Picture this: in a week, a student takes four to five classes and works two simultaneous jobs. Every day, said student goes to their classes, reports for their shifts at work, sits down to do their daily hours of homework, whether it be reading or writing papers, working on a problem set, or anything in between. They do all this while participating in one student organization or another, sometimes taking an executive board position. On top of this, they string all of this together around their social lives, having conversations with their friends, going to parties, just trying to be a regular college kid. Sleep, eat, rinse, repeat.
This, friends, was my life this past semester. Every day I was presented with a mountain of tasks that I had to climb, and though I thoroughly loved climbing this mountain, I would expend so much energy doing it that I would have little to use for the next mountain I had to climb. I’m sure this is a situation that many students find themselves in, especially in their freshman year: they take on more classes and activities that they can handle and try stretching the limits of their energy to complete everything. What this usually looks like is many sleepless nights, a lot of coffee, and a constant air of exhaustion that you can never quite shake.
As much as we love involving ourselves in a range of activities and exploring our interests in academic settings, I cannot stress enough that trying to do everything at once is not healthy. We cannot split ourselves into five different people, nor can we run on three hours of sleep forever, try as we may. The result of constant lack of sleep and over expenditure of energy is a less-than-healthy mental space where one may find themselves emotionally unstable or physically spent.
There are, however, two remedies for this. One is to live and learn; going through the experience of juggling a lot of things at once can prove to be either really gratifying at the end of it or extremely grating. Either way, once everything is said and done, you will have a better understanding of yourself and your capabilities. Whether or not you put yourself in the same situation again is up to you, but you will certainly be able to learn from your mistakes. My personal advice to first year students is to refrain from dipping your hands into too many pots. Taking five classes in conjunction with a lot of extracurricular activities is a roller-coaster of stress that you don’t need. Remember that you have eight semesters to do all that you want to do.
That being said, this next piece of advice is useful for all students, regardless of the amount of work they have on their plate: take care of yourself! While it is certainly true that you are at college to receive an education, no one is going to tell you to sacrifice your well-being just for you to break your back doing work. Putting measures in place to take care of yourself during the semester will help you better manage your headspace. A happy mind and body will see to it that any task can and will get done.
Repeat after me.
It is okay to take breaks. It is okay to take a night off. Taking care of my body and my mind should be my first priority.
This was the mantra I would tell myself when I was in the midst of climbing a mountain. Once I reached the top, I would rest. For me, practices of self care would look like reading a book for pleasure, doing a whole manicure-pedicure routine on myself, and meditating. My favorite practice? Sleeping in and not setting my alarm. Without fail I found myself feeling immensely better after a long sleep or an evening of not using my brain for something academic. I would get back to my work with a bit of my energy restored the next day to finish climbing the mountain I had started.
As you go through the motions of college life, be sure find activities that you can do for the sole purpose of promoting a healthy body and mind. Sleep is just as important as homework. Everyone will have their rough days: just do yourself the favor and take yourself when the going gets tough so you can keep going.