Stress: a feeling most of us are all too familiar with, especially at this time of year. No matter what stage of life you are in, fall tends to be what is often referred to as “crunch time”: when the relaxation of summer is officially over and work or school has resumed in full swing.
We have all been told about the importance of maintaining balance between life and work. And we all know that in reality, achieving such a balance is much easier said than done. In an ideal world, we would have time to eat regular meals, complete assignments with a high degree of accuracy and understanding, exercise for physical fitness, sleep for at least eight hours, and socialize with friends and family. In the real world, however, it seems as though there are never enough hours in the day to finish all that we need to. Priorities are made, and our lives become imbalanced.
For many people, work or school takes precedence over other aspects of daily life. This is a common shift in balance, as work and school are central to our present and future. Education expands our opportunities, and work exists as both the result and expanding horizon of our hard work.
In high school, the scale of my life balance was tipped precariously in the direction of schoolwork. I sacrificed my social time, sleep, and even meals in order to manage my significant course load. Though I was not aware at the time, I was experiencing what is known in Economics as the Law of Diminishing Returns. Though I was completing all of my assignments, I was damaging my well-being and long-term success. I would make simple errors while fighting off the effects of exhaustion. Though I experienced academic success, I knew I couldn’t sustain such a lifestyle. I had burned out, and I knew that something would have to change once I got to college.
Now that I am in college, the importance of finding balance has increased exponentially. Not only am I responsible for completing my assignments and other coursework, but I must also find the time to eat, sleep, work, clean, and socialize. I am responsible for my own schedule, and for finding the balance.
We have all had those days where we skip meals to study or complete a project at work. While this is occasionally unavoidable, habits are easy to form and hard to break. Soon we find ourselves “powering through” on a regular basis, and experiencing negative results. Productivity often drops with exhaustion, and as a result self-care heightens in importance. By consciously engaging in self-care, we improve our long-term health and success despite the potential short-term costs.
Over the past few months, I have experienced the positive results of self-care: I am no longer battling a haze of exhaustion to catch key details, I am no longer skipping meals for the sake of last-minute cramming, and I am no longer restricting social events to the weekends. Though my grades may not be as high as in the past, my long-term understanding has improved alongside my overall well-being.
Though success is important, balance and well-being are not separate considerations. What have you learned about managing stress and finding balance? I would love to hear in the comments! 🙂
© Alyssa DeBella and The Wise Willow. All rights reserved.