A lot of the advice I am going to be offering you, you have quite possibly heard before. I tried to think up some fresh, new and interesting pieces of information for you to digest, but in actuality, it really is quite simple and there is no fancy way I can put it to you that’s going to make you think “Wow! I think I'm going to go sort my entire life out after reading this article written by a second year CIT student!”
Balancing work, college, and social life, it’s not rocket science, we all, in a technical sense, know how to do it, even have the tools to execute it, but that’s never the problem is it? It’s the discipline that many of us humanoids have issues with for some reason, getting into a routine is where the real work.
So no, I, a mere Good Start Ambassador, with the power of the red #JustAsk! hoodie, cannot force upon you a balanced and contentful life, that my friend, is up to you.
I can, however, offer my thoughts on the topic, and whatever advice I have within me. Enjoy!
What is Balance?
The idea of balance is different according to everyone's unique experience, and way of functioning. So, when halfway through the college year you’re stressed out and feel a bit of a mess, you find yourself frantically trawling through instagram, or God forbid, some outdated Cosmopolitan articles looking for inspiration and advice on how to get your s*it together, I beg you - STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING.
Cosmo ain’t gonna fix your problems baby! Only you can do that!
Learning what works for you and what doesn’t is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself during your college years. It takes time to figure yourself out. If you’re coming straight from secondary school you’re probably used to being told what to do all the time, how to behave, what to wear, what to say. It’s no wonder we often get overwhelmed when starting off in college - we haven’t been given the opportunity to learn what works for us, we haven’t learned how to properly take care of ourselves or even think for ourselves!
So, starting off this semester, I am inviting you to get to know yourself a little (I know, that sounds awfully cringe), find out what works for YOU, and learn how to cultivate a balanced lifestyle that is unique to you.
Why do we need balance?
While we all know, or are at least told, that a balanced lifestyle is a good thing, I want you to really think of why it might be important for you. Me personally, I know I function best when I get 8 hours of sleep, adequate amounts of social interaction with friends and family, attend all of my college classes and get started on my assignments promptly, and eat three square meals a day (and no, by meals I do not mean a pot noodle dinner washed down with a glass of cider). I function best when I make time for all of those important things.
What I have learned through my college experience (the hard way mind you) is that dedicating disproportionate amounts of time to any of the things mentioned above never works out for the best. Having a crazy social life and going out multiple times a week, was for sure a lot of fun in the first couple of weeks as a first year, but you will soon realise that that is not sustainable if you also want to succeed in other areas of your life.
Likewise, spending hours upon hours studying and writing reports and essays, is also not healthy, if it means sacrificing social time or a healthy, balanced diet in the process. Being balanced doesn’t necessarily have to mean you get up at 5am to do some yoga, drink a depressing green juice for breakfast, go to the gym every day, get all of your assignments done as soon as you get handed them or always go to bed at a reasonable hour (c’mon, no one has their sh*t together that much, and those that look like they do are lying to you).
Like I said, balance looks different for everyone. Experiment, and figure out what works for you.
My personal top tips and advice
So, with all that in mind, I am going to offer some advice, as a little treat for those of you who have actually made it this far into the blog (honestly, I applaud you). Please bear in mind that these are some of the things that work for ME, these things may or may not be of use to you, but it might get the ball rolling for you to think about how you can maintain balance in YOUR life.
My personal top tips and advice
- Making a plan: Before the start of each week, I find making a plan of the things I would like to get done is very helpful. This plan includes everything from when I want to get my assignments done to when and where I am going to get takeout with my friends on a Friday evening. I also make sure that I don’t get too down on myself if I don’t complete every single task. The weekly planner contains my goals, my best case scenarios for the week ahead. Honestly though I am human and I do fall short - that’s life.
- Writing daily/weekly reflections: This is so important for anyone interested in self improvement! Writing a short summation of your day before you go to bed, helps you see where things can be improved, where you could have made time for that assignment you put off, or how you spent a disproportionate amount of time doing this, that and the other etc. It also really helps me to maintain mindfulness in my life, and though I often forget to do it, or put it off for honestly no good reason other than laziness, I really do feel the benefit of writing a journal when I get into the habit of it. It can help us to grow, reflect, reach our goals, become more centred and aware - the benefits are endless!
- Don’t forget to make time for yourself: Ok, this is my last tip, as I feel I have bored you more than enough at this stage. But, it is a very important piece of advice in my opinion. Actually intentionally setting aside time for yourself to do something just for you, is vitally important. And I don’t just mean sitting on the couch scrolling through social media for a couple of hours - that is not making time for yourself, that is simply a form of distraction from our busy lives (at least it is for me). It is seldom an intentional pursuit, and is more often than not something I do when I am avoiding doing some work, or even avoiding doing something I actually want to do. Because, believe it or not, sometimes it’s actually harder to make time to do the things we really love doing. For me, that might be playing some piano, or singing, or doing some free writing - I love doing all of these things, yet they are most often the things I put to the side for other, “more important” tasks. When, in reality, if I hadn’t been staring at a screen for 5 hours of the day, I probably, mayyyyybe, DEFINITELY could have made time for some of these activities. So, I invite you to really try and make some time for yourself to do the things that truly bring you joy!
So, for anyone who made it to the end, you deserve a medal, I unfortunately cannot provide you with one, but at least you can live with the knowledge that I, a second year student at CIT, whom you likely will never meet in person, believes that you, the person reading this, deserves a medal.
Thank you, and I really hope you got something from it <3
(Again, neither I, or CIT are legally bound to offer you a medal upon completion of reading this article).
Ellie Fogarty, Good Start Ambassador and Theathre and Drama Student