“Make sure you can look back at any season of your life and say, yeah, I had fun.”
A professional in my industry recently said this to me. His advice was rooted in the idea that we will change careers, have shifting interests, and see things we dedicated so much time to crumble away.
It’s that time of the semester when the papers are due, the deadlines keep coming up, and the group projects just don’t get easier. It’s been 12 weeks of increasing effort, and the summer is so close you can smell it.
But it isn’t here yet, and the toll of the enduring grind is finally setting in.
So if you, like me, are one of those students who just keeps pushing, who needs to be their best and fulfill all their commitments, this point in the semester is the hardest. Perfectionism during crunch time is impossible.
This week, I came to the realization — among many debates, exams, and assignments that even if I come out on top with all A’s, if I’m left distraught and exhausted, I will not have won anything at all.
I believe in reaching for the next level and never settling, but when I allow my mental health to suffer because of how much I expect of myself, I must be doing something wrong.
If I find myself drifting spiritually, suffering physically, or hurting emotionally, the pay-off, whatever it may be, isn’t worth it.
Because at the end of these four years — no matter what accolades we receive — nothing is as valuable as our sanity.
There will be a time when something must give. Maybe you won’t ace that assignment, or you can’t keep that commitment. But at some point, we just cannot keep going at this breakneck pace.
So while I insist you don’t let down your teammates or the students in your group project, please don’t let go of your health. Stressful weeks — impossible weeks — will come every so often, to some more than others. But when they do, don’t deprive yourself of rest, exercise, sunshine, or time with God.
This isn’t an excuse to go to the beach instead of study, or to blow off responsibilities for a day of “self-care.” Stress, especially for short amounts of time, is a reality of being a college student. In this season of life, we must learn to differentiate between “oh wow I have a lot of work, this is stressful” and “the amount of work I have is having a lasting negative effect on my health.”
This is a challenge to take a hard look at ourselves and ask, is pulling an all-nighter worth it for an A on this assignment? In my experience, many times the answer is yes. But if it’s your third night in a row with no sleep, maybe that A is unrealistic. When the time comes to decide between our own well-being and every thing that demands our time, our health should take precedent.
Don’t settle, but be self-aware. Why are you pushing yourself? Sometimes a season of stress to get to a tangible end goal is a necessary part of life. But that can’t always be the case. If you are in a season where stress has begun to take a lasting effect on your health, or you are being motivated by unattainable ends, hit the brakes. Start by choosing one thing that can give way. Whether it’s social events, hours at work, or that one assignment that just can’t get done, come to peace with sacrificing some aspects.
So if that moment comes where you can’t do it all, don’t. Compromise with yourself. Give yourself a break, and get some rest. Because you’ll need to be alive to walk across the graduation stage.