Is it possible to have your student life in balance?

This guest blog for Stress Awareness day has been written by Diana Hill, a counsellor at the Wellbeing Centre.

In case you have been trying to find it?! … there is no “ideal” balancing point between everything you are juggling: studying, part time work, looking after yourself, making friends, seeing family, doing your favourite hobbies and sports – oh and that thing called sleep!

So forget true balance and instead think about constantly adjusting and making a conscious choices about where and how you spend your time.

Sometimes a really valuable exercise is to take a moment out of your schedule to do your “personal audit”. How are you actually spending your time? Does this reflect your priorities and values? Are you really getting what you want from the University experience? And if not, what are you going to do about it? Do you need to reach out for support to help you get back on track?

If you Google “Wheel of Life” and you’ll find a simple yet powerful life planning tool – that’ll help you to visualise where you are in each area of your life from health, relationships, finance etc. If your wheel turns out to be ‘’wonky’ -this may help you to identify which areas you are neglecting and formulate a plan of what’s needed to have a smoother ride.

Reach out

Sometimes doing this for yourself is enough but if you are feeling particularly stuck or overwhelmed it can help to do this with a counsellor or trusted friend who can help you ‘challenge your best thinking’ which perhaps got you here in the first place. Often our subconscious ‘rules of life’ like “I must never fail” need identifying and rewriting so they don’t restrict us.

Spot the signs

It’s so easy to neglect your need to relax, unwind and enjoy other aspects of your life because of pressure to do academic work to the standard you hold yourself to. Common signs you are pushing yourself too hard are:

  • Tiredness
  • Aches and pains
  • Changes in appetite – plus and minus!
  • Working extended hours
  • Feeling irritable, snappy or emotional
  • Relationships struggling
  • Sleep issues

Five key tips to get things back to a healthier equilibrium

1.  Schedule your leisure time!

That might sound a little counterintuitive. But setting aside time to do things that nourish you and help you unwind can actually make you more productive. So go ahead and add to that timetable time to exercise, go out with friends and pursue your passions.

2.  Prioritise and praise

Each morning decide and write down your top priorities for the day. Start them first (yes before checking social media feeds or go down that You-tube worm hole). Then as you accomplish them give yourself a ‘big tick’ – smiley stickers optional.

3. Learn to say ‘No’ As they say on airplane safety drills ‘put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others’. Sometimes it’s lovely to help a friend move their stuff, sometimes you can’t spare the time. If you have done number 1 and 2 – then you’ll find it easier to know what you can fit in and what will overstretch you.

4. Health is wealth

Listen to your body and give it what it needs: eat, sleep, and exercise. If you are ill, rest – pushing through illness only makes things worse.

5. Design your own life Only you know what’s possible for you. Some can work part-time and do their exams, for you that maybe overload. Learn to accept who you are and what works for you. Don’t let other people’s priorities become your to do list. On a similar note -comparison with others can be useful in order to learn if there is anything they are doing that you can usefully apply, but don’t do it as a way to put yourself down.

Finally remember we stress about what we care about. For life to have meaning for us we need at times to challenge ourselves to perform, to go out of our comfort zone. So just as it’s important not to overload the system – it’s also important to strive to thrive.

Useful things to watch

To find out more about the help you can get from the Wellbeing Centre click here.