Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
In case you haven’t noticed, the most wonderful time of the year is finally here! From Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas” movie marathon to John Legend dropping a legendary Christmas album, everyone has gotten right into the festivities.
Along with the merry, there also comes the time for New Year’s resolutions! But before making resolutions, it’s important to reflect on how the year has been. 2018 has been quite the year for me. I traveled to new countries and even co-founded my own organization! As a self-confessed overachiever, I pushed myself to new heights went pursuing challenging yet exciting adventures.
But on top of these highlights, there were also times when I was ready to throw in the towel. Like many university students, I had been juggling studies, side hustles and other passion projects! All these things not only gave me some extra cash, but they also gave me a sense of fulfillment to be able to accomplish something
What I hadn’t accounted for is the burnout that would come with being an overachiever. One too many times, I would call home and rant about how stressed I was and how maybe education just wasn’t for me. This one time, my father decided to share two insights that changed my perspective on dealing with stress.
You are not the U.N.
In this very long call, the first thing my father told me was:
“You are not the U.N. You cannot solve everything!”
The truth is, I have a very hard time saying no. And over the course of the year, my ambition to make things better and to challenge myself resulted in me taking on more than I handle. When it came to a crisis, I often felt obligated to stay until a solution was found.
But as my father explained to me, no matter how responsible I felt, I needed to learn that I couldn’t solve every problem. Many times, and especially when people work in group projects, we often feel the pressure of giving 110 percent when others are not playing their part.
This pressure just results in more stress as you feel as though you are responsible for what is happening. But through it, you need to remember that despite how amazing you are, you cannot do everything. Sometimes, you need to draw the boundary on how effort you put into something. This doesn’t mean that you are giving up — it just means you know how much you can handle, which makes you more effective.
Choose what crosses you will carry
During the call with my dad, he asked me to list down all the things that I was doing and all the things that were stressing me. As I continued listing them and defending why they are all very important, my father abruptly stopped me and told me:
“You need to choose what crosses you are willing to carry. You cannot die on every cross.”
Talk about some tough love! But he wasn’t kidding. Learning to prioritize what’s important and what’s worth your stressing will take you a long way in balancing your well-being. It’s easy to make a case as to why all the projects you are involved in are very important for your growth. Many times these projects will come with stresses of their own.
However, you need to be able to determine what you are willing to devote the majority of your energy towards. The truth is, inasmuch as they advertise multitasking, many people find that they are more productive when they focus on one task at once. So if it helps, before you get yourself involved in a million and one things next year, list down what you hope to achieve. Once you do this, make sure that any new projects are aligned with your goals and will be worth the stress you will go through.
We are never too old to learn from our parents! I hope that as you enjoy this festive season and plan for next year, you remember that the state of your well-being will determine how you approach the new year. If you master balance, then you will be live a more fulfilling year.
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More on Mental Health on Campus:
What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need
If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help
The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis