Hi, overwhelmed, overworked, overtired college student. How are you holding up? I know it feels like there is so much to do, and no time in which to get it done. You wonder how you will ever manage the process and get through each day with your mind intact.
As you are probably all too aware, college can be a challenging and stressful time. That’s why learning how to adapt while creating a good work/life balance is critical to your success and survival. (And by “work/life balance,” I mean academics/social activities/sports/family/practicing the guitar/eating/sleeping balance.)
How can you cope? Start with these eight simple tips to find life balance in college and to deal with the distractions that you would otherwise face:
1. Be realistic about your intentions
There are only so many hours in the day, so plan for what is doable and go for it. Finding balance begins with setting realistic goals for yourself, not only for your academics but for other aspects of campus life. And though this can be difficult with friends and parents offering lots of input, remember not to allow others to influence your goals. Set priorities—then enjoy the satisfaction of crossing things off your list.
2. Develop effective study habits
There is a saying that all work and no play spoils your day, and that is certainly true of studying. You’ll spend countless hours studying, preparing for exams, and more, but you want to avoid burnout and cramming. Schedule your time wisely and develop a workable study schedule and routine.
3. Learn to manage your time
Remember that we all have the same 24 hours in which to get things done. Learn to prioritize and allocate time for eating, exercising, socializing, and sports. Thirty minutes a day of “downtime” can make a real difference in how you feel. And learn to say “no”—it can be a hard thing to do, but sometimes you need to do it to protect yourself.
4. Eat and try to make it healthy!
Sugar highs and lows can influence your ability to cope with stress. Eating a balanced diet is the ideal, and, yes, it is idealistic. But it is possible. Avoid empty calories from junk food and eat fruits and veggies to get you through energy slumps.
5. Exercise regularly
Movement keeps the body tuned up. Do some sort of physical activity or stretches throughout the day. Exercising increases blood flow and sends oxygen to the brain resulting in better memory, reasoning, and concentration.
6. Let it go
The movie Frozen has a winning theme song: “Let it Go.” In fact, I see many coaching clients who emphasize the ability to finally let it go in order to thrive. It's easier said than done, but think about what must be done now and what you can let go and defer for another day/time/semester. Relax, and let it go!
7. Ask for help
One of the great things about college is that you have access to all sorts of help; you can turn to professors, advisors, counseling centers, and more for help when you need it. The important thing is to be able to recognize when you need it and not be afraid to ask for it. You are not the first student at the university, and you will not be the last. Many before you have experienced the same challenges and have walked in your shoes. Resources are available; know how to access them and to use them wisely.
8. Know when it is time to make a choice
At some point in time, you will feel overwhelmed, and that is okay. Recognizing the situation and being willing to make a change is a good thing. So, look at where and how you spend your time. Are you involved in too many extracurricular activities or organizations? Would this be a good time to drop a leadership role, cut back on social activities, and even drop a class, if needed? To do so is not a sign of failure, but rather the first step toward achieving the balancing act that you need to get you through the experience.
College is one of the most exciting times in a person's life, but it can also be intimidating. College spells independence, change, transition, decisions, and growth experiences. Make the most of your college experience by striving for and achieving balance.