Your alarm goes off again after the seventh time you’ve hit snooze, and you make a pivotal decision: no class today. Maybe you’ve already hit this point in the semester: you’ve gone to bed too late all week, gotten up a little too early and made the poor decision to party on a Tuesday. Now, you’re so tired you decide that going to class just isn’t going to happen. So, you skip and tell yourself “just this one time.”
It’s not that taking a full load of classes, keeping up with friends and doing extracurricular activities is inherently impossible. On the contrary, having a sense of balance is an important part of a college experience. But when we start focusing on having fun, working hard and being a good friend, we forget about the most important thing: ourselves. It’s not that joining Greek life is too much of a time commitment, it’s that we’ve let that extracurricular come before basic self-care, such as healthy eating and sleeping habits. Sure it sounds campy, but our bodies are like batteries: if we don’t take time to recharge them, then we shouldn’t be surprised when they stop working properly.
At this point in the flow of advice, the most common recommendation would be to drop something – go to fewer parties, have fewer extracurricular activities or don’t take so many classes; however, I don’t think that’s the answer. Instead of cutting out, it’s much easier to add things in. For instance, don’t cut out going to parties, just write a paragraph of your paper before you go and come back early enough to get a full night’s sleep. If you’re lagging during practice, take a nap or eat a healthy snack instead of perusing Facebook between classes. It’s not about working more or harder, it’s about working smarter.
Is skipping one class the end of the world? Probably not. But if you ask yourself, “Can I keep up this level of activity without making myself sick, sacrificing grades or losing friends?” the answer is more than likely “probably not.” By scheduling in some time for self-care, you’ll have more time for other important activities that make college the best four (or more) years of your life.
Here are a few tips:
- If stress is making your thoughts race before bed, try focusing on the feeling of your breath going in and out of your nose. Your brain can’t focus on breathing and that overdue homework assignment at the same time.
- If you still can’t sleep, try to turn your alarm clock away from you so you don’t “watch and worry”.
- Make a habit of waking up around the same time every day. This can take time but will reset your body’s internal clock that may be confused from your chaotic schedule.
- Include some form of exercise every day. Walking around campus with a friend, jogging or taking the stairs to the top of the library all count. And research shows that exercising helps improve memory (midterms, anyone?), and your mood.
- Set aside study time each day, for example after class until dinner time. Once you’ve worked through that time, make sure you reward yourself for your hard work by going out with friends, watching some TV or reading a guilty pleasure.
- Lastly, if you’re still having trouble managing all your responsibilities even with good self-care, don’t forget that Ask Abby is here to provide advice when you need it and the UNC Charlotte Counseling Center is always just a few steps away.
Abby Hardin is a UNCC Ph.D student in Clinical Health Psychology and an instructor. She also works as a mental health counselor at a local CMC clinic. If you’d like your question answered in a future edition of Ask Abby, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, no question is too big or too small.