Your guide to creating a work-life balance.
By: Kiara Sahi, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief
A new academic year is upon us, and with a new set of books comes a new set of academic hurdles to overcome as we pursue our goals. The prospect of getting back to school can be both exciting and daunting; that much is true, but what most students don't know is that research is on their side. Now more than ever, balance is crucial, especially in the lives of students. That's where this article comes in, aimed at informing you about the importance of finding that balance, prioritising your well-being, and how it contributes to better academic performance in the bigger picture.
Let's address what should probably qualify as the word most feared by students: "Burnout."
Burnout is what your body and mind goes through when it has been subject to sustained stress, be it physical, emotional, or mental. It is a sensation of constant exhaustion, often accompanied by symptoms such as self-isolation, frustration towards your peers, low motivation and feelings, and depersonalisation. It can even go so far as to result in lowered immunity. When burnout sets in, students start to see low levels of productivity, which only feeds the mental strain they are already enduring, leading to what can feel like an endless and gruelling cycle of lowered work output and heightened stress. In an educational setting, burnout can be due to an overload of work, impostor syndrome, or low levels of satisfaction with what your studies may be focused around. Suppose it seems like your workload is unmanageable, and the pressure from looming deadlines is getting to you. Or you feel a sense of incompetency and don't feel a sense of gratification in your work; it is at this moment when you need to step back and reevaluate your approach to the goals you laid out for yourself to avoid burnout (WebMD).
Burnout is something that almost everyone has had to deal with at some stage in their life. However, ideally, we want to steer clear of it to the best of our capabilities, and there in lies the importance of balance and strategy. If the only thing you find yourself doing every day of the week is working, back off and regroup. Here are some simple tips and tricks to keep in mind while creating a manageable, sustainable, and realistic schedule for yourself that prioritises both work, as well as your physical and mental well-being:
Make time for your health.
Your sleep hygiene, what you put in your body, and whether or not you are exercising are three factors that play a pivotal role in your physical and mental well-being and overall academic performance.
Ensuring that you nourish your body with foods that have nutritional value is key to enhanced academic performance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided evidence linking proper nutrition to better grades, standardised test scores, and improved cognitive performance. Practising healthy eating will also help fuel your body regarding physical fitness, which is linked with better mental and physical health. The benefits of physical activity include reduced anxiety and depression as well as enhanced thinking and judgement skills. Taking that time out of your day to move and work out your body will be invaluable to your health in the long term and your performance in school, since it correlates with higher grades, improved attendance, and better learning skills. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). On days when it seems impossible to get that workout in, be it during exam season or just a hectic schedule, you can try to incorporate a little bit of physical activity through walks, biking to places, or even just a short run; it'll be enough to do the trick.
Finally, the amount of sleep you're getting fits the equation perfectly since regular exercise will help you sleep better. According to a study conducted in 2019, inadequate sleep can increase stress levels and cause fatigue, making the maintenance of a work-life balance challenging. Your sleep hygiene is crucial; thus, getting your eight hours of sleep daily should be a priority. As mentioned before, you can improve sleep quality by exercising regularly. Additionally, you may also do so by avoiding screen time right before going to sleep.
Understand that studying longer hours does not guarantee heightened productivity.
Sometimes we may need to put in a few extra hours of work or maybe pull the infamous all-nighter to meet a deadline. It is no secret that this is an experience most students inevitably go through while pursuing their education. However, this can become an unhealthy practice if you often find yourself doing it. While planning your week, avoid unusually long stretches of work or studying, as you may be doing something counter-productive. This is supported by studies showing a decreased work output as the number of work hours increases and goes beyond a certain threshold. Long study hours can lead to errors, fatigue, and increased stress. Therefore, as you organise your plan for the week, be sure to plan out small study sessions with breaks in between, as breaks are proven to lead to increased productivity. (NIMH)
Making time for your social life, interests, and relaxation.
Many students lose sight of the fact that school should not press pause on their lives. It is essential that you make time for your interests and hobbies as well as fun activities with your friends, family, or partner. From an academic viewpoint, this can benefit you by boosting productivity and creativity. However, it is crucial to understand that your academics should not be the sole priority in your life. Setting aside time for your projects, well-being, and enjoyment is necessary to ensure you understand how to keep life going despite your work life, which is ultimately an essential skill moving forward. (NIMH)