My brain is buzzing as I push open the doors. I’ve just come from work and now I’m en route to class. I walk through the student center while mentally checking off my to-do list. After class, it’s back to work again and then back to school. It’s Monday, my busiest day.
There are a few other students like me, those whose car keys are visible in clenched hands, whose strides are intentional, those who don’t have many friends on campus, but more so have friendly acquaintances. The truth is, we don’t have much free time or money to spend with friends. We are cyclers. We go to work, get paid, then put that money into our education, so that, in the future, we can go to work and get paid better.
We are typically the type of students who don’t miss a class before spring break and the ones who don’t go bananas over break either because we’re working instead. We’re the ones who love a good snow day because it’s most likely our only day off, and that’s only if we had classes that day.
Without these spontaneous breaks to tie us over, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Professors don’t always understand that after working until midnight and then only getting five hours of sleep, you forgot to do the assignment. Employers don’t always understand that sometimes you must take off work for academic events or you’ll go down a grade point. The struggle to do well and be responsible to everyone and everything is real.
So, here are some ways to manage.
First, there’s the obvious: manage your time. But what a lot of people, including myself, tend to forget is to pencil in free time. It wasn’t until recently that I allotted myself some free time during the day instead of embracing it at the end of the day with exhausted arms.
It’s easy for busy people to feel lazy when they’re doing nothing. The truth is, for busy people, that nothing is something. It’s a pause, a breath of fresh air, a reset button. This semester, I’m taking more classes than I was last semester and I’m working more hours, but I also have more scheduled free time. Somehow with all that extra time being eaten away, I’m less stressed than last semester. The key? Scheduled free time I don’t feel guilty about.
Another thing to schedule is fun time. This acts as a sort of glimmering glimpse at the end of the tunnel. Obviously, they’re not the end goal, but they should be exciting enough to tide you over. Even if it’s something as simple as getting drinks with your friends, mark it in your calendar and count down the days until that victory lap is there and you’ve almost made it to a small but important celebration.
In the meantime, slack off every once in a while. The key is to find these tasty moments where you can and not to make a habit of it. If you know your next 8 a.m. is just going over material you already understand, skip it and sleep in. If you know you can get away with taking a Friday off from work and you don’t need the money, take the day off. If you know you’ll still have an A even if you miss that assignment, don’t complete it. But don’t fret about it or apologize for it. Just let it go and remind yourself that in a month, in a year or in a lifetime, no one will remember.
Lastly, take time to appreciate what you have. It’s hard to appreciate anything when life is all going to chaos, but hey, it wouldn’t be heading in that direction if you didn’t have the opportunities you do. Bask in gratitude. Go backwards with your stress and figure out why you have it. Ask yourself if this is something you truly don’t want to deal with.
For example, I get stressed about my TV class, but I’m taking that class to get my major in journalism. I’m getting my major so I can get a better job. I want to get a better job so I can satisfactorily sustain a desired lifestyle. When you break it down like that, it comes to one of two things: you either are living your life for somebody else or you’re exactly where you need to be and you just have to deal with it for just a little bit longer.
Dorothy England can be contacted at email@example.com