The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Attending university can be stressful with all of the impending due dates, and it is common to stop prioritising your health in favour of getting work done. However, I’ve learned the hard way that constantly neglecting your needs is unsustainable and will just lead to burn out in the end. My grades are something that I highly prioritise, and that has forced me to figure out how to keep up with university while at the same time not falling into self-destructive habits. Over the years, I’ve learned a few methods of taking care of myself while staying on top of school work.
If I could give only one piece of advice, it would be that time management is key. Don’t get me wrong, making spontaneous plans is really fun, and some of the best memories I’ve made in college have come from spontaneous plans, but this isn’t something that should be done all of the time. If grades and having a formal education are important to you, then time management will be a skill that you need. Your exams and assignment due dates can’t be moved (unless for specific reasons), and learning to plan your “fun” time around them is something you have to do as a college student. Going out with friends and making new memories is fantastic, but knowing that you have an unfinished assignment due tomorrow tends to dampen the mood. Having a social life is good for your mental health until it isn’t because you’re stressing out the entire time.
The way I manage my time is to have all of my unmovable schedules (ex. Classes, work shifts, due dates, exams) written down, and plan around that. Knowing that I can’t cram to save my life, I tend to keep the days leading up to an exam empty for studying. Along with this, developing self-control and self-discipline is good for you in the long run. This might not seem like self-care, but I personally see self-care as listening to yourself. Nothing in excess is good, and learning when to say no to your friends sucks but is essential if your head is telling you to prioritise something else. Alternatively, skipping a study night to go out with your friends on the weekends isn’t a bad idea either. All in all, listen to yourself and to your needs.
As aforementioned, neglecting your needs leads to burn out, and nobody wants that. So for me, a form of self-care was learning how to listen to my body and what it needs. Sometimes what you need is to double down and finish all of your work, and other times what you need is to do dumb things with your friends. It isn’t easy figuring out what your needs are, especially if you’re used to pushing them down, but this process is vital in helping you learn how to take care of yourself more effectively. It’s also hard to know the difference between what you want and what you need, but I personally see this as an essential step in learning how to care for your mental health in the long run.
In all honesty, trying to take care of myself while also prioritising my academics is still a struggle for me. Although I’m a fourth-year student, I don’t necessarily take care of all aspects of myself. My physical health is often put at the back burner in favour of completing my assignments and maintaining my mental health. There are times where I should exercise but instead choose to stay in and get ahead in my courses. There are other times where I choose to have a lazy day rather than maintain my physical body. All of those “that girl” posts on TikTok and Instagram will have you believe that you can be productive all day, everyday, but that’s simply not realistic for a lot of people. Don’t look at social media as your competition, and go at your own pace. Just because there are people out there getting straight As while maintaining a social life and healthy body doesn’t mean that it’s achievable for everyone. Striving to be your best is good, but striving to be someone else’s best is not healthy. We try our best everyday, and if your best today means just getting out of bed, that’s perfectly fine.
If anything, what I learned from this is that I can’t do it all, and that’s okay. There are times where I stay up all night to finish an assignment because I’ve put it off all day. While this isn’t healthy to be doing everyday, it is normal to have days where you’re not productive. There are also days where I do nothing all day to stabilise my mental health even with an approaching due date, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting to imperfection. I think this was the hardest lesson for me to learn, but once I got over the perfectionist mindset, college really didn’t seem as terrifying and stressful as it once was. To sum it all up, mistakes will be made, and how you overcome them is what matters. It won’t be smooth sailing all the time, and there are times where life will really test your limits. Knowing that this happens and that it isn’t the end of the world really lifts some of the burden off your shoulders. If you expect yourself to do the absolute most everyday (like I once unfortunately did), you aren’t taking care of yourself. And from personal experience, you’ll go crazy from it too.
College might be a place for you to get a formal education, but it is also a time to make core memories. Figuring out a balance for yourself is truly a way for you to take care of yourself in the long run. Hopefully these tips can help you as much as they helped me, even if they seem really abstract.