The relentless pace of modern life makes work-life balance seem almost impossible. With deadlines looming and bills to pay, your social plans, fitness and sleep suffer, harming relationships, health and overall happiness.

We’ve put together a simple guide with some helpful tips to reduce the pressure and help you enjoy your university experience.

Are you a Perfectionist?

Having fought through competitive examinations and application processes to be here, many students have perfectionists habits.

Perfectionists tend to set standards so high that they are impossible to reach, or are only met with great difficulty. Perfectionists believe that anything slightly short of perfection is horrible and that even minor imperfections will lead to disaster.

For a perfectionist, every exam, assignment and activity must be perfect to succeed. This may have worked in high school or college, yet as your life expands to include new responsibilities, perfectionism can be destructive. A more complicated social life, caring for yourself and part-time employment all take more time, and the old perfectionist habit becomes impossible to reach.

Do I have perfectionist habits?

Try asking yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have trouble meeting your standards?
  2. Do you feel frustrated while trying to meet your standards?
  3. Have friends told you your standards are too high?
  4. Do your standards get in the way? For example, do they make it difficult for you to meet deadlines, finish a task, trust others, or do anything spontaneously?

Overcoming perfectionist habits

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, consider trying ‘excellence’ instead. Whereas a perfectionist would work day and night, a habit of excellence means:

  • Completing work to the best of your abilities within the time available. Try setting yourself a generous but fixed amount of time for each task, breaking assignments down into manageable chunks. Don’t forget to reward yourself when you’ve completed the task.
  • Look at the big picture. Consider what matters and what is worth your time and worry. For example, worrying over what font to use for an email is unproductive.
  • Taking regular breaks. Even short breaks increase productivity and creativity according to research, by helping you stay focused. Why spend 3 hours working in a distracted state, when 1 hour could do?
  • Compromise when your workload is demanding. For example, instead of planning to spend 5 hours on a presentation, consider spending 3 hours instead.

Unplug for 1 hour a day

Research suggests that turning off your phone can have huge benefits:

  • Your brain works better when not multi-tasking – and waiting for notifications counts
  • You’ll make better friendships by being fully present and paying attention during conversations
  • You’ll sleep better – phone notifications and that blue light can disturb sleep

Try turning off your phone whilst at the gym, in a lecture or before bed.

Ask for help

It’s okay to ask for help.

If the expectations of your part-time employer are too much and the hours difficult around your studies, speak up. Employers are increasingly understanding of mental health issues and should accommodate your studies.

The same is true at university. If you are feeling the pressure, your classmates are too. Too many students drop out without speaking to an advisor due to stress.

How to ask for help

Contact student services, a trusted lecturer or contact the University counselling and wellbeing service. They will work with you to identify the issue so it can be tackled appropriately.

For example, if the course content is the issue, your advisor might arrange for extra help, private study sessions or speak with the lecturer to improve the course. If the issue is unrelated to studies, advisors will help you get an extension to deadlines so you can work on the issue.

Start small and build

Most New Year’s resolutions last until February. Many students commit to changing their work habits too much, then return to bad habits just as quickly.

Instead, try just one tip from this article and see how your life improves. Keep building from there.

This guest post is written by the First Aid Training Co-Operative, as part of their campaign to raise awareness of the need for mental health first aid in academia and the workplace

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