And really, that’s okay
Anyone who took a basic health class in high school remembers discussing the health triangle. On one side was your mental health, on another your physical health and then finally your social health. There was always the argument that you could have two, but would always struggle to have a third.
While this all seems good and fine, you end up coming to college and suddenly your health triangle is more like a tower of cards. That triangle gets even more complicated.
As college students we can feel the expectation to be in a great relationship, keep up our grades, have a job, future prospects lined up, be happy, go out drinking (but no too much), keep up on social media, stay fit, be involved and the list goes on and on with all the little intricacies that make up our individual lives.
So it’s really no wonder that so many students feel like they’re slipping. How are we all supposed to feel healthy and fulfilled when doing so would require us to be inhuman: perfect, determined and constantly on.
The expectations college students put on ourselves and that we receive from society, family and friends are unfulfillable. So what’s to be done about it?
One of the main reasons why college students seem so overwhelmed by all the things expected of them is that our individual priorities and the priorities of others don’t always line up. Personally, I always place relationships and friends near the top of my priority list. However, I think my mom would rather hear that school was at the top.
I’ve met students at NDSU who seem genuinely happy partying six nights a week and never going to class, and at the same time, I’ve met students who really don’t have any friends spend their Saturday nights doing their engineering homework.
So when we have to place what’s important to us against what is important to everyone else, it’s easy to understand why we get so easily confused, and why we so easily feel like we’re a mess.
The biggest issue here is not that we aren’t able to accomplish one-hundred percent of the things we want all of the time, the problem is instead that we never expect to accomplish these things in the first place.
To better understand, let’s look at the course of one week or 168 hours. On average, we spend about 46 of those hours sleeping. If we go to all of our classes, and we’re taking 15 credits, that brings us up to about 61 hours.
Now, add in workouts, meals, studying (on average we’re supposed to study at least two hours for every hour we’re in class), time for hygiene and a part-time job and we’re at about 140 hours for the week.
This means everything else we do for enjoyment; seeing our friends, being a part of clubs, hanging out with our significant other, volunteering, seeing movies or whatever floats your boat, we’d be given at most 18 hours to spend in any week. And that 18 hours would thin out fast when real life got in the way.
So yeah, of course we feel overwhelmed, or like we really don’t have the time or energy to do it all, because we really don’t. There is no way we could all accomplish all the things expected of the “exceptional” college student, because the only way that person exists is if they don’t sleep, take time to eat or to even enjoy themselves, and that would probably through off any health triangle.
Let yourself enjoy your college moments, let yourself mess up on one or two things every day.
Messing up is okay, in fact, we should all be messing up every day. Now is a unique time in our lives when we are given the opportunity to slip. We’re surrounded by friends, support from the university and countless opportunities. If we mess up at one thing, there are seven others waiting there for us.
Prioritizing friends, relationships and even partying are not at all unusual for college students. Not allowing yourself to enjoy these things will likely be something you come to regret when the monotony of adulthood sets in.
So let yourself enjoy your college moments, let yourself mess up on one or two things every day. Then tomorrow, fix what you screwed up, screw up some more stuff and do it all again the next day. It’s not a perfect system, but if you’re a college student, it’s the only one you’ve got.