Seek Balance: Finding Time For Yourself As A College Student
College is hard. You know what it feels like to juggle exams, papers, classes, your social life, and your family.
So… when is there time for you?
Some of you might say there isn’t time. As a college student you love to put yourself on the back-burner and prioritize everything else first. If you push through, you’ll be done in a few years, and THEN you can focus on yourself, right?
Wrong. If you burn out you aren’t benefiting anyone – including your future self.
The end goal is to set yourself up for happiness and misery won’t get you there. If you can’t achieve some mental stability and life balance now, it probably isn’t going to magically happen when you start your career.
In one study more than 40% of college students reported feeling more stress than average in the last year (1). Another study reported over half of college students felt such overwhelming anxiety at some point, it affected their academic performance (1). That’s a very depressing statistic considering you are in school to succeed in your academics and get a degree.
That’s why your life matters now, not after school. No one can truly succeed if they’re compromising their happiness. Don’t wait until you have your degree in hand, walking across the graduation stage, to prioritize what matters most.
What can you do?
Let’s talk about real ways to bust stress and improve your happiness. I’m not talking about things that are going to be easy like “just stop and breathe!” or other typical tips you read.
Everything else in your life requires some effort. Why would your physical and mental health be any different?
I understand you’re busy. These are realistic life tips that can be implemented by anyone, but can actually make a difference in your school-life balance.
- Pinpoint something that really matters to you, and make it a priority.
Before you lost yourself in a stack of papers and textbooks, what activity used to brighten a gloomy day?
Maybe you read a book, or did yoga, or went for a walk, or knitted booties for dogs. Something brought you a spark of joy during your naïve days of high school. You know, back when you thought life was already as hard as it could get. Don’t hurt yourself eye-rolling while you think about how unprepared you were.
Hobbies are linked to a lot of positive things including creativity, recovery from high demand tasks, and self-expression (2). So basically, you need to do something other than eat, breathe, and study.
Restart a hobby that brings you happiness and can fit (for real) into your busy schedule.
Maybe it’s only for 15 minutes in between classes, but that time commitment is worth your mental well-being.
This may seem counter intuitive, but you’re going to schedule happiness breaks. Just like you organize everything else in your life, put “hobby time” in your schedule and make it happen.
- Speaking of a schedule, do you have one?
Of course you have a schedule. I’m not talking about what time Calculus class is. What I’m asking is: are you organizing yourself with a day planner?
If you aren’t organizing yourself using a planner, agenda, or some sort of calendar, you’re asking for additional stress. With so much going on, you can’t possibly keep it all straight in your head.
Students have a lot happening when it comes to their average day. There isn’t a worse feeling then trying to fall asleep while your mind is racing with all the things on tomorrow’s agenda.
Alleviate some stress, and get back some sleep, by writing down tasks as soon as they come up. Stop trying to mentally prioritize your attention, which can feel very overwhelming, and focus on the task at hand.
- I know you’ve heard this one before, but bear with me.
Exercising can improve everything about your life.
Physical activity has been linked to a more positive self-image, better social skills, and improved brain function (3).
This means if you make an effort to do physical activity, you’re also going to:
- Feel better about yourself
- Create better relationships
- AND have better academic performance
So really the question is why NOT exercise?
The number one answer is, of course, I don’t have time.
No problem! The internet is full of 20 minute, no-equipment-needed, do-them-anywhere workouts. Here are a couple of my favorites.
I chose these workouts because they’re short and to the point, but also effective and high intensity.
Waking up early can feel impossible, but these workouts only require you to hit snooze one less time. That’s a commitment you should be able to make for yourself, to yourself.
College is an experience. Some students will walk out like they slayed Beyoncé style, and others will leave looking like Jack Nicholson.
The power is in your hands. Remember, there is always time for you.