College and caffeine: An unhealthy relationship with work

Giselle Barajas

Your schedule’s jam packed, you’re running late to class and you’re so exhausted but won’t be back in your bed for another 12 hours. You’re too tired to walk down the Olin stairs, so you decide to walk through the Gerber Center instead. You can’t help but to smell the coffee from The Brew and are instantly drawn to Harry Styles’ Kiwi playing as well. It’s just one cup of coffee, it won’t hurt. So you suck it up and get a coffee to get through the day.

However, one cup of coffee today turns into one cup of coffee everyday, which then spirals into multiple cups a day. Now you’re addicted but can’t seem to stop because you need the energy to get through the day.

With the transition from hybrid classes to full speed in-person classes, many students at Augie may feel drained, overwhelmed and are barely making it through. 

I myself have had to get used to the craziness that used to be my pre-pandemic schedule. The one thing that seems to get me through the day is the warm cup of coffee I have every morning before class. If I don’t get to have my coffee, I feel almost lost and helpless. 

My own unhealthy relationship with perfectionism in my academic life also leads me to drink decaf coffee at night. I drink decaf so that the academic adrenaline rush coupled with more coffee doesn’t prevent me from sleeping.

Unfortunately, I am no anomaly on this campus. Augustana students tend to juggle too many responsibilities on top of their classes. You’re president of one club, exec board on another, a volunteer and of course a student. Too many times I hear student’s at Augie bragging about how much coffee they drink a day and how little sleep they get. 

Junior Jack Beemsterboer works at the brew and is addicted to caffeine as well. He regularly drinks coffee everyday during the school year. 

“I drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day which isn’t great, but it isn’t inhibiting…it’s an enjoyable addiction I guess,” he said. 

While I don’t know whether or not President Bahls has a caffeine addiction, he at least goes to The Brew enough times to have his own drink now. President Bahls drinks a grande nonfat latte, Beemsterboer said. 

So it’s not just a student issue but a campus issue as well. This even goes beyond Augustana’s borders and ties into the American ideal to constantly keep working. 

“Over-working is not just an Augustana problem but a cultural problem I would say,” Beemsterboer said.

I agree with that premise strongly since I know I am not alone in feeling overworked. However, some of the systemic problems behind American work culture are felt most strongly by college students.

U.S.News reported that “the problem of chronic and unhealthy levels of stress is at its worst among college-age students.”

Too often students like myself strive for perfection and perfect grades in order to feel worthy. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve used GPA calculators throughout each semester and estimated my final GPA based on how my classes were going. 

That being said, Augustana should do something to help alleviate the stress of students and promote healthy work-life balances. Instead of therapy dogs every year for finals, the school can do more. 

For example, they can maybe give us mental health days off, or even give us a “mini Augie choice” that we can use for self-care purposes and not just for academic related purposes. While these ideas are surface level and maybe even too idealistic, the campus would highly benefit from a self-care initiative on campus.