The Consequences of Overloading in University: My Advice

Click here for Part 1!

My Reflection:

Reflecting on my past two university years, I can say something. It is 100% a ‘me’ problem. Somehow, I find myself always saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities that come my way. While this is not a bad thing, it can become one.

In the previous article, I talked a lot about my school, internship and CCA responsibilities, but what about my own ‘me time,’ my social life and my family? I still had to find what little time I had to cater for those. There were times I went home and barely interacted with my family because I was too busy catching up on sleep, or times when I had to cancel plans with friends for alone time. There are just a lot of factors to consider . I know some people who may get sensitive and feel disregarded or ignored, which is why I am so grateful to my friends and family for understanding my situation.

Even if I was a bit distant, they only worried if I was getting enough rest. I felt bad because there were times when I was physically present in a hangout, but I was mentally elsewhere, and you can see the weeks of exhaustion show up in my eyes and eye bags. I am truly grateful for everyone who supported me during this time, especially since the past few months were busier and more difficult than year 1.

My Advice:

It may seem simple, but please learn to say ‘no.’ I know it may seem repetitive since, as students, we always receive advice with a similar sentiment, but to be honest, do we actually listen? Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to be more on the stubborn and overachieving side. In all honesty, I feel like I am a normal student, and I don’t feel super accomplished, but I have that side of me that wants to try everything — that wants to succeed in everything. However, we are only human. It is impossible to do everything all at once without losing part of yourself along the way. If you manage to do all that with no struggle, I applaud you, but not everyone can be like that.

I can say that planning out your schedule definitely helps. It’s a visual representation of everything you must do. I recommend starting with putting your class schedule onto a calendar like Google Calendar or your phone calendar. From there, expand and start adding in your CCAs, and if you have any plans to go home or hang out with your family and friends, add those in too.

After a while, you will be able to see on that calendar how much time you have for yourself to study or relax, and it can be quite overwhelming if you are the type who takes up any opportunity that goes their way as I do.

Another thing to note is that if you have a vague idea of what your schedule will look like during the semester, plan it early. When it’s time to bid for your modules, you should have it ready. If you know that your CCA will end very late into the night and you won’t be sleeping early, it’s time to look out for modules that have classes or lectures in the afternoon.

We can fool ourselves that we can wake up for those morning classes, and we may be able to at first. Realistically, it is not sustainable because exhaustion builds up. If whatever responsibility you have ends at 3 AM for 3 months straight, you won’t be able to wake up for that 8.30AM class by the 2nd month of that schedule. Trust me.

Another thing is that if you know you’re going to end late and you’re the type to oversleep, don’t go for supper after trainings. Sure, it’s fine to hang out occasionally, especially if you have nothing the next day. However, it’s better for you to rest earlier and just hang out with your friends another time. The world can wait for you to be free, so don’t force yourself to free up time you don’t have.

The Importance of Rest:

I know it may seem redundant to have a whole section dedicated to rest, but I really want to emphasise the importance of rest. Lack of rest and sleep contribute to increasing stress levels, which in turn affects your mental and physical health.

I don’t want to nag or mention too many scientific facts but catching up on rest is important and being sleep deprived is not a good thing. For more information about how sleep deprivation affects the body, you can watch this YouTube video: What Happens To Your Body And Brain If You Don’t Get Sleep | The Human Body

Do not reject rest for the sake of your health. When tired, it’s easier to become more irritable or bothered by the smallest thing. I know I am more irritable when I’m tired, and I am not able to give my best in whatever I’m doing because I am too distracted with being tired. Don’t let your body crash before you start listening to it.

Before you can give the best of yourself to others in whatever you’re participating in, you need to give the best of yourself to yourself.

There is no such thing as ‘sleep is for the weak’ because having no sleep makes you weak. It makes us easily distracted, and exhausted, and we lose a bit of ourselves in the sense that there will always be a part of us that is mentally not there when we’re tired. We slip into daydreams more easily and may doze off more easily.

So please, if you need to rest, just do it. Remember to put yourself first.

If there is anything you can let go of, just let go of them for your own sake. Give up the things that may not be as important, and if everything is important, ask others for help. Don’t fight losing battles by yourself. You cannot give 100% every single time, and that is okay; it’s realistic. Remember to balance your time as much as possible and learn when to say ‘no’ to new opportunities.

If you really want to say ‘yes’, make sure you plan your time well and let go of the other things that may not be super important. Give yourself leeway to rest and relax, even if it means resting by yourself. Your friends and family will understand if you cannot spend time for one week because you need time for yourself.

Conclusion:

If you’re like me, STOP! Okay, I’m kidding. I know it’s hard, but learn when to say no and balance your time well. The rest of the world can wait for you, so stop thinking you must rush and finish everything that you think you need to do. You don’t need to do everything; just learn how to pick and choose more carefully.

I know it may seem exciting to have access to so many different opportunities, but it’s okay to let go of some now. There will always be more in the future. The ability to take up new things does not stop at university: you could be working a full-time job at 50 years old, and opportunities will still come knocking at your door. So, don’t feel like time is running out because there will always be time to do something else and do more than what you’re capable of.

I think something that helps me is asking myself whether, in 10 years, I will regret not taking up this opportunity. It helps me realise I may not even remember an experience in 10 years. For the ones I know I will keep close to my heart, I continue if I am able to.

However, remember the worst regret 10 years from now is the regret of not taking care of yourself better. If your mental and physical health are suffering, choose to quit whatever is taking up the bulk of your time (if you can) and use that time for yourself. You are not alone, and people will always be available to help you throughout this journey.

Good luck, and make sure to rest more!

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