 14–16 hours days for many, and abysmal mental health. 

Following the suicides of three Ph.D. students across the country, Tech took “action” by ordering Ph.D. students to take a one-week break. 

However, the expectations and requirements were still the same. 

There were no additional mental health resources or means of getting in contact with students to see how they could be helped from an administrative level. 

This only shows how Tech has little regard for the mental health of its students, and this only has one result: terrible coping mechanisms.

Whether it be drinking your sorrows away Thursday through Saturday night (Rick Sanchez style) or holing up and self-isolating while watching television, Tech students have awful coping mechanisms. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with letting loose, but many students use this as a way to maintain their sanity and get through the week. 

This dependency is not healthy. If you walk through the library past 1 a.m., it is not especially dissimilar to 1 p.m., and that is scary. 

There is a minimal effort towards improving mental health at this school, and the effects of this can be seen in the student body.