Good grades. Sleep. Social life. Pick two. When a dear friend gave me this phrase during my freshman year, its practical truth slowly altered my perspective on college life.
Photo by: Chelsea Gammon
College — a whirlwind of classes, work, athletics, relationships and the future. The stress never ends.
The days are long and the years are short, but is it possible to live a balanced life during college without neglecting important tasks?
This is a question I have wrestled with since stepping foot onto campus during the fall of 2011.
Outside passing classes, the three other elements of a balanced life are physical, spiritual and emotional wellness according to an article on undergrad success.
Here are my hard-earned life lessons regarding each of the three elements.
1. Physical Wellness
A recent survey by USA Today found that young adults counter stress with negative habits such as “lack of sleep, lack of exercise and poor eating habits.”
While I have personally tried all three of these negative options, I have found several healthy habits that I can turn to during times of intense stress.
My first and foremost healthy habit during times of stress is napping.
While this may sound childish, taking an hour nap in the late afternoon gives my body much-needed rest and sharpens my focus during the evenings.
With late evenings and early mornings, it is almost impossible to gain a full night’s sleep every night.
This sleep deficit builds up over time, decreasing productivity and alertness and causes irritability and loss of focus.
An article from About.com revealed the benefits of mid-day naps in our American culture such as increased alertness, reduced stress and improved cognitive functioning.
My second healthy habit is simply remembering to eat.
When I encounter stress, my natural reaction is to skip meals, especially breakfast or lunch.
Through the rush of a crazy day I can just forget to eat.
To counter this, I have learned to either bring snacks or purchase snacks on campus to get me through the day.
The final element to physical wellness is exercise.
While I am not an athlete or a gym rat, I take easy measures such as not taking the shuttle, choosing the stairs over an elevator or simply walking the mall with friends to strive for some level of exercise in my daily routine.
2. Spiritual Wellness
Maintaining a growing relationship with Christ has proven to be one of my largest balance struggles during college.
As strange as it may sound, making time for God can be confusing and difficult.
Despite how I perform at school or work, my relationship with Christ is what truly counts.
Although I am very far from perfect, here are a few defining decisions that have shaped my walk with Christ during college.
Devotions. Always a buzz word in youth groups and sermons, taking time to read a portion of Scripture each day aligns my focus back to Christ despite my agenda or selfish ambitions.
I have chosen evenings just before bed to reflect on Scripture.
Viewing my purpose through God’s perspective humbles my attitude and provides hope for a new day.
Choosing community. Attending a local church or weekly Bible study forces me to commit specified times a week to reflect on God’s vision more than my own.
Learning from a mentor. Finding those people in my life that have lived life, overcome challenges and strengthened their faith is pivotal to growing and maturing in Christ.
They can foresee challenges or obstacles that I may never have noticed.
3. Emotional Wellness
When choosing two options from good grades, sleep and social life, one of the first areas I cut during times of stress is social interaction.
With so much research to scour, papers to write and presentations to build, the joy can be extracted out of social settings.
I have learned over time, however, the benefit of making time for friends and family.
Making time for people. As humans, we were created for fellowship.
My temptation is to operate in a bubble, but it is just not practical to a healthy life.
Through my time at college I appreciate face-to-face communication.
With so many devices to choose from such as emails, texting, social media, skype and so many others it can be extremely easy to maintain friendships solely on a digital level.
Technology simply can never recreate the depth of a face-to-face conversation.
You miss out on facial expressions, emotion, tone and so many other nonverbal cues.
Taking an hour to sit down for coffee can do wonders for a friendship.
Possibly the most important aspect to a higher level of emotional stability is conflict management.
Life is not perfect. People are not perfect. I am not perfect.
Situations arise that often wreak havoc in a class, between peers or simply in my schedule.
Listening to other people is one of the most difficult yet the most crucial skill that I am continuing to learn.
Not everyone comes from the same background or perspective.
Learning to see the world through someone else’s eyes, even for only a few minutes, can bring light and resolution to a conflict.
So, while it may not always be possible to balance good grades, sleep and social life, these simple habits have shaped the way I view college, my walk with God, relationships and myself.
College may be grueling at times and thrilling at other times. Yet, it is only four years.
The days are long but the years are short.
These simple habits have helped me make the most of my college experience as I strive to grow and mature in all facets of life.