- Michael Cloutier
Self-Care in College: The Struggle of Balance
Deciding to plan our days dedicated to one specific goal or task is often the mindset of many, but why can’t we have the best of both worlds? Generally, we find ourselves struggling with decisions between balancing our social lives or furthering our academic progress. We plan to spend a day studying, completing homework, and preparing for upcoming classes. Subsequently, we also spend our days hanging out with friends, going out, or just taking time for ourselves to unwind from the pressures of school. Making the decisions needed to maximize your productivity in a day is difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Here are some of the things I have found useful when staying on top of school work and enjoying a rewarding social life.
1. Chip Away! It Doesn’t Have to Be Done in A Day
It’s easy to push things off until the last minute and procrastinate, knowing as long as we have “X” number of hours to do so, we’ll be fine. A lot of us say to ourselves, “I’ll just start my work at 8 pm and work until 1 am (or later)” but, are we planning our time effectively or just setting ourselves up for a painful night of cramming? Looking at the mountainous pile of work we have to do is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed (really overwhelming at that). Often times we fail to consider time when we feel stressed out or overwhelmed. Trying to climb the mountain of work ahead of us seems impossible at times but spending an hour or two a day can minimize your stress and start reducing your level of work. Setting realistic goals such as; “I’ll work on this assignment today” or “I’ll study for 30 minutes, three days this week” can have a significant impact on your happiness. Allocating your time wisely is a great lesson to learn, especially while in college. Take your work day-by-day, one task at a time, and a lot of us see results that we didn’t think were possible before.
2. Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!
This one might seem obvious to most of us, but it is often overlooked when we have a lot on our plates. We all know we need sleep, but how much do we need? Some of us operate best when we have a full eight hours, and some feel our best when we’ve had six hours of sleep. Planning to fall asleep at the same time every night is a great way to regulate your sleep and get the most rest for your body. You can even download sleep tracking apps that will record and even wake you up when you’re in the right cycle of REM (Rapid Eye Movement or Sleep State), making sure you feel your best when you get up the next morning. Receiving the proper amount of sleep for our individual minds can often be the difference between waking up feeling like a zombie and being ready to conquer our day.
3. Eat the Right Way!
Along with the many stresses of everyday life and school, we often will skip a meal or grab something to eat that’s quick and convenient. We might think that we can save time by just waiting until lunch or dinner to have our next (or first) meal, but are we saving time or just slowing ourselves down? Preparing meals doesn’t have to be time consuming or hard work. Making sure our bodies have the right fuel is essential and can often be as simple as purchasing some items from the supermarket that are clean (organic or lacking preservatives) or pre-prepared. For example, eating breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and it can easily be prepped. Having a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts can often help curb your hunger until later in the day and give you the necessary vitamins and fuel needed to do your best. Using a lunchbox to bring along food, so you don’t have to rely on nearby restaurants, and fast food will save your body discomfort and keep your wallet happy.
4. Find an Outlet
Many students would describe a personal day as lying in bed and catching up on any Netflix series we’ve been too busy to watch. While this is a great way to reset and prepare our minds for the challenges ahead, there are many other ways to relax, even if they seem demanding at the time. Hiking or spending time outdoors is a great way to disconnect and relieve some of the pressures we face daily. Being out in the sunlight can improve your mood (among other things) through the absorption of vitamin D. Studies have shown that most of the population in the US are deficient in Vitamin D, and the connection between mood and the deficiency is directly correlated. If you can, head outside and enjoy the sunshine. You might even feel better than just an hour ago with a quick trip outdoors.