It’s a Wednesday night. You’ve spent your day attending multiple classes and club meetings, and you’ve been working in the library for hours. You’re exhausted, and you practically collapse on the couch.
Just as you are all set to relax, you remember the girl from class this morning who shared that on top of her ten other extracurriculars and perfect grades, she had just secured a prestigious internship as well. All of a sudden, you reach for your laptop instead of the remote because you want a job as good as hers.
You know that voice in your head telling you that you’re not doing enough? The one that takes over your mind the minute you finally sit down after a long day, telling you not to relax? The one shaming you for not spending your free time perfecting your resume, networking or being involved in more clubs?
I told that voice to shut up, and I’ve never felt better.
While getting additional experience and further enhancing your education outside of the classroom is no doubt beneficial, adding extra stress to the already stressful lives of college students can be detrimental.
It’s no surprise that college is a challenging time for everyone. According to Lehigh’s Counseling & Psychological Services website, college students commonly experience many issues that can pose major challenges to study, play, socializing and living. These issues include homesickness, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression and trauma.
Data from The American College Health Association shows that 65.7% of college students have experienced overwhelming anxiety, and 45.1% say depression impacts their normal functioning. The number of college students diagnosed with mental health issues is on the rise, with one in four having a mental illness in 2020.
On top of this, 70% of college students report attaining insufficient sleep, 48% have moderate or severe psychological stress and 53% report being lonely.
Despite all of the obstacles college students face just to go to class, there is an increased pressure to be going above and beyond just getting the degree. Students feel they need to excel in every aspect of college — from leadership, to networking to extracurriculars — just to get a job in the competitive workforce.
This increased pressure can deteriorate college students’ mental health, driving them to exhaustion, burnout and an overall decrease in motivation.
The truth is you don’t need to spread yourself thin and exhaust yourself perfecting every area of your resume. You only need to focus on one thing: finding what interests you and what you are passionate about. Using this time in college to explore different interests and find your identity will prepare you for the “real world” more than any extracurriculars will.
That’s because great power comes from taking control of your mental health, learning when to take a break and choosing what to put your energy into. While you might put a copious amount of pressure on yourself to master every collegiate opportunity that comes your way, life after college is not defined by the amount of experience you have, but by what you do with that experience.
That’s why it’s been my objective this semester to be kind to myself and credit myself for the work I have done, not the work I haven’t done. I’ve allowed myself to relax when I need to and it’s made me feel incredibly better.
Along with this, I’ve tried to take away the pressure I’ve always put on myself to be involved in numerous organizations on campus. Instead, I’ve tried to focus my energy in a few areas that I care the most deeply about.
I frequently have to tell myself, “there’s always going to be someone who’s doing more, but that doesn’t mean you’re not successful. Going to college is an accomplishment, whether you’re in one club or 10, as long as you are trying your best,” but I’m extremely happy I do. The amount of stress I have taken out of my life by repeating this mentality is truly immeasurable.
Since then, it’s crazy how much more motivated I am to try new things because I’m doing it out of passion and interest, not just to get a job one day. Along with that, I feel as though I have earned a better sense of self. I am one step closer to knowing what I want to accomplish in life because I eliminated the toxic mentality that I have to be perfect at everything.
So take a deep breath and grab the remote when you feel you need to, because you and that girl from class can both get a great job without burning out in the process.
Love this!! Addressing a poignant issue that many college students face. This is something so many kids these day could afford to read.