Victoria (‘Vicky’) Araujo is a second-year student at LUC, majoring in International Justice (IJ). Hugo Ardura Muñoz is a second-year Governance, Economics, and Development (GED) student at LUC.
As a college student, it is very common to struggle to find the right balance between academics and life outside of university. How do we figure out how to manage our stress, regulate our emotions, and think positively - amongst other challenges - throughout the process? As Mary Engelbreit, a renowned illustration artist, once said, “to change something we do not like, we must first change the way we think about it”. So, we share with you four tips that have the power to change the way you perceive university life and support you in the transition to a healthier work-life balance.
Firstly, establishing time limits is crucial when aiming to have a healthy balance between academics and other priorities. By doing so, you will not only ensure that you are setting aside sufficient time for the many areas of your life, but you will avoid taking on too many responsibilities. As simple as it sounds, knowing when to stop is just as key as knowing how and when to say “no”. As students, it is normal for us to want to join as many events as we can, to feel the urge to overcommit, and to strive to have an active social life, all at the same time. However, we must get used to the idea of giving basic needs, such as sleeping, the actual importance they deserve. There is no shame in saying “no” to a social activity because you need to catch up on some sleep, or because you simply feel like it is time to take a moment for yourself. If you want to find out more, Gini Beqiri, from VirtualSpeech, provides us with six different methods we can use to turn down tasks or certain opportunities without feeling guilty about it, including the “reflective”, the “reasoned”, or the “enquiring” no. Kenny Nguyen further delves into the art of saying “no” in his Ted Talk, where he emphasizes the importance of finding as much pride in the things we have not done as in the things we have done.
Secondly, having a predictable schedule or keeping a routine is a powerful tool that helps improve mental health. According to specialists, some benefits of scheduling are increased focus, lower stress levels, and an increased capacity to develop new healthy habits. You can start by increasing the consistency of your eating and sleep patterns, which is proven to be beneficial to our circadian rhythm. However, creating and following routines is a timely process, so be flexible and take baby steps. You can consult this article if you want to find out more about the power of routines: https://www.wellandgood.com/mealtime-sleep/.
Thirdly, we suggest finding role models to inspire and guide you during your studies. Forbes Magazine puts forward that there are three types of role models: positive, reverse, and anti-role models. Positive role models reflect the traditional conception of role models, while reverse role models are people you deem successful but whose value system or work ethics you do not want to imitate. Anti-role models are people you consider unsuccessful and do not want to emulate. We recommend online platforms such as LinkedIn to start your search. In Hugo's case, finding positive role models has helped him challenge limiting beliefs and find educational development institutions and experts that he did not know existed.
Finally, we tend to quickly move past our victories and achievements without taking the time to look back and celebrate how far we have come. Elizabeth Perry from BetterUs sheds light on the importance of rewarding ourselves after every hurdle we overcome. By rewarding ourselves, our brain links pleasure to accomplishing objectives, leading to the elicitation of positive emotions. Treats as simple as watching one or two episodes of your favorite show, eating some chocolate, or enjoying a bubble bath will not only act as a great motivation to continue moving forward but are scientifically proven to positively impact your mental health, contrary to popular belief. To learn more about how to build an effective reward system, including efficient and selective rewards check out the website of Ness Labs.
The aforementioned tips are supported by the current state of scientific knowledge and our own personal stories. Still, each of us is different and there is no one-size-fits-it-all approach to well-being. We strongly encourage you to regularly check in with yourself and acknowledge the uniqueness of your trajectory.
Once you have defined the latter, take advantage of these tips and reclaim control of your time by developing your capacity to say “no” and implementing a consistent schedule. While these strategies lay a strong foundation, start searching for meaningful role models and seek to reap the benefits of the psychological perks of rewards. Be patient, and remember: “if you look really closely, most overnight successes take a long time (Gates).”