By Boadicea Dowd
Attending university means that there is a constant pressure to succeed and this comes from our own desire to do well, as well as from friends and family. The competitive nature of academia can make it difficult to manage your workload and still enjoy university life but there are ways to make to strike a balance. Maintaining a healthy well being is important, especially as one in four students struggle with mental health (yougov.co.uk).
It starts with choosing the right goals. Make sure they are SMART; Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic and Time-based (projectsmart.co.uk). The goals should be big enough to be considered an achievement, but small enough so you can appreciate the completion of minor tasks. They should also be achievable in your allotted time frame, there is no point in cutting yourself short. If you are unsure about the length of a task, give yourself an extra day to make sure it can be finished. By following these SMART goals then you can relieve the constant pressure of a never ending workload and look back at your achievements.
This SMART idea can also be applied to time spent not working. Make sure you have planned something fun in the time that is spent not working so that you and your brain can rest. Think about whether you want to spend this time alone relaxing or out socialising, but either way make sure it is something that YOU want to do and not something you feel you should be doing. If you are a debating a night in watching Netflix over going to YOLO Wednesday, consider the time taken by both, as the hangover from the latter will take a lot longer to recover from and reduce your productivity the next day. This does not mean do not go out though, sometimes spending time with friends can help refresh your perspective. However you choose to spend your free time, just check in to see if what you pick is SMART.
Part of being SMART includes eating healthy sometimes and getting your heart rate up. Regularly exercising can reduce anxiety levels by 20% (sciencedaily.com) whether that be walking to the Taf rather than getting a taxi or playing in a team sport like netball or rugby. Personally, focusing on stress helps me get through my run, which just leaves me refreshed when I sit down to work again. Any small changes will make a difference, but you will only see if you try it.
Do not compare yourself to others, what is SMART for you, may not be for everyone else. Everyone has their own goals which they should be proud of. Sharing these goals could make some seem minuscule and put people down for not achieving the same as everyone else. Stay in your lane.
Finally, the most important thing you can do when it comes to pressure is to keep an eye on yourself. Keep up with your personal goals, but if you can feel your anxiety building up, do not force yourself. Take a break, even if it is just getting up to make a cup of tea or chatting with your housemates. Whatever you do, always talk about how you feel with someone you feel comfortable with, whether it is your friend or tutor, there is always someone who is listening! And always someone who feels the same way.
We all want to do our best, whether it’s for university or jobs, but it is not worth sacrificing our mental health, so stay SMART and stay in your lane.