I know what you are thinking. “Well that may work for some majors, but not mine. Do you know how hard it is to get into ___ school?”
I was a pre med student at a college that basically sets you up to fail. I know the game. We don’t sleep for weeks and run off of anything with caffeine in pursuit of the ever elusive 4.0 that may or may not be enough to get us to our dream graduate program. 5 hours in lab after a morning in classes, then study groups to salvage what’s left of that assignment. Another group to finish the lab write up. Lord have mercy on your soul if you are trying to get through a group project. You don’t have enough time in your schedule and somehow you are supposed to coordinate 3 schedules. Oh and that was just for Tuesday. Every day of the week is like that. When you finally get on break you have a pile of back work to do and can’t do any of it because you spend break sleeping and relaxing because you are so worn out from classes.
What if I told you the habits you make now will follow you for the rest of your life?
Now that’s a scary thought! Is this cycle of exhaustion, procrastination, and panic over deadlines really how you want to spend the rest of your life? It’s not how I want to spend mine.
What if I told you it didn’t have to be like that?
I made the very scary decision this year to take time off of college to focus on my health. In the process, I even found out I had underlying medical conditions that were making it more difficult to learn! Even without those conditions, I wasn’t healthy. I was easily drinking 12 cups of coffee a day in a desperate attempt to stay awake. The most sleep I got was when I contracted a terrible stomach bug and slept for 3 days. The terrible part of all of this, is that so many people brushed it off as normal. “Oh, college kids usually don’t get enough sleep.” That may be a sad truth, but it is not something we should be complacent about!! A culture of sick and stressed students should not be acceptable. Take some deep breaths and start making changes in the right direction. You can have the best grades in the world, but if you are too sick to have a job, your degree will be worthless. Don’t be like me and wait until you collapse to get help.
What are some easy steps I can take?
- GET ACCOUNTABLE
Changes are hard to make. Changes that go against the norm are even harder. Find an accountability buddy or a mentor. You need someone older and wiser to challenge you to get out of that pattern. Sure, your roommate can help, but when you both have weak moments, an all-nighter and a pot of coffee per person is going to be much easier to give into. Establish a routine to check in with that person (daily or weekly) to celebrate wins and recover from losses.
- SET REASONABLE GOALS
Don’t try to do everything new at once. Do you drink a crazy number of caffeinated beverages? Cut back slowly. Change out water where you used to have your third glass of tea in the morning. Do you sleep less than 8 hours? Try slowly adding a half hour extra to sleep each week. Get a real alarm clock and turn off your phone after 10. Write down every goal you make and post it where you can see it. Ever hear of out of sight, out of mind? You don’t want that happening with your goals. Whatever you decide, have patience with yourself.
- SEEK OUTSIDE HELP
There’s no shame in seeking a little help. A lot of college campuses have access to counselors that are very familiar with the challenges we face as young 20 somethings. If you are out in the work force and finding your college habits are creeping up and dragging you down, there are always free chat sites to help you vent. It is also a good idea to contact your insurance company and see which counselors in your area are covered. (If you are like me and will be in counseling for a decade, it’s helpful to find someone who is affordable!)
Deciding to put your health first takes a lot of courage in a culture that does everything it can to tear you down. Don’t be discouraged if your plans don’t come perfectly true. You will probably still have times where you struggle and that’s okay. Don’t stop trying! You are more important than a GPA! You are more important than some arbitrary time line that says you need to have y degree in z years in order to have a job/home/marriage/kids by the time you are x years old. People live to be crazy old now! You have plenty of time to change your major or change your career. Be brave and put your health first!
What are some struggles you have putting your health first? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!