Her Story: When Overachieving Became Unhealthy

Have you ever met someone who is so overly involved that you wonder how they could possibly get more than 5 hours of sleep at night and eat a full three meals a day? Well if not…Hi! That’s me, and to answer that question: you learn to be okay with eating a granola bar on-the-go for at least one (but usually two) of your meals each day, and you tell yourself that getting 5 hours of sleep is a good thing.

When I came to college, I thought my schedule was so free with only four classes as opposed to a full day of school in high school and I went crazy. My freshman year, I must have put my email down on upwards of thirteen clubs at the fall activity fair. I ended up sticking with about four of them, and had leadership positions in 2 of them by my second semester. On top of this, I was a Bonner Scholar, meaning I did 150 hours of community service per semester.

As I went through college, I only got worse. I pushed myself to the absolute limits and took on everything I could possible handle (and then some). I found myself having to pack all of my meals for the day, because I would have classes, meetings, service, and work back-to-back from the time I left my room in the morning until I arrived late at night, just to start my work and studying. This was a pretty consistent pattern for me, and it wasn’t until I was forced to do less that I realized how damaging this was.

I’m now a senior, just beginning my last semester of undergrad and I just learned my lesson. Last semester, I had three intern positions, four classes, and a job. My days started around 9am, and some lasted until 2am depending on my work schedule. I wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t sleeping even close to as much as I should have, and my body was screaming at me for it. I was anxious all the time, and I always felt sick. If I didn’t have a sinus infection or a cold then I was still exhausted and my body ached anyway because my body was shutting down. This was my wake up call.

I made the very hard decision to step down from leadership positions, not take on a new internship, and cut back my hours at work. I enrolled myself in classes that I was excited about, and I made sure there were gaps in my schedule for full meals, the gym, and even a nap or two. It took me seven semesters to realize I need to slow down. Yes, it’s important to be involved and make sure that you give yourself experiences that help you learn and grow, but you need to know when it’s too much.

I don’t regret any of the experiences I had, and I can honestly say I’m proud of myself for taking advantage of so many opportunities, but I wish I took some time for myself every now and then. Self-care rituals do not make you weak, quitting something when you need to does not make you weak. These things make you stronger, and it shows that you have a strong self-awareness. You need to remember that you’re only human, and no one can do everything.