When I was applying to various colleges, I remember it being described to me as a “full-time commitment.” In the job world, such a commitment implies that someone would do their work within certain hours most days in a week, stopping once their schedule says they’re done.
As soon as the second week of my first semester started, I realized college did not abide by this comparison. College life assumes you have time to do homework outside of class while making time for sporting and social events. Not to mention, you have to do both of these while paying exorbitant tuition fees.
Aside from the money worries, the amount of time fluctuates depending on how much work a student needs to do, but it usually takes multiple hours to work on and complete assignments in a way that satisfies even the most average requirements.
In those brief periods of time between homework grinds, going to class and making sure to eat, what is there to do?
The Albion Today is a good resource for on-campus events, but what if you don’t have the time or energy throughout the week to go out to any social events? Unfortunately, it seems like the answer is sit and “rest” in the fancy little holding cell they call a dorm room.
Week in and out, it’s a vicious cycle of starting new assignments just as you finish the last of the work you already had. Much like plugging holes in a dam, the minute you stop moving work from your desk and into the turn-in bin, you’re flooded with work that needs to be done.
I can almost guarantee there isn’t anyone on campus who doesn’t know the exact feeling of waking up and immediately getting to work on something productive. It’s not a good feeling, and yet, we’re supposed to accept that it’s good for us, like bitter cough medicine.
However, unlike bitter medicine, this self-destructive and burnout-inducing work cycle is incredibly unhealthy and quickly leads to burnout. Once burnt out, you’re told to take time to yourself, but are never given said time. Ironic, isn’t it?
So why do we do this to ourselves? For some, it might be chasing things like a 4.0 GPA, or, for others, it may be academic prestige. Others might just be trying to stay afloat. I know I am.
This semester, I’ve had late-night work session after late-work session, early class after early class and people encouraging me to “take some time to take care of myself,” only to spend another weekend keeping up with work from the same people who assigned it.
For a while, I tried going on daily walks around campus or the Whitehouse Nature Center. I made myself go to at least one social event a week. Unfortunately, not only did I find myself completely burnt out, but by the end of the week I found myself scrambling to get work done yet again.
This constant grind makes me feel like a prisoner to my workload, and pursuing anything outside of academic excellence leads to devastating punishment.
So what is there to do in a situation like this?
“Go to Trivia at Stirling’s Books and Brew on Fridays at 7:00!” is probably what my editors want me to say; not everyone likes trivia, but the essence of the sentiment still holds true. Find something you (and maybe some friends) can do when you have time.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but deliberately carving out time and energy to do these things for yourself turns out to be exactly what’s needed.
I know whenever I hear people say stuff like “Take time for yourself to prevent burnout!” I put it in the same category of life advice as “Live, laugh, love,” but after a thorough talking-to from a friend, I started to set aside time to myself and even tried to make a cutoff time for working.
Now, I haven’t been doing it long enough to say all the boilerplate “WOW! My life is so much better now that I’ve been taking time to myself and not staying up to three writing.”
But, what I can say is that I’ve stopped going to bed at 5 a.m. and ended the night ready to start a new day. For almost a week, I haven’t gone to bed hollowed-out and devoid of joy because I overworked myself. There’s still a bit of gloom, but what matters most is that I feel satisfied with my days when my head hits the pillow.