College. stress. These words seem to go hand in hand these days. For those of us who have jobs on top of being full time students, handling stress can become something like a third job. We go to class during the day, go to work at night, and when we get home we frantically scramble to finish our homework just to start everything over the next day, five days a week. The new adage for higher education is: “Grades, Social Life, Sleep. Pick Two.” When you throw full-time employment in the mix, you have to reevaluate the way that you live and make new, positive habits in order to be successful in all areas of your life. As a student who works over 40 hours a week on top of 14 hours of class, I’m going to share some things that I’ve learned to deal with the high amounts of stress on a day to day basis.
Staying healthy is the most important thing to focus on when juggling many different responsibilities in your day to day life. The most important thing I’ve found to keep myself healthy is getting an adequate amount of sleep EVERY day. One day of missed sleep can throw off your entire week, or even worse, get you sick. We’re college students: we certainly aren’t used to getting 8 hours of sleep, and we don’t necessarily have to. But it is important to maintain a regular sleep schedule for optimal college mental health, whether its 5 hours or 10, make sure that you give yourself enough time to not be groggy the next day in order to perform. You can catch up on sleep on the weekends if you end up missing some during the week. Try your best to stay healthy in other aspects of your life. Ditch the fast food for healthier options. Drink tea instead of soda. Take vitamins every day. The only thing worse than being stressed out is being sick and stressed out, so take care of yourself!
Spending your time wisely and effectively will be critical to your success as a working student. Most of the time, I have very little downtime. I have about 20 minutes in between classes, then when I’m done with class I have about two hours to get to work. Taking advantage of these little breaks can make a huge difference. Those three 20 minute breaks in between class I use to do as much homework as I can. Then with the two hours I have before I leave for my job I typically have enough time to finish my homework. Then when I get home from work at about 9PM and I’m exhausted, I can relax, throw on the TV, and get a decent nights sleep instead of staying up late frantically trying to finish my homework for the next day. There’s only 24 hours in the day, so use them wisely!
At my second job, I work 8 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Because of this, my Friday night which I usually use to go out with friends and have fun is basically a wash. Unfortunately I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I’m in college, all my friends are in college: Friday is party night. Around 5PM on a Friday is when you start getting bombarded with text messages asking what you’re doing that night and where all the parties are at. It seemed everyone was going out, so why should I miss out on the fun? So I did, and when I had to wake up at 7AM to make it to work I quickly learned my mistake. I have a responsibility to BE AT work and BE ABLE to work. At my particular job, I have no replacement and if I call in sick then there is nobody there to do my work for me. There are people relying on my those days to be there and to do what I’m supposed to do. When I selfishly decide to go out on a Friday night and I either call in sick or am too exhausted to do any work, I let down all my coworkers and place my burden on them. They can’t do their jobs and I’m passing my work onto them. That’s not fair to them and it is not smart to me. I know it’s hard sometimes to sacrifice what little time you have to have fun, but be aware of your obligations to other people and be aware of what you need to do to fulfill these obligations.
From my experience, those are my top 3 rules by which I balance work, student, and social life for sane college mental health. Some of you may or may not be in the same position I am in, but these tips nonetheless are useful in performing your best in all aspects of life. Good luck!