As summer ends and school begins again, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the abundance of responsibilities and commitments that college life offers. Students often feel as though they are trying to stay afloat in a sea of classes, athletics, homework, clubs, jobs, friendships and family.
For sophomore engineering major Sydney Jackson, this workload means that, in her words, “It depends weekly whether I have myself together.” This semester, Jackson balances three science classes, each with a three hour lab, along with two other homework-heavy classes and her spot on the tennis team. During the tennis season, practices are held every day for two hours a day from Monday to Friday.
In order to maintain such a tight schedule, Jackson, and many other student athletes, require a level of discipline in their studies. “You have to squeeze homework in between classes or matches or on the bus,” Jackson said. “I can’t just study and do homework when I want. Sometimes I have to force myself when I have the time.” Freshmen used to a high school schedule, where academics and sports each have their designated time in a structured block, may also find it hard to adjust to a more spaced-out day.
Instead of being able to spend the first half of the day focused on school, with afternoons and nights reserved for sports (like in high school), the day becomes a mix of practices and classes with time in between to be planned out and used independently. This free time does not always offer itself to a balanced life and must be used wisely in order to stay on top of commitments.
Despite a time crunch, it is important not to neglect mental and physical health. Athletes in particular have a necessity to prioritize their physical health. Personally, Jackson said, “I need my sleep. I can’t run on a few hours each night.” Focusing on a healthy mind should be just as crucial: “My ‘breather’ I guess would be the sport. It’s super stressful, but it’s my outlet too.”
Exercise is proven to be a great way to unwind after a busy day, and is known to release endorphins, hormones that reduce the perception of pain and increase feelings of well-being. Changing up the type of activity students participate in can also keep them from becoming overwhelmed by one thing. Jackson said, “I’ve been so focused on my major and tennis, but you kind of need to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. I’m the type of person who needs a variety.” Trying new hobbies like yoga, painting or even joining a Bible study are all ways to branch out and tap into parts of the mind students don’t use in classes or athletics. Personal limits regarding workload and stress are different for everyone. When you only have so much time in a day, it is important to prioritize and make time for the things that are really essential. For Sydney, this includes her sport: “I want to do it. It’s my choice. It’s very time consuming, but it’s worth it.” In her case, Jackson says the best thing to do is “take a deep breath and not overwhelm myself.”
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