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Listen up: 5 easy steps to avoid college burnout

by jmaloni
Wed, Feb 8th 2012 12:30 pm
You may not think that having a planner is helpful, or it's just another `book` you have to carry around, but a `Little Black Book` can save your day.
You may not think that having a planner is helpful, or it's just another "book" you have to carry around, but a "Little Black Book" can save your day.

by Jeannine Alsous

Special to NFP

Feeling overwhelmed with school and work? You really want to go out with your friends, but you have a 10-page paper due tomorrow? Is your social life suffering because of how you are managing your time? Well, we have all been there and done that, but you can prevent it! Believe me, I am a prime example of burning myself out from taking on too much! But now I can handle it, thanks to these five steps, which saved me from having a nervous breakdown during my time in college!

Step 1: Buy a Planner!

You may not think that having a planner is helpful, or it's just another "book" you have to carry around. But believe me, my "Little Black Book," as I like to call it, has saved my behind. After "syllabus week" -- the first week of school when the professors give us their plan for the semester and every class ends early -- sit down for about an hour and write down every assignment, test, project and presentation in your planner.

It's genius, right?

That way, when your professor decides to move a test or extend a paper, all you have to do is go to your handy-dandy planner and change it.

The planner is not just good with academic priorities, but it's also an awesome way to keep your work schedule organized. Just like with syllabus week, when you receive your schedule from your job, write down the days of the week you work and the time you work. Doing this will prevent you from double-booking, overcrowding your day and forgetting when you work. It also makes you look very professional when you say "let me check my planner."

The last way you should use this is to write down every time you plan on going out with your friends. I know sometimes it's a "spur of the moment" thing, but trust me, this helps. If you know your friend's 21st birthday is the day before your presentation, try and schedule your presentation beforehand so you can enjoy her birthday. You don't want to miss out on your social life.

Which brings me to my next step ...

Step 2: Don't Lose Your Social Life!

College is supposed to be the best time of your life. You will regret it if you spend all your free time studying or watching "Jeopardy" (I know, because I have done it!). Having a social aspect in your life will help your body relax and not be so tense all the time. I am not saying to get drunk every night, but relaxing once in a while is a good thing.

Spending all your time alone or with your textbook will drive you insane! The first two weeks of school are the best two weeks to go out as much as you want to! There is usually never any homework; the teachers will end class early the first few classes; and you won't have any stress about tests yet!

After the first two weeks of the semester, then you have to be careful how and when you go out. If you know you have an exam at 8 a.m., should you get obliterated the night before? I don't think so. Plan to go out on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Be careful you don't over-party and let your grades suffer -- and certainly don't lose sleep!

My first semester, I went out maybe 10 times total the entire semester, because I could not balance everything yet. Then the next semester, I made sure I went out at least once a week. You need a stress relieve from school-related things. But if you are not the party- or going-out type, don't worry. There's a solution for you too.

Step 3: Get Involved on Campus!

Now, we all know someone who doesn't like to dance, drink or go out. If you are one of those people, listen up! Get involved on your campus! There are hundreds of clubs and activities you can join to bolster your social life.

You don't need to go out and get drunk every night to have a social life. If you join a club, you meet many new people and you benefit by being involved. Even if your school doesn't have a club that interests you, it's OK. Create your own club!

I am involved in different types of clubs, such as student government, multicultural group, diversity group, community service club, business club, etc. Being in these clubs has broadened my horizons in all different aspects of my university, and I've learned how certain things are run. I love all the people I have met and all the connections I have made.

Not convinced? Well, how about joining a club or intramural sport? A club sport is more organized (like a junior varsity sport in high school) and intramurals are just for fun. If you miss playing basketball, lacrosse or volleyball, then try out for a club team. If you love sports and miss playing them, then definitely think about trying out for a club sport or just playing around in intramurals at the gym.

Hmm. ... Gym. ... That brings me to my next piece of advice.

Step 4: Go to the Gym!

Most colleges have a gym where you can workout. Did you know in most cases gym use is free for students who pay a student services fee? I bet you didn't know that! Well, if you're paying thousands of dollars in fees during your four-year stay at your school, then why not take advantage of the gym?

Going to the gym will help you relieve stress in a different kind of way. When you work out, you achieve a sense of relaxation and calmness within yourself. Such activity releases endorphins, which relieve pain, enhance the immune system, reduce stress, reduce anxiety and delay the aging process.

Most gyms have aerobics classes and intramural sports you can be involved in for free, so why not take advantage of them? Also, when working out, you meet so many people. After working out for a while, you start to talk to the same people and, you never know, you might develop a relationship in the future because of it.

You may also gain an important contact for your career, which brings me to my last and final step.

Step 5: Build Your Networking Skills!

Stressed out about getting a job when you graduate? Well, if you know the right people, you shouldn't be scared about it.

Most jobs, nowadays, revolve around who you know and what they know. Having connections will help you out greatly in the long run. Whether it is a professor, an administrator, or your boss at your job, build connections with the people you meet. That person might know someone who knows someone who knows Bill Clinton (for example). You never know!

I have met so many people on campus between my jobs, my clubs, and just being a social butterfly around school. You might start up a conversation with someone at the gym who is an executive at a law firm who is looking to fill an internship. You really never know.

When you hear the saying "it's a small world," it really is. Build your networking skills and your connections, and you will have many options in your career of choice. You don't need to second-guess your choice of major because of fear of getting a job.

Your life is what you make of it, and you need to grab the bull by the horns. If you constantly stressed about where you are going after you graduate, will you have a job, how will you pay your loans etc., then you will have a panic attack. Just calm down, meet five new people every day, and see what happens!

So are you burned out? I hope not. I dealt with it, and I never want to do that again! Now I have an awesome balance of work, play, school and, well, more work!

There's no need to stress yourself out more that you already are. College is a test of how you're going to survive in the real world. Think of your classes like your job and how you have to excel at your job to get paid. You need to make it happen. Don't mess up your college experience by making bad decisions. You need to have a healthy balance and manage your time while here.

Like my dean said my freshman year, "Work hard, play hard, in that order!" I have cherished those words since my freshman year and you will too! Once you master these five steps, I promise you that you will succeed in whatever you set your mind to do.

Jeannine Alsous is a junior communications studies major at Niagara University.

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