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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
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Opinion: Ask Anna: Working (it) out

Advice on routine and friendship

Editor’s Note: Some submissions have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

How do I get into exercising on campus?

While in college, there are so many activities for you to juggle. There are classes, social time, getting food, potential jobs, clubs, studying and so on. Your life is constantly busy and you have to prioritize what’s important to you. If you want to get into exercising on campus, you will have to first schedule it.

Additionally, going to the gym can feel like a chore, rather than something you are excited to do. To get into the swing of it, you have to actively incorporate exercise into your routine. Add a block of time to go to the gym into your schedule and stick to the routine. It is difficult, but to keep it up, you have to go even when you don’t feel like it. Even if it’s not a full workout, try to incorporate a little bit of movement into your day. This could be as simple as walking to Tenleytown instead of taking the shuttle, but it’s a way for you to get more movement. You don’t have to go to the gym every day, but set it in your schedule often enough that it feels like a normal part of your life. 

Additionally, there are Health and Fitness classes offered at American University that students can take for zero to three credits that create a schedule for you since they have allotted times. This would be a way for you to hold yourself accountable since it is just like going to any other class. The AU gyms also offer group exercise classes. These do come with an additional fee, which is something to keep in mind, but this is another way to have scheduled gym time set up for you. You can check out these offerings here

Lastly, you have to shift your mindset regarding the gym. You can’t think about it in a negative light if it is something that you want to become a habit. Use exercise as a de-stressor or think about it as a way to get out energy, but try to change your attitude about it. That will make it much easier to continue going to the gym.

One of my best friends is going through a tough time mentally at the moment. I try to be there for them as much as I can, but they are always so negative all the time and it's starting to get extremely frustrating. I feel like whenever I see them, all they do is complain and it’s starting to take a toll on my mental health. I’m always here to listen when they need to rant about their problems, but when all they talk about is how much sleep they didn’t get the night before or how much studying they have to do tomorrow, it makes me not want to be around them. How can I set a boundary with them while being as supportive as possible?

This is a difficult situation because you want to be there for your friend but your friend isn’t really being there for you. Your friend might not even realize how their negative feelings are affecting you because they are only focused on what they are going through. First off, I hope this can reach your friend and all those out there who are going through a hard time. To you guys, I want you to remember that the friend you are leaning on may not be able to handle everything you are putting on them, and I strongly recommend working on other coping mechanisms. This is not to say that you can’t talk about your hardships with your friends, but it is unfair to expect that your friends carry all of your weight and their own. Try out a couple of different outlets and methods to alleviate your stress that don’t include putting it all on your friend. 

For the friend in this and similar situations, this may warrant an uncomfortable conversation. I know that sounds scary, and I am not the best at those, but think about it this way: If, instead of talking to your friend, you slowly distance yourself, your friend is going to eventually wonder why and feel worse about their situation. Additionally, if you hold it all in, you may blow up at the friend and leave the situation in a worse state than before. Either way, it will impact your relationship.

That is why I suggest talking about this with your friend. First, let them know that you are genuinely concerned about what they are going through. Then, tell them that you are always there to support them and want to be a part of their enjoyable moments that make their hardships a little better. Explain to them that one of the things you love about your friendship is those happy moments where you both have fun, despite some of the problems they’re going through; something you value is having a balance between the hardships and the fun. Explain that constantly and only talking about problems is bad for your mental health as much as theirs. 

You can suggest different outlets for them to work through the problems they are having, but for that I would recommend using your judgment depending on how the conversation is going. You can also suggest doing daily gratitude lists where you each tell each other three things you are grateful for that day. This may be a little silly at first, but it might help you both remember some of the brighter things in your lives.

Try putting the situation into perspective. Emphasize how unhealthy it is for both of you to only hear negative things. I think the way to create a boundary while being supportive is all about how you frame the situation. While your first instinct may be to be negative towards your friend, try to come at the situation with ways to make it positive. That’s way easier said than done, but in the long run, creating a boundary will benefit the uncomfortable conversation and make it harder for anger to enter the situation. 

With all of this said, you do have to be firm in your grounding. You can soften the blow for your friend, but you have to be clear that you cannot be a supportive friend if they aren’t also contributing to your friendship. The key to friendship is equally sharing the good and the bad, and your friend might just need a reminder of that.

Anna Gephart is a Senior in the School of Public Affairs and a columnist for The Eagle. 

This article was edited by Jelinda Montes, Alexis Bernstein and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella. 

 Hosts Sara Winick and Sydney Hsu introduce themselves and talk about their favorite TV shows. This episode includes fun facts, recommendations and personal connections. 

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