Overheard On Campus: I feel overwhelmed juggling a family, work and school. What are some ways to cope?

Contributed by Melissa Kelley, M.S., C.H.E.S., Daniel Gittins, M.A., & Rebecca Smith, M.A., L.C.P.C., C.S.A.T.
Introduction by Tyler Achilles

You may feel, at times, that you’re the only person juggling family, work, and school and others are simply strolling through life without any stress. The truth is that almost everyone has multiple things on their plate at the same time. It’s part of the whole work-life balance idea you probably hear about on daytime lifestyle TV shows, and it’s not going away. The operative word is “balance,” and if you can master it, then chances are you’ll be able to cope a lot better with the stress you’re feeling. Check out what some of our experts have to say about achieving balance.

Stressed out student

Melissa Kelley, health educator at University of Rochester, recommends …

Coping with stress is an essential skill. Juggling school, work, and family or friends can take a lot out of you. Here are some tips for balancing it all!

  1. Give yourself a time out. It sounds silly but it’s important to take time to relax and rejuvenate. Consider reading a book you think you would enjoy or go for a walk and breathe in some of that fresh spring air!
  2. Learn to say no. Momma always said we can’t please everyone – it’s okay to say no. Tests and papers cannot wait – but a night out with friends can.
  3. Practice time management. Being organized and keeping a schedule is one of the first steps to managing your time. Do your schoolwork when you are most productive, and schedule frequent breaks to give your mind a rest!

Daniel Gittins, AOD coordinator at Duquesne University, says …

Find balance. Learn and practice prioritizing. Some things you just cannot do – despite your motivation and desire to do them.

It’s important to find balance between three elements:  physical, spiritual, and emotional. Physical has its own three: eat, sleep, and exercise. The more balance you have in those three areas, the less stress you will feel. Try to get good nutritional value from the foods you eat, even when on the go (i.e., avoid fast food); make sure you’re rested; and do some physical activity. Stress adds a chemical to the body that needs to be absorbed or it can cause long-lasting issues to you.

The spiritual part involves having some goal or understanding that there are things out there that are bigger than us. We can’t do and be all things to all people. Know your value, and focus on that. Family and school are priorities. Friends and socializing are really important also, but in right times and doses. There are times during the semester when you’ll have a greater workload and stressful experiences – hold off on too much socializing during those times.

For the emotional aspect, you should monitor your mood, and try to take control of the factors that are affecting you most; for instance, lack of sleep can cause emotional stress for some people. Too much noise or activity can be stressful for others. Know what triggers you, and minimize those things the best you can.

Finally, keep your expectations realistic.  You cannot be all and do all, all of the time. That idea is made for TV and movies – not real life.  Give yourself a break and prioritize that which matters.

Rebecca Smith, counselor at Aurora University, says …

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re trying to balance multiple things on a daily basis. The easiest way to bring down stress is through breathing. Stress relief breathing is quick, easy, and can be done almost anywhere. You want to slowly inhale through your nose while counting to five. Then let the air out through your mouth while trying to count to eight. Doing this for even just a few minutes will slow down your heart rate and help relax your chest and back muscles that get really tight when you’re stressed.

Make time to exercise, eat right, and get the proper amount of rest. It’s hard to balance everything. I find that people skip breaks to get more study time. If you take just 20 minutes to nap, exercise, or make a good meal, you will actually need less time to study. If you skip those 20 minutes you will actually take longer to complete the work because your brain hasn’t had time to rest.

It’s also good to use positive affirmations when you feel stressed. Stress tends to make your brain focus on problems. Write down some positive statements about yourself and the situation. Then when your mind tends to head in a negative direction you can pull out your positive statements to help calm the worries.

How do you find balance?

One thought on “Overheard On Campus: I feel overwhelmed juggling a family, work and school. What are some ways to cope?

  1. I currently have class 9 till 2 mon, wed, and fri, and 1 till 8 tues and thurs. I work from 4 to 10 pretty much everyday, but mornings on tuesday and im off thursday. So i hang out with friends after work or class. Its just so frustrating when my boyfriend will bring friends over and they are ready to leave as soon as i walk in the door. So not only am i tired from the long day, it seems as if i get shunned because no one wants to hang out longer than 10:30. But, the semester is almost over so maybe next semester i can be social when the sun is up… maybe more than just before 4 on weekends…

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