5 Tips for the Overworked, Sleep-deprived, Caffeine-addicted Undergraduate

Shaolin Barid tackles the pressures of college life and finds 5 tips that helps her through her exam-filled days.


By Shaolin Barid  @shaolin_b6

I have faced so many difficulties as a college student this year more than I have ever faced in my life, so in honor of 2020 finally coming to an end, I have taken a couple of notes on what I’ve learned about myself. As a college student battling a degenerate sleep schedule and navigating through virtual learning simultaneously, I hope that  this article will serve as a way to hold me accountable for what’s to come next year and as a way of connecting with other college students who face the same issues as I do.

Like many of my peers, I resorted to taking all my classes online, hoping that it would be easier for me to navigate through things without commuting. While my schedule has submitted to leniency, I’ve still found myself in piles of work—which I assume is just compensation for in-person class engagement created by the works of higher education.

From one deteriorated, overworked, coffee-loving junkie to another, this is my guide to survival in 2021.


1. Get vitamin D


This summer, though it was bombarded with rising cases of COVID and health scares around the nation, has really helped me develop my mental health in so many ways. My family and I stepped away from our Bronx-bound home to spend our isolated summer in Buffalo. While I was hesitant to navigate away from the comfort of my room, I absolutely loved my time being away from the city. I spent most of my time walking around beautiful parks and empty trails, gaining a peace of mind and time away from people, which had all ultimately allowed me to keep my sanity during a time of panic. As the fall semester was approaching, I traveled back to my home in the Bronx, diving back to the recurring wave of seasonal depression that oozes out of the mass of college students every academic year. Getting vitamin D during the fall semester is just as hard as retaining valuable information in a virtual course that relies only on exams for grades.

I was able to step out and walk around outside in the sunlight at least once or twice a week this semester to relieve tension from my body and move away from my laptop. I plan on continuing to do this next year and I recommend that every college student find time within their week to step away from their screens and go outside to bask in the sun.


2. Step away from your phone. Start with 1 hour, then 2, then 6, then a full day.


Your phone is dragging you down the ladder of potential. Trust me on this one. I used to treat the time I spent on my phone as a form of relaxation but slowly, but surely, I found out how damaging it was when it came to my health. Once I looked at any type of social media on my phone, it would be very hard for me to stop scrolling. This would happen every single hour of the day and it really prevented me from being productive. It also marred my posture which is something that is vital to the development of my physical health. I know that many college students also face this same type of issue and I truly think that staying away from your phone helps productivity and health.

As classes come in full storm next semester, I vow to keep my eyes away from my phone for at least an hour everyday. As time passes by, hopefully my one hour time limit will develop to two hours and then to a full day without my phone.


3. Talk with your friends at least once a week.


As I’ve spent more time in isolation away from the vibrant presence on campus, I realize just how much I miss hanging out with friends whether it be procrastinating on schoolwork or lounging around while in deep or foolish conversation. I enjoyed the sudden change to spending time alone at first, but as months have passed by, I found that speaking to my friends on a FaceTime call is necessary. Checking up on friends during this pandemic is absolutely important as talking with other people has helped me stay grounded during such a difficult time.


4. Give yourself a break. It’s okay to not to take on a lot of responsibilities.


There’s only one thing a Virgo like me can succeed at other than overthinking and being overly critical, and that’s taking on too much responsibility and not asking for help. I’ve always thought that I performed the best (in class and in work settings) when I had many things to do at a time and for me that meant committing to more than 2 or 3 huge responsibilities. Whether that be a job, an extracurricular activity, schoolwork, volunteering, or anything similar to these in stature of effort, this made me feel like I always had something to do rather than leaving me time to procrastinate or feeling unproductive.

I’ve learned that overworking myself is detrimental to my mental health because it causes me a lot of stress and pain. It never helps me focus because I’m actively putting myself in a high-stress situation where I only ever encounter deadline after deadline. A piece of advice to myself in 2021 and to every other struggling college student who self-sabotages and burden themselves with work: take a breath and let some of those responsibilities go.


5. Be as engaging as you can in your classes.


Don’t let your virtual classroom be as awkward as it feels right now.

If there is anything I’ve learned about myself, it’s that the power of demotivation can really capture me in the least expected ways. It stems from the lack of engagement I face in my classes. This pandemic has allowed me to realize the necessity of in-person classrooms where I am able to engage with my peers and the professor face-to-face. The fact that so many of my professors’ enthusiasm for their subjects don’t translate well virtually makes it even harder to gain interest in any of my classes. The only source of motivation for me to really complete my assignments is the barring flash of failure that looms over any college student.

It’s important that we, as students, do well in classes and that often comes in the form of being as actively engaged in the class as possible. That includes speaking up in class, asking questions, communicating with the professors and communicating with your peers in those classes. While this method might not directly translate to enthusiasm and actual grade improvement, it really does help virtual classrooms feel more alive than what it seems like now.

If you haven’t already caught on, my personal development story as a college student stems from identifying what my main priority should be: my health. As college students, we often forget to take care of ourselves and that is extremely important. My tips for personal development for college students all revolve around this idea and I hope it really helps to guide those who face similar situations during their college journey.

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