Too Much on Your Plate for Senior Year? Here's How to Handle It

Ah, senior year. It’s that time of your life when you’re supposed to feel like you’re on top of the world. With three years under your belt, you’ve mastered campus life and what it means to be a college student, so you should be living it up now 'til graduation, right? Well, tell that to the 50 million responsibilities that you’ve found yourself saddled with this year.

For starters, you’ve got a mountain of coursework that you’re behind on and three exams next week that you have to study for. Then you have your extracurriculars — you’re really kicking yourself for having the great idea to take on three different leadership positions in the organizations you’re part of. Oh, and you can’t forget the added pressure of having to get a job when you graduate, even though you have yet to finish your cover letters and applications for five positions with deadlines this Friday and you’ve got interviews for two positions next week that you still need to prepare for.

All of this is a lot for a collegiette to handle. I know from experience, and I can relate to all fellow seniors who are in this position right now. Taking on too much is hard for anyone, but it's especially stressful senior year because you find yourself having to juggle your school responsibilities and secure your future plans following graduation. It’s stressful to manage it all, and many collegiettes tend to sacrifice fun and healthy activities for the sake of their futures. I know I’ve felt compelled to do that too. Let's say it together: regardless of how important your school and career responsibilities are, they’re not worth sacrificing your own well-being. You can successfully meet your life goals while taking the time to care for yourself and ensure that you have fun during your remaining time in college. Let's break down some ways that can help you effectively handle your crazy busy schedule.

1. Breathe.

When you feel yourself going into a panicked state from taking on too much, take the time to breathe. Seriously, drop everything and breathe. It doesn't matter where you are: in your room, in a class, on the bus, just take a few calming breaths and assure yourself that everything’s going to be okay. I know that this practice of mindfulness may seem useless to some, but let me assure you that it’s not a time-waster. Those few minutes that you spend taking the time to slow down and find peace within yourself pay off in the long run because you’re allowing your mind to calm down. Pushing yourself to keep working without taking a breather brings on a negative mentality that impacts your progress in fulfilling your responsibilities.

I know from experience that not taking a break to breathe and practice mindfulness causes my mind to be overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, and that ultimately leads me to waste more time stressing about my responsibilities instead of actually getting them done. Practicing breathing exercises will calm your mind enough to allow you to focus more on the work you have to get done. In the long term, it will reduce your stress levels and serve as a reminder that you’re taking care of yourself.

2. Prioritize.

When it comes to prioritizing your responsibilities, I don’t mean just write them all down in a planner. Actually take the time to number them in terms of importance, and set aside what tasks you need to get done that day and the next. It’s also important for seniors to recognize that not everything can be done to the best of their ability and sometimes sacrifices have to be made. For example, if you have an exam tomorrow morning that you aren't prepared for, don’t feel like you have to attend that extracurricular event the night before because you said you would. Ideally you should have prepared enough in advance, but acknowledge that things happen and you’ve had a lot on your plate. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but be honest about what sacrifices you need to make for what’s most important.

You go to school first and foremost to be a student, and if you’re not prepared for the exam, honestly tell those in charge of the event why you need to skip it to study. People will understand circumstances if you’re honest, and you’ll be better off in the long run when you’re able to ace the exam. To be clear, this isn’t something that should become a habit, but you need to recognize that sometimes you’ll find that you’re not Superwoman and can’t handle more than a few responsibilities at a time. Overall, you should take the time to understand yourself and your limitations, and prioritize what tasks are most important for you to complete to the best of your ability.

3. Exercise.

While it might seem like a waste of time to some, exercising actually helps a lot with reducing your stress level so that you can clearly identify and fulfill your responsibilities. Taking a class at the rec center, participating in a sporting event, or just going for a walk around campus are great ways to get active and allow your mind to focus on something other than your workload. Exercising overall will benefit your mental and physical health as it allows you to fully focus on doing the right thing when the time comes. And truthfully, it will give you a greater appreciation for the joys of life.

4. Make time for friends.

Speaking of appreciating the joys of life, be sure to make time to see your friends. Hanging out with your squad is so important because (hopefully) they'll remind you of what makes you happy. Your friends like and care about you as a person, and spending time with them will make you smile, laugh and recognize that there’s other things that enrich your life besides preparing for your post-grad future. They can also relate to how you feel as fellow college students and might help you understand that everyone is in the same stressful boat as you.

Ultimately, you’re going to remember the fun times that you spent with your friends more than your moments stressing over your responsibilities, and it's important that you don’t sacrifice those relationships in favor of your stress. Your friends are there to support you and motivate you to be the best version of yourself, so spending time with them will improve your mood and help you prepare to take on your responsibilities in a healthy manner.

5. Practice self-appreciation.

When you’re dealing with endless stress as a senior, it’s important to remember to practice self-love. By this, I mean that you should take the time to appreciate your strengths. Believing in yourself and your abilities is important because your biggest obstacle in achieving your goals is yourself. If you spend all your time putting yourself down for taking on too much and not getting anything done, you won’t get anything done and you’ll feel defeated. Even if you’re unsure whether you can handle what you’re taking on, fake confidence with yourself — the more committed you are to faking it, the more you’ll actually become confident that you can handle it. Above all, taking the time to remind yourself of how proud you are of your accomplishments and abilities will allow you to successfully motivate yourself to be that strong and determined collegiette who can master anything.  

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