As a college student with the hopes of graduating early and attending a graduate program, juggling all of the responsibilities that come along with being a student can get to be a bit overwhelming. Keeping up with coursework, prepping for the GRE, working several jobs, maintaining a healthy social life and long distance relationship, and taking time for myself— certainly I am not the only student who feels as though you just can’t do it all. Over the years I have spent at school trying to balance all of these aspects of my life, I have found a few tips and tricks that make it just a little bit easier to do so.
# 1 Making Lists! Okay- so I am one of those people who is calmed by writing everything down, but I really and truly believe that organizing all of the thoughts and to-do lists flying around in your head onto paper is the best way to reduce stress when you are feeling overwhelmed. Often, if you write down everything you need to get done, you will realize that it looks much less intimidating on paper. So the next time you are feeling like there are one hundred things to do, try writing them all out. If you want to take it to the next level, you can even organize the things you want to get done into daily to do lists. Whatever works for you, just write it down and get it out of your head. You will feel so much better, I promise.
(I am also super forgetful so making lists means I’m less likely to forget that looming final paper until the night before, which is always nice. )
# 2 Schedule some ‘me time’! In a world of deadlines and due dates, it is hard to prioritize anything that isn’t mandatory in some way. So, treat self-care like it is mandatory! (Honestly, isn’t it?) If you’re me, that means setting aside time before I go to bed to read a book, or sitting down with the NYT’s Social Q’s column a cup of coffee before I start the day. These are times where I don’t find myself doing anything productive anyways, so why not take that time to wind down and relax? I try to limit screens during these times, but whatever helps you feel relaxed and disconnected—do it! Setting aside those 15, 30, 60 minutes makes it so much easier to tackle the rest of the day.
# 3 Focus on the positive, not the stress. This is one that I am trying to be better at, because it is certainly not easy to do. When someone asks you about your day, try to talk about the good things that happened! If your immediate response is something about how stressed you are, or how many things went wrong, or how you have all these things to do in the next few days, those things begin to dominate your thoughts. There is nothing wrong with the occasional vent sesh, it’s healthy to get it out in some way! But if you find that you tend to focus your attention on the negatives, try flipping it around and see how it adjusts your attitude. Talking about the good things that happened during the day, or acknowledging the progress you made on your to-do list- these things cast your stressful day in a positive light and trust me, it really does affect your attitude.
# 4 Exercise! For me, spending an hour and a half at the gym is the best stress reliever. For my roommates it’s either yoga classes or a long run outdoors. Whatever you enjoy, just get out there and move. Exercise boosts your endorphines (feel good neurotransmitters that reduce stress!), and the increased oxygen flow to the brain, controlled blood sugar levels, and reduced stress all help with academic performance! So, don’t think that you are losing time that could be spent on school work or working, but rather that you are giving your brain the boost it needs to tackle all of these other things you need to get done.
# 5 Know what is most important to you. We have all heard the warnings to not ‘spread yourself too thin’, but it is a cliché phrase for a reason. If you have too many commitments to do participate in any of them as well as you would like, figure out what really matters to you and let go of those that don’t make the cut. It is okay to let things go! It is not a failure, and you are not giving up. As much as you may want to, you cannot actually do everything, so just do everything that really matters!
These are just five things that I try to do to balance my life. Do you have any strategies that I didn’t touch on? Let me know!
All the best,