Take it from a recent graduate. Finishing your degree will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life so far. But it will also have been one of the most challenging. How can you maintain a good study/work/life balance?
Students face an increasingly demanding lifestyle, particularly during the third term, which can be detrimental to their well-being. Like physical health, we all have a state of mental health which can be dependent on a variety of factors. There are good days and bad days which are subject to our circumstances. However, we have the power to implement tools to manage our mental health and well-being. While we can’t avoid the bad days, we can learn to cope when they come around.
Over time, I have developed some useful methods which I would like to share with anyone struggling. This is not an exhaustive list, but let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start: (Bonus: This article has a number of song lyrics embedded. See if you could spot them all!)
Set yourself ‘work’ hours. This might be 9am to 5pm, 11am to 4pm, or another set of hours that fit your responsibilities, abilities, or preferences. You might like to factor in lunch and breaks, as you could do in a full-time job. For those who struggle to focus, this is a helpful method of setting achievable goals in a daily routine because you know both the start and end of your study period.
Additionally, you could plan at least one day off every week – and half-days! Once home, it is important to switch off from your study, giving you the opportunity to spend time with friends, relaxing, and other joyful activities. You go ahead, let your hair down.
Early Bird Catches the Worm
Although difficult in term three, this is something to keep in mind throughout the year. Of course, teachers and lecturers have always reminded us to start early. If you’re anything like me, you might feel that the stress of an impending deadline helps motivate your best work. However, trying this alternative method in my final year has been a far healthier process.
For some, starting early takes shape in schedules or timetables. For me, the above 9-to-5 method in combination with setting early deadlines for essay drafts worked well. This requires careful planning. If you know you have personal circumstances which may interfere with your studies, take this into account. If you have three deadlines in one day, stagger your personal deadlines to ensure you’re not scrambling at the end.
Note that this applies to extensions and mitigating circumstances. If you feel that you might need to apply, gather the evidence in advance. Speak to members of staff early – your personal tutor, for example – so that they can support you with these steps.
The Self-Care Box
This box is a gift from you to you. Best prepared when you are feeling positive, the ‘self-care box’ is one which includes everything you need on a rainy day: your favourite photos, snacks, and goodies. It contains tissues, lavender oil, soft socks, or anything you find soothing. Inside, you find a letter to yourself as a reminder: I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again. Next to it is a mind-map you have prepared, with self-affirming statements all stemming from a colourful drawing of yourself. It lists your achievements and positive qualities, encouraging you to remember how amazing you are!
Together We’ll Win It All
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders – you are never alone! Build a network of supportive individuals and organisations who can help to carry some of these difficulties with you. This may include family, friends, Warwick Student Counselling, Warwick Wellbeing Support, a GP, your personal tutor, your residential tutor, mentor, or others. To ensure that they give you the support you need, develop a plan which outlines your triggers and the ways that people can make things easier for you.
Find Solid Ground
If you are feeling overwhelmed, with your thoughts running away from you, try a grounding exercise. These are designed to draw your attention to sensory experiences and awareness of your environment. A common example is the 5-4-3-2-1 tool. Although there are variations, the general method is to find the following in the room:
- 5 things you can see.
- 4 things you can feel.
- 3 things you can hear.
- 2 things you can smell.
- 1 thing you can taste.
Ultimately, remember to take care of yourself. University can be as challenging as it is rewarding, so you are likely to find some days more difficult than others. Ask yourself, ‘what would you tell a friend if they came to you with the same worry?’
Remember to show yourself the same kindness.
If you are experiencing a crisis, you can use the following resources:
- If you are off campus, please 999 if you are in immediate danger
- If you are on campus, call campus security on 024 7652 2222
You might also find the following resources helpful in times of difficulty:
- Warwick Well-Being Services
- Samaritans (call 116 123)
- Warwick Nightline (call 02476 522 199)
- Headspace App (Available on App Store or Google Play, basic pack is free)
- More on the 54321 Technique
- Mindful chocolate eating techniqu
- “There’s good days and bad days” – Good Days Bad Days, Kaiser Chiefs
- “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” – Do Re Mi, from the Sound of Music
- “Workin’ 9 to 5” – 9 to 5, Dolly Parton
- “You go ahead, let your hair down” – Put Your Records On, Corinne Bailey Rae
- “Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders” – Hey Jude, The Beatles
- “I’ll rise up and I’ll do it a thousand times again” – Rise Up, Andra Day