Hi everyone! Happy Wellness Week, and happy Academic Wellness Day 🙂
In post-secondary academics, student wellness appears infinitely less important than the outcomes they are able to achieve in their courses. The implications of this for us students are immense. This is shown time and time again in research, with Canadian university students being the most likely age group to have a psychological disorder.
While I do truly believe that more can and should be done at an institutional level to protect the mental health and well-being of university students, I also think that there are small things we can each do to help out ourselves.
On that note: what actually is academic wellness and how do we get more of it???
For me, academic wellness revolves around finding balance (cheesy, I know).
Balance Between Expectations and Self-Esteem:
Obviously, a university student’s goal is to do well so that we can set ourselves up for our future and whatnot. We all have an expectation of the outcomes we expect ourselves to achieve in our courses, and can be affected quite intensely when we do not meet those expectations.
Personally, when I do not do my best on an exam, I get really upset with myself. During these moments, I literally call myself “stupid”, and genuinely mean it. But, 99% of the time, I don’t actually think that I am stupid at all. Why is it so easy to tell myself that I am stupid after I have made a few silly mistakes on a test???
I personally believe that the damage that is done by this kind of self-talk is long-lasting, and can reinforce the ideas that mistakes are not okay. We are repeatedly telling ourselves that we are no longer worthy if we make mistakes, and are only worthy if we meet our expectations and “do well” in things. This kind of thinking is really dangerous, and leaves us university students vulnerable. If we believe we are only worthy when we meet arbitrary expectations, that also means that our senses of self-esteem rest on subjective numbers written on pieces of paper, and can change drastically every single time we receive the next grade.
So, what is the key to finding balance?
If I had the key, I wouldn’t hesitate to share it. But, I have no clue what the answer is. My personal (completely dysfunctional) approach is to work myself into the ground to ensure that I cannot receive “bad” marks, and that I will always meet my expectations for myself. There are two major flaws to this method.
First: it doesn’t work. No matter how much I try to control everything, I will never be able to control my professors, my tests, and the fact that we ALL MAKE SILLY MISTAKES. (For some reason, I keep trying though).
Second: it is extremely unhealthy. Like I mentioned above, methods like this reinforce several damaging messages to university students like myself. Messages like: “My mental health and well-being is less important than how I do on this ______”; “I am only worthy if I get _____ on this _____”.
What would balance actually look like? I guess it would look like a separation of our self-esteem and our school outcomes, which is extremely difficult to do. Perhaps, remaining mindful of our negative and damaging self-talk on a daily basis could help us all reach a more balanced place in relation to these topics.
Here’s to hoping 😉
Balance Between Work and Self-Care:
Is there any way to actually have time for self-care when you are a university student?!?! I don’t know about you, but that seems like an imaginary idea to me.
The level of coursework university students are expected to complete is immense. Plus, we are prompted to study beyond our first degree, to volunteer in multiple places during our schooling, to have a fully flushed out resume/CV, etc..
Many of us are also working jobs on the side, to ensure we have a place to live and food to eat. This takes up another massive portion of time.
(I have actually done this before: when you add up the estimated hourly time it takes to complete all of the weekly requirements of a university student that I just mentioned, the only thing left is the amount of hours required of sleep for the week…….).
Does that seem realistic to anyone?!?!?!?
In my opinion, the expectations placed on us by educational institutions and the workforce are not realistic, and are the primary culprit of breeding an imbalanced, over-working, and under-self-caring culture among university students. However, this is our current reality; therefore, the most relevant question is: what can we do to help ourselves?
Again, if I had the answer to this, I would be jumping with joy and excitement to share it with all of you. But, as a fellow university student, this is a weekly battle for me as well. For example, implying that I should go to bed at a reasonable time instead of staying up to work on something that “absolutely needs to be completed in morning” would be a futile argument to ever attempt with me. I can tell you right now that I would absolutely never even consider the idea of not completing something because I chose to put my sleep first.
Because I know I absolutely will not budge on meeting strict deadlines, or missing assignments, or leaving any schoolwork incomplete, there are a few small things I try to do for myself in other areas in attempt to mix some self-care into my workaholic student lifestyle.
- I choose volunteer positions that I have a meaningful connection to, and interest in. In my experience, volunteering my time and energy for things that satisfy my soul, and allow me to help others in an area that I intrinsically care about is incredibly rewarding. It literally turns helping others into a form of self-care.
- I do not take work of any kind into my bedroom. Even though I can’t always shut down for the day/evening/night as early as I would like, I always leave my work outside my bedroom door. By doing this, I know I will always have a place and time in my daily life that only serves for relaxation, decompression, and recharging.
- I start early. This seems random, and not related at all. I promise it is; just hear me out: I start everything as early as I can, because it allows me to live a more balanced life on a daily basis. It helps me avoid the piling up of schoolwork that can result in those late nights at the computer where I choose finishing things over sleeping.
I am sure there are many other ways one can find balance in this area; these are simply a few that genuinely have helped me find more balance between working and caring for myself. I encourage you to research other resources on this, and find a few techniques that work for you, and can help you add pockets of self-care into the unavoidably draining lifestyle of a university student.
PS: it is also totally okay if you can’t seem to find any balance; there is no need to punish yourself for this either; we are all imperfect, and we are all just trying our best.
Screw the stigma<3
The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.