College is a busy time. With a full load of difficult classes, sports, music, clubs, and other extracurricular activities, it’s easy to stretch yourself too thin—to put too much pressure on yourself to exceed at everything.
Coming into college, I knew what “stretched too thin” felt like. My experience in high school was less than ideal. That’s not to say I didn’t succeed—I did. I played four years of varsity hockey, sang in the top choir, performed solos, took voice lessons and excelled with a course load full of AP classes. But, looking back, I’ve never been more miserable than I was during those four years. In order to perform well in everything I was doing, I sacrificed sleep and my social life. I sacrificed my well-being. I got sick a lot, but still went to school. If I got anything below a B on a test, my heart rate would spike—it felt like the end of the world. Once, I even started hyperventilating during a math test. I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed—that my life would be over if I didn’t.
This continued through my last semester of senior year, and then I went to college. Once again, I overloaded my schedule. I had two classes each day, choir in the afternoon and hockey at night. With the amount of studying I was anticipating, there would be little time left for sleep. My mom could tell I was already overwhelmed. She gave me arguably the best advice I’ve ever received, and it can be boiled down to one word: prioritization.
She told me the importance of prioritizing—that some assignments and some aspects of my life are more important than others. She engrained in me that an F on one test, one bad game or one bad performance is not the end of the world. More importantly, she reminded me that my health should come before everything else. After all, it’s hard to succeed when you’re constantly sick and tired.
I think this is something that a lot of college students deal with. They sign up for too many activities and lack sleep. They feel pressured to do well on every assignment, read every reading and ace every test. But, to be quite honest, you can get by without reading everything. Skimming is okay sometimes. My professors probably don’t appreciate that I’m saying that, but I’m confident that all of them would agree that your health and overall well-being are more important than your grades. Granted, it can be hard to determine what is absolutely crucial and what isn’t quite as important. I try to take it one day at a time. I ask myself, what is due tomorrow? Do I have a test I need to study for or a big presentation that needs practice? Logically speaking, those things take precedence as opposed to a reading or a paper that’s due in three days. If there’s time for those things, that’s great. But if you miss a reading or two, it’s not the end of the world.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t try your best. It’s still important to motivate yourself to work hard. Grades are important, and sometimes an all-nighter is absolutely necessary. But sometimes they’re not. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a deep breath—rest. If you you’re practically falling asleep in your chair, take a nap. If you’re sick, don’t go to class. Get better. Believe it or not, being well-rested and healthy will help to improve both the efficiency and overall quality of your work. Not to mention, since adopting this new mindset, I’ve been so much happier. Of course, there are still times when I relapse back into my old perfectionistic ways—when I need a reminder that nothing is the end of the world.
The sooner you can learn that important lesson, the better. What’s the point of being successful if you’re not happy? Health and happiness should come first. If you’re anything like me, it’s no easy task to change your mindset. But if you can do it, if you can remind yourself that nothing is the end of the world, life is so much better.