Getting involved with as many organizations and activities that pique your interest within the first few weeks of school seems ideal, initially. College is the time to expand your mind and gain new experiences, after all. But, what happens when the novelty fades and the natural rhythm of the semester begins to set in?
Signing up for those six different groups doesn’t seem nearly as fun once the first month of classes winds down. Our once-ecstatic reception to everything college has to offer begin to shift into disdain at our past selves for agreeing to attend a different meeting every night of the week. The results of overcommitting begin to emerge as we rush from group meetings to class to the library five days a week.
When students choose to indulge in all of their interests, they tend to stretch themselves thin. Can anyone get your all if you are giving a little of yourself to everyone? The answer is usually no.
What good are you for those you’re around if you’re never fully present? How good is your work if, when you set out to accomplish one group’s tasks, you’re internally fretting over the wants and needs of several others? While it’s enticing to stack your resume and have a foot in every door you can, at the end of the day there’s only so much you have to give.
Think of yourself like your backpack.
Each morning, you put in what you have to bring with you for the day. Instead of books, you’re packing the sleep you received the night before, the levels of mental and emotional stability you have, the current state of your body and the ability to achieve your daily tasks. You also have to make room for the stress and anxiety of your day, like that term paper that you were just assigned.
Some things will take up space in your bag whether you want them to or not.
How heavy of a backpack can you hold? While you may be able to carry assignments, internships and multiple organizations in your bag, where do you fit in the energy to socialize with your loved ones or go to the gym? If you can’t hold the weight of all the items vying for a place within your bag, then decisions have to be made. There’s only so much space you have available.
So what should you be doing with that space? If you’ve already found yourself dreading that weekly meeting or wishing you had more time to spend with your pals, then it’s time to take a critical look at what you’re taking with you each day.
Make a list of all the things you’re obligated to do for your health. How much sleep do you need to make it through your day fully alert? When do you have time to prepare meals that will give you the energy you need? How often are you allowing yourself to take a break to allow your body and mind to recoup?
Now move on to what you need to be a successful student. Those items don’t only include attending class or completing assignments. Are you allowing time to study? Can you visit a professor’s office hours on the weeks you’re facing difficult material, or do you not have a single free moment in your week?
At the end of your list, take a breath. Have you made room in your backpack for a snack or that book you want to read for pleasure? Those little things may seem unimportant, but they represent the essential things we need to take with us each day.
It’s never easy to walk away from a commitment. Trust me, I wish we could do it all. But it’s time to make those tough decisions for our overall health moving forward. It won’t be easy at first, but those choices are often the ones that are most worth it.