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Conscious Indulgence

Camille Schwartz

Balancing work and

health in college

As a college student, there are some days when I put working out and healthy eating on the back burner.  Instead of eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and protein, I go straight for comfort foods and caffeine. Instead of taking a break and going to the gym, I isolate myself in the library for hours at a time. On Friday afternoons when my classes are over, instead of running on the treadmill, I curl up in bed for a Netflix marathon.

For many college students, mid-October marks the period when professors pile on course midterms and big essays. The high academic pressure during this time can make it difficult for students to maintain a balanced lifestyle. When we get stressed about school, it feels intuitive to work harder and neglect the less urgent routines in our lives like sleep, diet and exercise. We often go into fight-or-flight mode and begin to ignore our most basic needs.

I’ve discovered that while this outlook can sometimes be constructive, it can also be dangerous. When I don’t allow myself to take a break, I often end up being counterproductive. In some cases, I even get physically ill. It’s likely that the hectic nature of college life won’t slow down anytime soon. However, we can change our perspectives and our habits about handling stressful situations. Here are some ways to create a better balance between work and health.

1) Schedule time for yourself — while you’re planning your day, remember to save time for relaxing, eating and sleeping. Take time aside each day to do something you enjoy, whether it be reading a book, dancing in your room or enjoying warm tea with a close friend. Even if it’s only for 30 minutes, giving yourself a little time will not only relieve some of your stress, it will likely make you more productive overall.

2) Don’t put too much on your plate — in college, it’s easy to over-book yourself with difficult classes and extracurricular activities. Before adding that extra activity or class to your schedule, ask yourself if it is really necessary. The less you have on your plate, the more time you will have to focus on the most essential tasks for your personal success and happiness.

3) Get more sleep — many students place both their social lives and their schoolwork ahead of sleep. However, according to Donna Arand, PhD, clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio, “a lack of sleep impairs your ability to learn, remember, and process new facts.” So the next time you’re tempted to pull an all-nighter, think about the negative effects it will have on your body.  Shoot for at least eight hours of sleep each night.

4) Allow yourself to be enough — as college students, it’s easy to feel like we aren’t smart or accomplished enough compared to our peers. Remember that comparing yourself to others is a recipe for stress and burnout. Look at your own achievements and how far you’ve come. Be confident about your own abilities and know when it’s time to call it quits.

Though I am by no means the queen of a balanced lifestyle, I have found that when I do take time for myself to exercise, eat right and rest, I am actually more productive in my studies and significantly less stressed. I feel more in control of my situation and confident in my ability to tackle big tasks. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is not something that happens overnight, but there are choices we can make each day that will help us to start creating a more balanced life.

Camille Schwartz is a writer for the Voice and can be reached for comment at CSchwartz14@wooster.edu. She writes a blog, which can be found at consciousindulgence.blogspot.com.

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