Finding a Work-Life Balance

I will admit I am bad at self-care. I have never been one to stop an assignment and go home to get a decent amount of rest or give up on something stressful to watch Netflix instead. As much as I may hypocritically preach self-care to my friends or repost tweets about how it is important, I am just as guilty of pushing it aside as everyone else.

Our school has not really set us up to find a work-life balance. As a biochemistry major, a lot of my classes have attached three-and-a-half hour labs which receive no credit on your transcript. On top of that, you cannot miss a lab, or you will fail the entire lab section. To make matters worse, failing lab means failing lecture for that class. Thankfully, I have found a lot of lab professors are very accommodating and willing to work around extreme circumstances, but that still doesn’t stop students from attending lab when they are really sick or pulling all-nighters doing work for lab which they will be receiving little to no actual credit for.

On top of this lab debacle, I’ve found a lot of the professors at this institution don’t really participate in a healthy work-life balance themselves. Too many professors at this school are on campus during weekends, answering emails all hours of the night, and spending late nights working on papers or their own research. While I am proud to be at a school where professors are so involved with their courses and students, I also do not think this sets a very good precedent for us. I have had some professors who are willing to admit they only get a few hours of sleep per night, and while I am thankful they are spending that time grading my work, I also don’t think it provides a productive environment for them as professors nor a healthy example for students.

I am not trying to bash Hobart and William Smith by any means but rather open up more students’ eyes to how our school environment does not promote time for anyone to take breaks. Too often to we feel like we have to keep working and working and will never end this cycle of stress. Once I came to the realization that I was following the social norm of stress, I knew I needed to make a change this semester. And so, I did.

One of the smallest, yet most influential, changes I made was turning off my phone and reading before bed. Before, I would stay in the library until midnight and then come back to my room and immediately go to sleep. Now, I make myself leave the library at 10pm, come home and relax, and free read before I go to sleep.  I schedule in times to promote physical self-care, such as showering or washing my face. While these may seem obvious, having a time where I force myself to do these things actually makes my work time more productive. I am also in a long-distance relationship, and scheduling Skype times to video-chat my boyfriend has allowed me to step away from the homework and focus on my life and what makes me happy instead.

And now, I challenge you: this semester set a goal to spend a little more time with yourself. Whether this is allowing yourself to watch that movie you’ve really wanted to see or leaving the library early to watch an episode of your favorite show every Tuesday, allowing yourself to participate in self-care and balance your work and life will drastically change your health. You cannot keep yourself in the cycle of stress and work without eventually reaching burnout and participating in even small changes of self-care to level out your work-life balance is the only way we can promote a healthier way of living and shift our colleges’ view of a student’s time. As Dolly Parton says, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”