For the High-Achiever: How to Avoid Overworking Yourself

With classes, homework, jobs, internships and extracurriculars, it’s pretty obvious college is busy. However, if you’re someone in particular who feels like you need to do it all, you may have little to no free time at all. While it’s good to work hard, it’s important to know when you’ve taken it too far. There’s no point in having a full resume if you feel like you could crash and burn at any minute. If you feel like you’ve lost your way, here are some tips to make your mental health a priority.

1. It’s okay to drop an activity.

Some of us want to take up every extracurricular we can to get that dream job. Or maybe you want to accept that research position on top of an internship and an 18-credit course load. But if you find yourself too busy, all the organizations you’re a part of will suffer. It’s better to put 100% into three things, rather than only being able to give 50% to 10 things. You’re not a failure for quitting an activity—in fact, it shows maturity and responsibility to acknowledge that you need to prioritize what you feel is important.

2. If you can, set aside one day a week where you don’t have work to do.

I realize this isn’t something everyone has the ability to do. But if you can, schedule your homework so you don’t have any to do on a Saturday. Or maybe tell your boss you can’t work Sundays. You may feel bad doing it, but in the working world, most jobs are only five days a week, and you don’t have homework to do on the weekends. It’s a normal adult thing to have a day off.

3. Make time for yourself.

This can be hard. Especially if you’re so busy you feel like you owe all your free time to other people. However, your mental health will improve so much just from taking an hour a day to unwind and watch Netflix. Read a book and make yourself some tea. Go for a walk in the park. Making time for yourself allows you to recharge so you can feel more energized when you get back to work.

4. Make time for your loved ones.

In the midst of a full calendar, it can be easy to forget to pencil-in your friends. However, in 20 years, you’re going to remember Friday nights with your best friends, not that time you stayed in studying. Of course you should study, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that showing your loved ones you care is just as important than getting an A on your exam. It’s okay to go out and have fun. Friends are a necessary distraction from the hardships of life.

5. Know when you need to sleep and put down the homework.

All-nighter culture is toxic. There’s absolutely no assignment that is so important that you should lose an entire night’s sleep to complete it. Try to divvy out your studying so you complete chunks during the day and evening, instead of waiting to cram the night before. You’ll not only retain information better that way, but it’s just straight up bad for your health to lose sleep. The same goes for everyone who gets an average of three to four hours of sleep a night. And sometimes, you do deserve that mid-day nap.

6. Eat on a schedule.

I know quite a few people who are so busy they forget to eat. Or they’re so busy, that their dinner is a bag of chips at 10 p.m. at night. When your body isn’t fueled properly, your stress levels will naturally skyrocket. If you’re able to set a rigorous work and study schedule, you can schedule meals in too. Packing lunch and taking it with you is a great way to eat on the go! Meal-prep and crock-pot dinners also save you tons of time.

7. It’s okay to say no!

Sometimes we may want to help in every way we can. Your boss asks you to work more hours. Someone wants you to run for an officer position in a club because no one else will step up. Or maybe a friend asks you to help tutor her after class. While it is nice to help when you can, if you’re too busy, it’s okay to say no. You don’t owe anyone anything. Prioritize your needs.

8. Listen to your emotions.

Imagine: Your muscles are tense. You feel anxiety pulling on your chest. You can’t bear to talk to anyone right now. But you decide to keep working. To keep going to meetings. To go to class. Sound familiar? You may feel weak for acknowledging your stress, but it’s crucial to recognize when you feel like you’re going to break. In order to even begin taking care of yourself, you have to listen to your body and not ignore when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

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