Depression and anxiety among college students are on the rise according to Penn State University’s Center for Collegiate Mental Health’s 2017 Annual Report. So what’s causing this anxiety and depression epidemic? Respondents from 147 college and university counseling centers say 28 percent of students seek mental health treatment due to academic performance.
Of course, academics are stressful. They’re prepping you for the rest of your life, especially, landing that one big dream job. And as a college student, you hold the weight of this responsibility every single day.
However, many habits you’re currently following — that are fine for your collegiate — aren’t giving you the necessary tools to create a healthy and successful work-life balance. But don’t let this add stress to your already full plate. Instead, take a deep breath and follow these tips to jumpstart healthy habits now that will carry into every stage of your career:
Bad Habit: Binging — Everything
Physical health often gets put on the backburner in college. Let’s face it, the freshman 15 is real — but it isn’t the only real problem. From binge eating to watching Netflix for 10 hours straight and even drinking too much, these unhealthy habits are taking a toll on your body.
While each of these habits is vastly different, the reason college students are susceptible to them is the same — poor scheduling. When you’re on your own for the first time, it’s easy to eat whenever it’s convenient, get lost in a Netflix series, and not know how to balance working hard and cutting loose.
Most students don’t even think about these activities as bad habits they’ve formed. They’ll surely just disappear on graduation day, right?
Unfortunately, it’s more likely they’ll carry well into your career. Poor eating, too many happy hours, and a lack of time management make it impossible to find a work-life balance. Without this balance, it’ll be challenging to be successful and love any career you pursue.
Healthy habits should begin now — no matter where you are in life. For example, change how you eat. Eating well leads to a more active, happier lifestyle. Whether in the college cafeteria or sticking to a meal plan when determining your grocery budget, learn to eat healthy and meal prep.
Creating a new habit, and sticking to it, is easier said than done. Find an accountability buddy to keep you on track and on schedule. Text them when you’re craving a pint of Ben and Jerry’s to see if they want to go for a walk instead, and let them know when you’ve hit your happy hour limit.
Bad Habit: The Last Minute Cram
“I work well under pressure.”
You and every other procrastinator has said this at least once — or a million times. This leads to all-nighters, cram sessions, and increased anxiety just to wrap-up a project you’ve been putting off since syllabus day. Unfortunately, once you reach the workforce, managers and clients will be less forgiving than your professors.
College is a time for learning, extracurriculars, meeting new people, having fun, and prepping for your future. Often times, this makes you put long-term projects on hold when you have more exciting and pressing ventures in the present moment.
Life after graduation doesn’t get any less hectic. There’s always something more timely to address, and without a good system in place, you’ll limit your potential and demolish any possibility of a healthy work-life balance.
Try every organizational and habit-making system to find what works best for you. Is it a written planner, online calendar, daily phone notifications, an organizational app, or block scheduling? Once you find which system works best, find your most productive time and schedule project work for those hours.
It’s important to take these ‘working’ hours seriously — like it’s your job — to help you stick with them and avoid cramming. During these working hours, work toward professors’ final due dates by setting your own smaller task dates and hitting them.
Bad Habit: Saying “Yes” Too Quickly
During freshman orientation, you were overly excited and joined every club and extracurricular imaginable. Now your duties as president, secretary, historian, and team captain are taking up a majority of your time.
Struggling to say “no” is a bad habit that leads to other detrimental bad habits. All of a sudden, you’re anxious about everything that needs to be done, you’ve stretched yourself way too thin, and sleep is the farthest thing from fitting in your schedule.
It’s easy to step-up and claim one, or 10, too many roles. As a freshman, especially, you have no idea just how much of your time clubs, internships, and classes will consume. Similarly, once you start working, saying “no” to friends, family, and extra roles at work will become even more challenging. This will hurt your work-life balance, creating less time for you to take care of your own important needs.
Make a new habit of saying, “I’ll think about it and get back to you.” Your people-pleasing self will initially hate this, but resorting to this immediate response gives you time to assess your current time commitments.
Once you’ve given yourself time to think, consider if saying “yes” will get you closer to your life goals. Does volunteering at the animal shelter help you decompress or do you worry about all the other things on your task list while there? If it’s the latter, saying “no” now doesn’t make you rude or lazy, it makes you self-aware.
However, if what you’re considering will get your closer to your career and personal goals, take the next step — looking at your calendar. Be sure your new commitment will fit reasonably within your classes, work, extracurriculars, and most importantly, your personal time.