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.

Many students believe that there is only one way to fulfill the ultimate college experience and that is to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes their way. Contrary to this popular belief, my secret to fulfillment and lack of burnout at school is to optimize your limited time your own way. College is known to be the best years of our lives in which we meet new friends and must constantly be making insanely awesome memories. However, it is also known to be a time when we must succeed academically, buckle down, and figure out exactly what we want to do with our futures. With the multitude of opportunities that college offers, it seems that those four years go by too fast to fit everything in. There is also this intense pressure to do it all and do it “right.” To no surprise, this pressure can trigger a great amount of anxiety and become extremely burdensome for many students across all campuses. A recent report by the American College Health Association found that 87.4 percent of college students said they felt overwhelmed from all they had to do. In addition, 63.4% percent said they felt “overwhelming anxiety.” When you can learn how to optimally allocate your time in favor of your personal interests, you will recognize that your stress levels will decrease freeing you to higher levels of enjoyment.

In our era of social media, we are wired to constantly compare and compete with our own peers, and it is fascinating to observe how many people partake in certain activities simply out of “FOMO.” Optimizing your time in college entails individually discovering and leaning into your personal interests and passions. How I have learned to not waste time is to be intentional about what I do and who I decide to do it with, and an integral part in making this possible is prioritizing the opportunities that excite me the most.

Many times, us students get too carried away in our academics because we tend to fall into the misconception that our success in class will define our future careers. However, with this mindset, there comes a point when many of us run out of steam, and school becomes less of an amazing opportunity to learn, but a potential test to fail. Our mental health is much more important to our success in the long run than the immense amount of pressure we put on ourselves while studying. This is when properly balancing studies along with other interests in a healthy and satisfactory manner can be game changing. 

So, how exactly can you optimize your time and organize it in a way that works best? Here are some tips that I have found to be extremely effective during my time in college:

Listen to your head. With so much going on around us, it is important to build a strong trust in our intuitions. This can be developed by dedicating some time to yourself, which is something many forget to do in college. Practicing this time in solitude will help you tap into your subconscious thoughts and choose how you truly want to distribute time to specific priorities. 

Create intentions and stick to them. Every morning, a few friends and I ask each other in a group text what our individual intentions are for the day and commit to staying mindful of them throughout our daily endeavors. Sticking to intentions is a powerful way to do what you want with a strong and positive mindset. This can be done individually, but I find that sharing with a community of trusted friends allows for more support and accountability. You can also create intentions on a weekly or even yearly basis. Any method that you feel will bring the greatest fulfillment to your college career works.

Take advantage of your current resources. Most of us overlook everyday items such as planners, sticky notes, reminders, and screensavers as tools that can be used for self-help and growth. Why not take advantage of whatever we currently have to help us live out our optimal selves? This can easily be done by implementing a “for fun” schedule into your academic calendar, setting a reminder on your phone to focus on your intention, or even writing the word “breathe” on a sticky note. On-campus advisors, counselors, and even professors are also here to help with not only academics, but our all-around success as students.

College is OUR time to maximize all of the relationships and opportunities given to us, and WE decide how to allocate our time in order to make these long lasting, meaningful connections and relationships thrive. Do not feel guilty about saying “no” to whatever you know would not fulfill you during these limited years. Live out this time in full pursuit of what you identify is best for you, and be thankful for every minute of it.

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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