If you make the decision to work and study, it can be daunting, to say the least. When school and work become your priorities, your physical/mental health and your relationships are often neglected. This often results in feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few suggestions to minimize stress levels and help you thrive.
1. Create a schedule. Put important dates into your calendar at the beginning of the semester. Review your week ahead and estimate how many hours you’ll need to fulfill each task (homework, projects, paperwork, family duties). Block off enough time to study so that you can adjust if necessary. If possible, schedule extra time for last-minute tasks or emergencies. Communicate your schedule to your support network and anyone else affected, like your manager, teammates, and clients at work. And of course, be sure to devote time to essentials, such as sleep, nutrition, and exercise! For more on time management, check out this resource from McGill’s Student Accessibility and Achievement.
2. Set realistic goals. Know what your limits are and how much time you can realistically dedicate to your studies. It may make more sense to take 1 or 2 classes at a time. This might mean that completion of your studies is delayed, but it will help keep stress levels to a minimum.
3. Prioritize. Identify and regularly update your priorities and accept that one or more things will have to take a backseat. It’s okay if the laundry piles up and the house doesn’t get cleaned as often. Pass on the occasional social outing as well.
4. Don’t forget about your health. When life gets busy, we often sacrifice important needs such as sleep and nutrition. Both are crucial to optimal functioning. Sleep enhances our concentration, memory, problem-solving, and emotion regulation. Eating nutritiously can be difficult when busy, but meal planning and keeping an array of healthy snacks on hand help ensure that your energy levels are restored. Regular exercise is also essential in keeping stress levels low. It may seem impossible to squeeze an exercise session into an already crammed schedule, but taking the stairs, going out for a walk at lunch, or participating in short exercise videos online are great ways to fit physical activity into your routine.
5. Keep sight of your long-term goal(s). Sometimes when we are feeling overwhelmed, we lose sight of the larger picture. Remember that studying is an important investment with many long-lasting benefits. Also, keep in mind that the chaos of working and studying will eventually come to an end.
6. Be aware of signs of burnout and seek out support if needed. Disengagement from work/studies, loss of motivation and a sense of hopelessness can indicate a burnout. If you notice persisting patterns of anxiety, irritability, sadness, physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomach problems, chest pains), problems sleeping, changes in appetite, or substance use, it would be a good idea to seek out help. If you would like support with finding mental health resources, please reach out to your faculty’s Local Wellness Advisor.
About the writer:
Lisa Tomlinson is a licensed mental health professional and the Local Wellness Advisor (LWA) for the School of Continuing Studies. She is available to Continuing Studies students for confidential, short-term mental health support and referral to resources. Book an appointment.