The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday September 20th

Column: Finding balance and avoiding burnout

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Having balance between classes, life and work is hard. There is so much pressure to achieve and do well in classes, especially here at UNC.

But, having a school-life balance is so important — for your mental health, for your productivity and for your relationships with others.

This is something I'm still learning about myself, and hopefully y’all can learn from my mistakes and start working on achieving that balance earlier than I did.

At times, it can feel like life is only about school. If you're a first-year coming straight from high school and you're like me, you took several Advanced Placement classes (screw you College Board), were a part of at least one club and potentially played a sport, had a job or participated in any other after-school activity.

Coming to college, I thought, as most first-years do, that I could keep this up — that I could wake up for 8 a.m. classes, take 17 credit hours and be in two clubs all while hanging out with the new friends I made, going to sporting events and — *ahem* — parties. 

But burnout is real, and I couldn't. Two months into my first semester, I was struggling.

Even if you're not planning to do all that, giving your entire life over to school is a recipe for disaster.

Please remember you don't have to be perfect. Prioritize your well-being. Everyone says this, but college is the time for exploration — you will make mistakes, and that's OK. Say it with me: "Your grades don't equal your worth." It is okay to drop or withdraw from classes. It will be OK.

The first thing that helped me was setting boundaries. Not trying to do it all and allowing myself breaks. I started to designate time off for myself, whether it was one hour a day or one day a week, to do whatever I wanted. It was hard in the beginning to not think about school during that time, but it was so helpful.

And, the balance isn't all about the big moments. It's about taking those few hours to sit on the quad with friends and talk about everything and nothing, getting ice cream at Chase with all the toppings you want, staying up late to watch a movie with your suitemates in the dorm.

Being grateful for the small things, like the encouraging and funny sticky notes my roommates left on each other's doors, helps you remember why you're here.

I learned quickly which extracurriculars were enhancing my life versus just taking up my time. This meant finding the activities that were beneficial to me and trying to see if they were worth my time and energy. That club you'll join "for fun" might end up being more of a drain than you may think.

I also started leaning on my support system. There's a difference between complaining and actually asking for help. Sarcastically saying to my roommates, "I'm thriving at Carolina," which was a nod to the slogan UNC admin and staff used a lot my first year (Thrive@Carolina), didn't end up helping me as much as actually confiding with them about what was truly stressing me out. 

They ended up being the ones who would pull me out of a grueling study session and drag me to family dinner at Chase. And I'm so thankful they did.

College is supposed to be fun. Yes, you are working on advancing your schooling to eventually be a cog in the capitalist machine, but you will meet some really cool people and make some amazing memories. Reward yourself every now and then. What you're doing is hard, and you need to find the joy in the small wins.

@kecarpenter1

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