As senior year continues to roll through, I encounter more challenges, each more difficult than the other. You’d think that senior year would be a breeze, that the “senioritis” could kick in without a worry in the world. That’s what my mindset was up until the second week of September, when I started crashing.

I’ve never taken online classes before, so taking two in one semester wasn’t the best idea. I’ve been scrambling to finish my double major while balancing four jobs. While I’m used to heavy workloads, this semester has really taken a toll on my mental and physical health. You know that creeping sense of fear and the anxiety of drowning in work? That was a constant state of mind for the first few weeks of school. It affected my friends, family and myself. I was in this mode where I wasn’t processing things fast enough, wasn’t prioritizing things correctly, and I was going through each assignment as if I were just trying to get through a checklist of “to-dos” before the end of the day. I became a machine without emotion.

I knew I had to get back on track. I knew that this wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t living, I was only surviving. I was experiencing panic attacks day-in and day-out. I wasn’t eating, and I was letting my unused gym membership rack up the bills. After a full weekend of mental breakdowns, I came to realize that I needed to stop and take care of myself. So that’s exactly what I did.

As part of my self-care, I addressed the first issue of not eating right. I’m a firm believer in meal-prepping, and I was neglecting it lately. One night, I dedicated an entire evening to it. I gathered my ingredients, laid out my Tupperware, and got to work. This is my escape.

We’ve all been there, thinking we’re master chefs after watching a handful of Buzzfeed Tasty videos. I’ve watched many of them, as well as some Chef Gordon Ramsay Luxury Food London videos. I’ve learned tips and tricks here and there, but I had to learn how to make things from scratch. There was a time where I seriously watched videos on how to chop onions and bell peppers because I was an absolute novice. I still don’t know how to scrape out the hearts of artichokes.

I consistently dedicate Sunday or Monday nights to meal-prepping because not only does it put food on the table and keep me on track, but it’s a way to calm myself and escape from the world for a couple hours. I listen to music to keep me in the mood and keep me focused. I may not be the best at it, but it’s a learning curve.

Sometimes, you just have to remind yourself that you come first. Even if school and work take priority in your life, you have to make sure that you’re well enough to put yourself in situations where you exhaust your energy. If you don’t have your health, you can’t do much else. So while you have to finish a 15-page research paper on top of working a 12-hour shift and squeezing in time to study for an exam, make sure you set aside time to take care of yourself. Be it rock-climbing, binge-watching a Netflix series, meal-prepping or even just taking a short nap, that takes priority over everything else.