Juggling classes, internships and a healthy lifestyle with a consistent workout routine can be a difficult balance to maintain. With the average AU student taking 15 credit hours, working a part-time internship and being an active member of clubs and Greek life, staying levelheaded is key.
“It’s a matter of balancing the things you want to do and the things you need to do,” said Michael O’Heron, a staff clinician at the AU Counseling Center.
As a provider of individual and group counseling crisis intervention services, O’Heron said he understands the struggle students face when organizing school, work, extracurriculars and more.
Below are five tips for balancing it all from the AU Counseling Center.
Have a planning mechanism
Whether it’s a planner, a journal, a Google calendar or just a sticky note with your to-do list, it’s essential to know what you need to get done. At this point in the semester you (hopefully) know when all your tests and finals are, but it can’t hurt to lay them out in a calendar. Do you have two tests in one day? Three papers due in the same week? It’s always helpful to know these answers ahead of time.
Amanda Warshaw, a sophomore in the School of Communication, and intern at the AU Office of Sustainability, said she uses her computer calendar to keep track of her schedule.
“I put everything in there from classes, interning, club meetings, etc.,” Warshaw said. “Laying it all out visually really helps me to stay organized.”
Create a schedule
Committing to a regular routine can be difficult at first. Once you do, it’s easier to maintain. However, it can still be hard to know how to manage your time. When registration time comes around it seems that all AU students are frantically planning their next semester.
Grace Palo, a 2016 graduate of the School of Public Affairs and the School of Communication, said creating a schedule was stressful and required flexibility.
“If I wanted to make my internship or work schedule my priority, sometimes I had to accept that I would be taking classes that weren't my top choice or maybe my second or third choice, but they let me get the experience I wanted in the professional field,” Palo said.
Know your priorities
There are a variety of ways to create your schedule and plan your days but in order to do all that, you must know your priorities. Do you need to maintain a certain GPA to get an internship, financial aid or to study abroad? Are you part of a club that has a lot of social events within a week? Do you have several commitments that may overlap with each other? Sometimes planning week-by-week is sufficient for school, but for general life events, it might be better to plan out your months.
Palo says that she has her week laid out in a way that is flexible enough to be adjusted based on personal preferences. For example, she wasn’t going to get eight to nine hours of sleep every night or eat healthily for every single meal. However, when she could prioritize that, she would, and if not, no hard feelings.
Don’t forget to eat healthy
On top of classes and working, it can seem like grabbing a burger from Elevation Burger every night or munching on a bag of chips between classes is the more convenient thing to do. However, prioritizing convenience over health can have detrimental effects in the long run.
According to the American Health Associations, avoiding foods heavy with butter, salt or sugar is the best small step for your long-term health. Even if you’re in good heart health, you should avoid fried food.
It can be as simple as adding salad to your meal instead of fries and munching on an apple instead of chips, Palo said. TDR’s salad bar is one of the consistent offerings in the dining hall and Freshii’s clean eating menu is a great place to start.
Make time for the gym
Exercising takes a little bit more effort because you need to incorporate time for it into your schedule. But, the group exercise activities offer semester long passes for as little as $75 to attend an unlimited amount of classes. There are also personal training programs available and general workout routines posted around the Cassell and Jacobs gyms.
“Working out regularly is definitely a goal I need to work on more,” Warshaw said. “So far, doing evening Zumba classes has been the best thing for me, it works good with my schedule and it’s a fun social way to stay fit.”
There are various resources on campus that inform students, faculty and staff about the healthy resources available to them on-campus as well as off-campus. AU RecFit, for example, implements wellness initiatives, programs and presentations on topics ranging from outdoor group fitness classes to a presentation on how to eat healthy on campus.
Remember: You’re a person first and a student second
Last but not least, always remember that your mental health comes first. Balancing a healthy life means balancing yourself and knowing when you’ve pushed yourself too far, said Warshaw. Resources such as the Academic Student and Access Center (ASAC) offer academic skills workshops such as “Time Management and Organization,” “Stress Management” and “Tackling Test Anxiety,” O’Heron said.
Palo’s main piece of advice is to put yourself first.
“It's really easy to get swept up with making sure you do all the right things and put your resume together,” Palo said. “Just remember you need to put your mental health first, otherwise you're not going to get any of the things you want done, you'll just hurt yourself more in the process.”
There are also a variety of mental health resources on campus through group therapies, counseling services, psychiatry, consultation and outreach workshops or presentations. These resources are here to help those struggling with their mental health.
“Sometimes, I will prioritize a good night’s sleep instead of studying those extra few minutes,” Warshaw said. “Other times, I will turn down an invite with friends to stay in to watch Netflix. It’s all about balance and sometimes remembering to put yourself first, before all your responsibilities.”