Students, whether aware of it or not, have to face the daily intricacies of a work/life balance, which is the concept of living a life that gives one the ability to succeed in maintaining a professional life, as well as a social or family life.
I myself am no stranger to trying to walk the tightrope of multiple responsibilities. I am working full-time as an Accounting and Marketing Specialist, and I am going to school full time to earn my Masters of Mass Communication at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I’m also a dog mom to a corgi named Bernadette, and I like to make time for family, friends, and extracurriculars.
The stress of the balancing act can be overwhelming, and I’ve faced my fair share of mental and physical exhaustion. With that exhaustion, I usually see my performance start to decline in one, if not more, of the areas in my life.
Long-term stress, according to the American Psychological Association, can damage your body in serious ways. Overloading your body on stress hormones can lead to irritability, inability to concentrate, and fatigue. Even more so, APA also says that stress hormones can cause people to develop negative coping habits, such as overeating.
APA notes that small amounts of stress can be good for your wellbeing. I find that reaching the sweet spot of motivational stress can be challenging. Here are some of my go-to tricks for maintaining my own stress:
1. Plan Your Days Out, And Include A Block Of “Me Time”
I’m fond of using Excel to plan a daily schedule, which I plan out study time, work, school, and I am always sure to give myself a block of whatever I want to do. This forces me to focus on one thing at a time, as I can show myself that from 11-12 AM, I’ll do Class A’s homework, and from 12-1 PM, I’ll do Class B homework. This helps me keep my thoughts on one thing at a time, and then I can apply the same focus to my own interests.
2. Deep Clean Once A Week
Even with a daily schedule, sometimes it’s hard to fit in a nice cleaning session to vacuum, do laundry, or dust. All of these seem to be regulated to the back burner when other immediate issues such as deadlines or work emergencies come up. Telling myself I get Saturday or Sunday morning to scrub my apartment to my liking means I can focus on important matters, without letting my surroundings get too messy.
Personally, when my home is clean, I feel less overwhelmed.
3. Treat Yourself
I always make sure to celebrate my accomplishments, big and small. Forcing myself to ignore what I have achieved–a good grade, crushing a meeting, or even nailing a tough workout–makes the effort seem meaningless.
Now, I’m not telling you to do a Parks and Rec style day of spending, but maybe treat yourself to a bath or give yourself an extra 30 minutes to relax at the end of the day. The point is to give yourself a little reward for a job well done.
I am no fitness guru, believe me. I’m the type of person who eats an entire bag of Hot Cheetos and calls it dinner. Around my second year of my undergrad, I started using the free classes at the SDFC to try to “get in shape,” and what I found was that I was more energized, and I felt like I had forced the stress out of my body.
If you’re not into group fitness, or even being in a gym, try taking a quick walk around campus to get your blood flowing.
5. Learn To Embrace Failure
I have yet to master this one. When I reached my last year of business school, I started overloading myself. I saw certain things slipping through the cracks, and I was absolutely crushed. I was disappointed for letting myself down by not reaching my goals, which only added to my stress levels.
Once I started focusing on my mistakes to see what I could learn to improve, I saw a drastic change in my mood, even if my grades or extracurricular performance wasn’t where I wanted it to be.
I was able to see where my mistakes happened, what I could do the next time, and how to apply the lessons to other areas of my life.
While I am still not a master of my stress, and I slip up here and there, it’s always helpful to have these habits to fall back on. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I welcome any new ideas!