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DARKOA: Your well-being cannot be neglected

Column: As It Is

Creating a healthy sleep schedule is just one way to take care of yourself.  – Photo by

Now that we are in the midst of the fall semester, many students (including myself) are experiencing the full pressure of what it means to be full-time college students. We need to face it — academics are not easy. Aside from attending roughly 320 to 480 minutes of lectures each week, many of us are also grappling with work, extracurricular commitments, sports teams and clubs.

This goes without saying, but at times, commitments can be overwhelming. The number one impediment to academic performance is stress, and roughly 6 in 10 college students have felt so stressed at some point that they could not get work done, according to New York University. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, we tend to forget that rest is just as important as work.

As college students, it can be easy to forget that in order to perform well academically, we need to give our minds and bodies time to rejuvenate. I speak from experience, having experienced burnout in previous semesters.

At the beginning of college, I genuinely believed that doing well in school was all that mattered, even if it came at the expense of my mental and emotional health. I distinctly remember staying up past 3 a.m. to complete schoolwork and surviving on 4 hours of sleep at times.

Ironically, by focusing too much on academics and neglecting other aspects of my life, the quality of both my schoolwork and life decreased dramatically. It was not until I honestly began examining my habits that I realized just how much I was neglecting to take care of myself.

After some much-needed months of deep introspection and modifying my habits, I can say that I no longer compromise on my well-being. I know that my experience is not unique and that across the nation, thousands of college students can relate to burning out, hence why I would like to share two ways in which you can begin prioritizing your well-being.

The first habit is modifying your sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Like all new habits, repetition is crucial. This can seem daunting at first since college students are often used to unhealthy sleep patterns, but lack of sleep is linked directly to disturbances in brain function, which consequently has a negative impact on academic performance.

Sleep is one of those things that — when taken seriously — can truly impact how well you function throughout the day. Your sleep schedule does not necessarily have to be perfect. It just has to work for you!

In general, aim for between 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. So if you know that you are more likely to sleep later on in the night then be prepared to wake up later on in the day. Likewise, if you know that you are likely to sleep earlier in the night, then be prepared to wake up earlier in the day. Like most things, the more you practice, the easier it will become.

Aside from modifying your sleep schedule as needed, you can also improve your wellness by striving for some movement each day. In fact, all of the Rutgers' recreation centers are now open, and reservations are no longer needed!

Like most people, before I began going to the gym, I assumed that exercise was negotiable. But after consistently exercising for more than a month now, I can say that my energy levels and general ability to concentrate have improved greatly. If going to the gym initially seems too daunting, pair up with a friend or a roommate. This way, you can get some quality time in while also exercising.

If you are still hesitant, then just remember that there are many other ways to move, such as yoga or even a brisk walk around campus. Many of the recreation centers also offer group workout sessions as well. No matter what you prefer, just try your best to get some movement each day. Trust me, your body will thank you!

Although all of the aforementioned tips are great ways to improve your quality of life, it is also important to remember that balance is key. College is a time of growth, and as such, it is inevitable that many of us will be pushed beyond our comfort zones. Incorporating these lifestyle changes into our lives is a process and should be treated as such.

No one is perfect, and in our fast-paced environment, our slightest effort to even prioritize our well-being should be celebrated. The goal is not to have a perfect work-life balance because for most people that is impossible. Perfection should not matter so much. What does matter is that we take the necessary steps to ensure that we are caring for ourselves in any way that we can.

Vanessa Darkoa is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English and minoring in history and education. Her column, "As It Is," runs on alternate Thursdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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