Image Credit: Tiffany, CLCA
Imagine yourself back in the turbulent river (blog posts 1 and 2). You have conquered and succeeded in getting past the first two streams. Last time we looked at mental health and students’ academic and social lives. In this episode we will focus on mental health and students’ work life, focusing in particular on part time jobs students have while studying.
For a lot of students, it is essential to work part time, reasons include paying off their loans, getting some experience and exposure to different working environments, or even getting some extra cash on the side. Although working part time, while being a full-time student can have its upsides such as getting experience and money, it definitely can have its downsides too.
Balancing one’s academic and social lives is a challenge for a lot of students and could be a factor relating to mental health challenges. Adding in one’s work life into the mix could easily complicate these challenges further. From my personal experience, I have been working part time alongside my academic and social lives, and it has not been a smooth sailing journey for me. It took me an entire year to fully grasp proper time management and how to balance these three aspects of my university life. For instance, there would be a time where my academics would take precedence over my job and social obligations. One of these aspects of my life, either work, school or friends, would always take priority over the others, creating an imbalance that would be extremely difficult to level.
This would stress me out, increasing my stress as I was unable to truly commit to one aspect as obligations from another kept pressing down on me. At social gatherings my mind would be on my assignments and deadlines, or at work I wished I would have attended a social gathering I was invited to. All these worries would add to my stress, and I would have to make up time to either catch up on my studies by staying up late and making time to meet my friends at another time, leading to me falling behind with my deadlines further. And thus, resulting in me getting caught in a vicious cycle.
However, only when I found out my limits and what I could and could not commit to, I realized that there was a way to balance all three aspects. Even though, there is no perfect balance, I did the best I could. Saying “no” to certain social gatherings and setting up another comfortable time to meet, prioritizing certain tasks over others, creating an efficient means to manage my time and obligations. These were some of the ways I tackled in leveling my busy life revolving around my academic, social and work life.
I asked some my peers, who are also working part time at work learn positions around campus, some of the challenges facing balancing work with their academic and social lives and how they maintain their mental health. Most claimed that balancing time between other work, classes, studying and friends can be challenging. This builds up to stress, which can bite into your sleep, or your time to eat, while you are trying to catch up on your commitments. Some of the coping mechanisms that my peers follow to ease their pressure and maintain a mentally healthy lifestyle among their hectic schedules are:
- Taking breaks. Breaks help contain the stress and hectic flow of the day that can build up and affect your mental health.
- Taking time out to exercise; physical exercise helps your energy to flow. Check out this study showing the correlation between physical exercise and its effects on mental health.
- Listening to music. In these breaks, getting time to listen to music helps ease your mind and enjoy your time. The following article highlights the various benefits of listening to music.
- Using guided meditation apps to alleviate the stress and pressure of a busy and hectic schedule. One of our CLCA’s wrote a blog about the link between mental well-being and academic success and mindful meditation. Check it out here.
- And lastly, if there are too many tasks and activities overwhelming you, using a calendar to visualize and manage your tasks and deadlines and setting concrete goals tremendously helps to improve your mental health and the constant stress on your mind. For more tips on how to manage your time, check out our “Time Management Toolkit” and UBC’s “Assignment Calculator”, which helps you highlight the steps you need to take in order to complete a big assignment.
There are studies, for example this one, done showing that it is beneficial to work part time, alongside your university and social lives. According to the linked study above, the key to make this experience beneficial is working in an area that interests you, and one that allows you to be flexible with your time. All work-learn position at the University of British Columbia give your academics priority and schedule you around your available times. Having a flexible work schedule allows you to allocate your time to other matters as well.
In the beginning, when you have just started to work and started to balance your work, academic and social lives, it may seem straightforward and easy. However, it could get out of control when everything starts to pick up. The most important advice I can offer, from my experience, is to make time for yourself, and to focus on easing and improving your mental health first.
*Just a reminder that everyone is different and going through different feelings and experiences. These steps are general steps everyone can take to improve their mental well-being. *
What Steps Can You Take to Look After Yourself?
As students, we are ambitious to succeed and accomplish all our goals. Trying to balance a full schedule with work, classes and friends can make us stressed and worried, which negatively affects our mental health. Below are some coping mechanisms and steps you can take to look after yourself and your mental health; as well as resources in and around the UBC campus you can use.
- Take breaks for yourself. Between work, studying and visiting friends take a break and relax to recharge your energy.
- Talk to your manager/supervisors at work if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. All employers understand you are a student and will support you and help you to improve your mental health.
- Take some time to recuperate. In the midst of a busy week, take the weekend off and take everything in. This will help you plan out your coming week.
- Add your plans and deadlines to a calendar where you can visualize your goals. A visual reminder helps work towards your goal in a more systematic way and alleviates the stress.
- Do activities that make you happy and calm. These may include listening to music, reading a book, watching a movie or T.V. show.
- Most importantly, amidst the busy schedule, take care of your body and mind by eating healthy, exercising, meditating and getting enough sleep.
The concept of “balance”, again, is a tricky concept. No one can achieve true balance in and around their lives. However, they can come very close and leave a healthy lifestyle. Here is another great resource to find how to work on your physical well-being and social connections and relationships to improve and work towards that overall healthy lifestyle.
In the end, we are human beings and our minds and bodies are not invincible. Know your limit and take breaks to recharge and rest your mind and body. Even though we would like to immerse ourselves in doing everything (working, studying and spending time with friends), it may lead to excessive stress, which may affect your mental health negatively.
You are never truly alone in any journey you take. Reaching out and talking about one’s mental health is definitely the hardest step in the path of improvement; however, it is also the most important and the bravest step. Keep in mind, the following resources are accessible by all students and are here to help students struggling with their mental well-being.
These UBC related resources include:
- UBC AMS Speakeasy: talk to a trained peer who will take the time to really listen to your struggles
- UBC Wellness Centre: have a proactive wellness conversation with a Wellness Peer and learn about resources on campus
- UBC Counselling Services: talk to a Wellness Advisor or book a single-session appointment with a counsellor
- EmpowerMe: call to speak to a mental health professional 24/7 and to book an appointment with a counsellor in person, over the phone or via video chat