4 Ways to Put Your Well-being First

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Whether it be maintaining a high GPA, walking onto a sports team, pushing ourselves to rush or join a new activity, or all of the above, most of us probably set pretty lofty first-semester goals for ourselves. To prevent these goals from becoming all-consuming, draining, or seemingly unachievable, I’ve compiled a short list of tips for balancing these goals with general wellbeing for a successful and enjoyable first semester!

1. Don’t neglect your physical health.

Although this reminder seems fairly self-evident, physical health concerns more than just not getting sick. For example, if you’ve overextended yourself joining clubs, feel as if you need to sacrifice sleep to complete schoolwork or socialize, or need more than 3 cups of coffee a day to even stay awake (*cough* @myself), then you aren’t being kind to your body. Similarly, if you’re spending hours and hours on end in the library or watching Netflix and not making an effort to get up and move around while it’s still nice out, you’ll likely start feeling irritable and being less productive. To remedy couch-potato or over-achiever syndrome, start small – promise yourself to go to the gym once a week, or to try a fitness class. Maybe walk with a friend around the track (go at night when the lights are on!) or join an intramural sport. Lastly, SLEEP IS IMPORTANT – you won’t be your authentic self if you’re socializing or do your best work when you’re exhausted, never mind if you get sick from not sleeping enough!

2. Don’t neglect your mental health.

I cannot stress enough the importance of mental health, which is so often stigmatized and overlooked! The truth is that every one of us could do a better job managing our mental health – whether it’s carving out something enjoyable to do each day, addressing problems in our relationships, or going to CAPS for a therapy session when things get overwhelming. Too often we fail to address nagging stress until it’s too late and we blow up at a friend, ugly-cry in front of our roommates, or fail an assignment. This is a reminder that you need to tend to your mental health EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. If a class that you really don’t need to take is adding an inordinate amount of stress to your daily life, drop it – your mental health is more important than forcing yourself through a tough class that you won’t enjoy. If you’re drained and need to cancel plans that are causing worry when they should be fun, then cancel – suggest another outing another day, and emphasize that you want to enjoy your time with your friends to the fullest – which you won’t be able to do if your mental wellness is off-kilter.

3. Even unsuccessful experiences have value.

We tend to hold the unconscious belief that success is inherently valuable, and failure is inherently not. However, we also tend to lose sight of the fact that this is college, not a life or death situation. This reminder is here because all experiences are valuable – the successes, the failures, and everything in between. If we only pursue what we’re already good at or stay complacently comfortable where we are, we reject the chance to grow – which is essentially an enormous part of the college experience. So give yourself permission to fail; give yourself permission to be unashamedly inexperienced at something, because this is how we teach ourselves to lean into discomfort and perhaps discover new hobbies or passions in the process. Instead of telling yourself “I can’t” – replace that with “I can try.” No matter what the result, you will have gained an experience, a story to tell, and a sense of pride that you didn’t back down.

4. Think big picture.

In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff – it’s easy to blow a single test, project, or interaction way out of proportion when we shrink our worlds down to the level of school and nothing else. We’re all guilty of exaggerating our own stresses and to-do lists to the point that they seemingly supersede world crises in direness, but this is usually counter-productive and always self-centered. Not only do we compromise our mental and sometimes physical health when we adopt this hyper-focused perspective, but we also lose sight of the Important Things in our lives that will long outlast this current assignment, nagging worry, or rocky friendship – our families, our friends, our passions, our capacity to help others. School is important, but too much of it can become self-destructive if not tempered by a levelheaded worldview and the ability to take a step outside of our SJU bubble.

While certainly non-exhaustive and in need of tweaking when applied to the individual, this list is just a few of the main messages I hope to keep in mind throughout the semester in order to stay balanced and focused without taking myself too seriously. Be gentle with yourselves, and make this your most fulfilling semester yet!

HCXO,

Katie

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