Are you a working student? With our emphasis on Adult Education, many Ashton students are. It’s great if you can focus on your studies exclusively but that’s often not possible. If your responsibilities include caregiving for family or working full or part-time, than it can be a big struggle to find balance and succeed in all areas. This can leave you stressed or burnt-out.
Here are three tips to help you maintain good mental health
1.Be gentle with yourself
Sometimes we ask too much of ourselves. If you are a perfectionist or a high-achiever you might be pushing yourself too hard. It’s one thing to have a busy schedule and want excellence, but it’s another thing if you are unkind to yourself in the process.
Give yourself a personal mantra – a reminder to ease up with the pressure. Praise yourself instead of blaming yourself. A mantra or affirmation can help you relax and focus on what’s important. Here’s some I use when I catch self-critical thoughts and feelings sneaking in.
- Progress not Perfection
- Imperfect Action
- Baby Steps
You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to get it all done all the time. Your best right now might not be what you would like it to be, but so what? You have a lot on your plate. Be gentle with yourself.
2. Set boundaries
If you’ve taken on too much – at work, at home, at school – it’s time to set some boundaries. Set them with yourself first. Get clear about what is draining your energy the most and how you can adjust your workload or schedule.
Sit down with a notepad and assess your situation to determine where you are most struggling. Ask yourself where can I pull back in order to get more time or space or peace-of-mind?
Your next step is to communicate with your work or school or family and communicate your challenges and discuss solutions.
If you are a people pleaser, setting boundaries is a real lifesaver for you. The cost of not saying no is that you may burn yourself out pleasing others and not having the energy to complete your own studies and meet your goals. Slow down, step back, and take a look at whether you are doing too much. Set some boundaries with yourself and others. It’s better to identify early when you are reaching a point of overwhelm with your schedule and responsibilities. The longer you try and push past a punishing schedule, the worse the impacts on your mental health.
Ultimately it takes strength and resilience to complete a post-secondary program especially when you are also working and/or care-giving at home. Don’t let your mental health run-to-failure, instead set boundaries to make sure you will have the stamina to complete the goals you have set out for yourself. It’s critical not to overschedule yourself.
When I counseled working students about Ashton Admissions I would steer them toward the part-time online programs because of the flexibility and the workload. It’s a lot to ask of yourself if your schedule is already busy with work or family to then add a fulltime course load.
Often people just want to graduate with their credentials sooner, but the risk to your mental health and the danger that you won’t be able to juggle everything successfully isn’t worth graduating a year sooner. It’s better to be realistic about what you can do and take your time getting there.
You are playing a long game so don’t think like a sprinter, think like a marathon runner. Go slow, nourish yourself, take regular breaks and get proper sleep.
3. Ask for support
Think about what kind of support you need to succeed. Make a list of what your ideal support system looks like. It might include: Adjusted work schedule, extra help with studies (tutor, test-prep course, homework group), transfer to a part-time program, support with meal-prep, child-care, or housekeeping.
If you are the type of person who others rely on for support, the go-to person in your family or friends circle, than you might try a role-reversal for a change and ask others to support you. It’s important that you know you too deserve to have your needs met. What would make your life easier and who can help you with that?
Go ahead and ask for support. Maybe you don’t realize how much support is available for you. Oftentimes, we don’t ask for the help we need. Maybe we feel embarrassed that we can’t do it all ourselves. Maybe we don’t think someone wants to help us or is able to help us. The truth is sometimes we are just making this up in our minds. Ask for what you need. You might be surprised by how easy it is to get it. Even if it doesn’t go well, at least you stood up for yourself and did your best.
Keep breathing. Keep smiling. You can do this. Just don’t expect to do it perfectly.
Do it slowly and imperfectly and be kind to yourself along the way.