Over the past few weeks I had the pleasure of delivering training to some part-time students at a Dublin University. These students are embarking on a course of study, alongside working full time. Many are also balancing college with family commitments, running households and maintaining meaningful relationships and activities.
Studying is a marathon, not a sprint
For all students heading into college or school this September, it is worth bearing in mind that challenge you are taking on is akin to a marathon, not a sprint. We need to pace ourselves and resource ourselves for the long haul, not just getting out of the starting blocks.
As we prepare for a course, we often focus on the books, stationary, filing systems and study apps that we need to succeed with our studies. Colleges and schools introduce study skills sessions. They deliver training in using the library, how to reference correctly or how to write assignments. All of these are tools and resources that will help us achieve the qualification we are looking for.
Health and wellbeing is our biggest resource
However, one of the most vital resources that will support us in successfully reaching our study goals is our mental health and wellbeing. In preparing for our studies, we should factor in what we need to do to protect our mental health. How do we avoid the stress and burnout that can so quickly take over?
Very helpful introduction. Gave me a framework to refer to in relation to stress and time management.participant on 3rd level workshop ‘Looking After Wellbeing and Mental Health’
Maintain a balance
Occupational Therapists advocate for having a balance between self-care, productivity and leisure based activities. When we spend too much or too little time in any of these areas, our health can be affected. Often when we feel stressed or under pressure, the first things we drop are leisure and relaxation activities. These are the things that bring us joy and energise us. So although we may feel that stopping them will give us more time to do things like study, we can also have less energy as a result. In the end, it actually doesn’t help. The impact of not caring for ourselves in this way is explained by burnout expert Dr Marie Asberg from the Karolinska Institute as ‘The Exhaustion Funnel’.
Make a plan
Putting strategies in place to look after our mental health from the beginning of a course of study increases our chances of successfully reaching the end. This is why I am delighted that many universities are now investing in the mental health and wellbeing of their students.