Do you feel like your life is out of balance? Do you feel like you’re being pulled in numerous directions and are not sure how to deal with everything? Do you want to figure out how to feel more balanced and together?
Achieving life balance is an ongoing process. Corey Keyes refers to optimal life balance as "flourishing" (Keyes, 2002). Flourishing is experienced when all areas of your life are working together in the best possible way. When you flourish, you feel happy and satisfied; have high levels of emotional well-being; feel that your life has purpose; accept all parts of yourself; are capable of growing, evolving, and changing; and have a strong sense of autonomy and internal locus of control (Keyes, 2002). Flourishing means that you’re being the best version of yourself.
Flourishing and achieving life balance while enrolled in college involves establishing a support network, getting involved in activities outside of your course work, taking care of your health and wellness, establishing strategies to help manage and reduce stress, and exploring your career options and future possibilities.
There are many areas of our life to bring into balance. Usually we’re better at taking care of our needs in some areas of our life, but in other areas there is room to reflect and improve. To consider which areas of your life may need more attention, check out some of the quizzes below aimed at determining your balance across multiple areas of wellbeing. Each quiz is a bit different, but you may find the results from one will offer insight you can use to prioritize some goal setting around areas of your life you’d like to develop further. Once you’ve set some goals for yourself, seek out resources, and make commitments to changing your habits toward the positive.
Remember that finding balance is an ongoing process. There will be times throughout the year when you will feel like you’re flourishing, and, most likely, there will be times when the term is difficult and you do not feel like you're flourishing. That’s okay. Keep in mind that achieving balance and flourishing are life-long pursuits. Change can be gradual; one small step in the right direction will build momentum and the repercussion of that step might have a significant impact on your productivity, outlook, and overall academic pursuits.
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Students enroll in college because they believe it will help them in the future. Many are hoping college will help them obtain stable jobs upon graduation. No matter where you stand in your career exploration path, here at OSU, you have a wide range of resources available to you that can help you find a path that is right for you. Take advantage of the tips and resources provided to you and explore the options that interest you. Talking to your academic advisor, professors, or other faculty members can be a great place to start exploring future career options.
One of the first steps in career exploration is self-assessment. You can do this through discussions with faculty, values tests, online resources, interest inventories, personality assessments, or in a career exploration class. Some of the questions you will be asked are: What are the things that interest you? What do you spend your time doing? What skills and abilities do you have that you would like to use in the workforce? What are the values that you live by? What is important to you? What are things that you don’t care as much about? These questions help lay the foundation for career exploration and development; the questions also help guide you through the decision-making process.
Career exploration involves more than finding a major and doing coursework. It involves the active investigation of careers and work experience. After graduation, when students are looking for jobs in their career field of choice, employers look at more than the coursework the student completed; they want to know about the internships, clubs, research, and work environments the student took part in during the time spent in school.
Managing your time, developing effective study habits, and dealing with stress are important for success; however, in order to carry out these success techniques, you need sleep. Getting enough sleep is vital to your success as a college student. Proper sleep hygiene (the habits and practices for good sleep) makes you a more effective student: you study more effectively, earn better grades, and maintain your physical health. Students who get less sleep than their bodies need typically earn lower grades than students who get a sufficient amount of sleep (Cuseo, Fecas, & Thompson, 2007). Not getting enough sleep is similar to overdrawing one’s bank account. Overdrawing your body’s energy supply will result in poor health, changed moods, and lower performance. Conversely, developing a consistent sleep routine will improve both your physical and mental health.
There are many factors that go into good sleep hygiene (Gilbert & Weaver, 2010). An average person requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Keeping a regular sleep pattern by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day maintains the health of your body and mind (Pauk, 1984). Staying up late or all night for a cram session may cause health issues as well as produce unnecessary stress on the brain. Further, your brain needs sleep to remember what it has learned. Without adequate sleep, all the information you studied will not be adequately imprinted into your memory for recall.
When considering your own sleep hygiene, remember that sleep location matters. If you nap or daydream a lot while sitting at a desk studying, your body might start thinking of the desk as a location for sleep, and it will be harder to stay alert and pay attention to your studies (Pauk, 1984). Studying in bed before going to sleep is not a good practice for the same reason. For the best sleep, separate your study space from your sleep space.
When there’s a gap between classes or studying, many students enjoy taking naps. Researchers say that a 10 to 20-minute power nap can help students rejuvenate before getting back to work, whereas an hour nap helps with cognitive memory processing, positively impacting your learning (Mednick, Nakayama, & Stickgold, 2003). If time permits, a 90-minute nap involves a full cycle of sleep and can aid in creativity as well as emotional and procedural memory, both of which could be beneficial for your class projects or papers (Mednick, Nakayama, & Stickgold, 2003). By taking naps and developing healthy sleep patterns, you can maintain better health and give your brain the rest it needs to process and function.
Stress is the state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. For many students, college can be a stressful time. There are a variety of reasons for increased stress. For example, you may experience heavy course loads; changing relationships; unfamiliar physical environments; or new subjects and professors each term.
Stress differs from person to person. The signs of stress can be physical; they can also be emotional or behavioral. Physical signs of stress can vary, including “knots,” “butterflies,” or pain in your stomach; a rapid, pounding heart beat; cold, clammy hands; headache, hyperventilation; tightness in your neck or shoulders; tightness in the chest; lower back pain; and a tendency toward illness such as colds or flu (Burka, 1983). Emotional or behavioral signs of stress include irritability; fatigue and exhaustion; trouble concentrating; mood swings; increased alcohol or drug use; changes in sleep, appetite, or sexual interest; inability to relax; inability to enjoy the things that once brought you pleasure; apathy or lethargy; and forgetfulness (Burka, 1983). Knowing yourself well enough to identify your own signs of stress is vital as you work to manage stress.
Adopting strategies for stress management helps reduce stress; these strategies can be integrated into your daily routine so that stress is less likely to overwhelm you in daily life. Here are several strategies that can help you manage stress: avoid unnecessary stressors; alter stressful situations; make time for fun and relaxation; and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
There are many resources available to help students cope with stress. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers counseling and psychological therapy along with the Mind Spa, a meditation and relaxation room that serves as a space to sooth the mind, body, and spirit. Student Health Services (SHS) offers acupuncture, massage therapy, Beaver Strides (a motivational pedometer program), health coaching, and tobacco cessation services. Using these resources can help you find healthy and effective ways to manage the stress you feel here at OSU.
Optimum health and wellness can have a positive impact on your academic success. By establishing healthy habits in nutrition, exercise, and other areas of wellness, you can set yourself up to be more successful in your academics (Ruthig, Marrone, Hladkyj, & Robinson-Epp, 2011). In addition, many of the activities that keep you healthy can also improve your mental focus, decrease stress, and improve the quality of your study time. For instance, exercise “increases mental energy and improves mental performance” by pumping more oxygen to our brains through increased blood flow (Cuseo, Fecas, & Thompson, 2007). Because our brains burn energy at ten times the rate of other body tissues and use 20% of the body’s fuel, it’s important to consume enough water and nutrients to optimize brain function (Smilkstein, 2011). This optimization of brain functions will make your time spent studying more focused and effective.
One important perspective to consider is the idea that wellness is a spectrum that ranges from sickness (poor health) to optimum wellness (good health). From this perspective, wellness is something we can always be working on. Often we wait until we’re sick or injured to turn our attention to habits of health and wellness. A more proactive approach to staying healthy through daily behaviors, habits, and rituals can help you maintain your health on a daily basis. By proactively promoting good health, you may also prevent disruptions to your term caused by illness.
Because health plays such a pivotal role in your academic success, it's worth taking time to reflect on your own health and to explore new ideas about health. While there are general guidelines and information about nutrition, exercise, and other ways to generate healthy habits, the exact behaviors that promote health and wellness differ between individuals. Part of evaluating your own health is monitoring the effectiveness of your concentration, study time, and performance. If there are areas you’d like to improve, you can seek out information and resources to assist you in forming habits that promote your physical well-being and academic success.
Student involvement encompasses the total amount of physical and psychological energy students invest in their college experience (Astin, 1984). Every activity counts. The ten minutes a residential student spends in the MU quad talking to a career center worker or the fifteen minutes the E-campus student spends chatting with an OSU librarian about a project add to the collective college experience. Getting involved contributes to student success and happiness. Students who are involved engage themselves as active learners by attending classes, completing coursework, and partaking in community activities (Astin, 1984).
Here at OSU, we have many opportunities to help you get involved. Whether you’re interested in volunteering in the community, joining a club, or seeking out a leadership role on campus, there are many ways you can invest your time and energy. Your involvement is a vital part of Beaver Nation.
A support network can include a variety of forms of interaction with a range of people who can support you in different ways. Social networking and other forms of technology make it easy to communicate quickly and with many people different people. Building relationships and spending face-to-face time with people who support us can help us find balance and promote academic success.
Spending time with friends or classmates helps you effectively learn college material. Research has shown that college students learn as much if not more from peers than they do from instructors and textbooks (Cuseo, Fecas, & Thompson, 2007). Collaborating with faculty and staff is also important though. Student-faculty interaction positively influences academic achievements such as maintaining higher GPAs, obtaining degrees, graduating with honors, and enrolling in graduate or professional schools (Astin, 1993).
It's also important to keep in touch with your family and loved ones. Students who move away from home to attend college sometimes feel the need to break away from their families and old friends completely. Although relationships will change and grow as you journey through your academic career, the friends and family that supported you before you went to college can continue to be an important part of your support network. You can stay connected by calling home, Skyping, or writing emails or letters. Let your family know about school and other important life events. Listen to what’s happening at home as well. They may be able to give you an outside perspective that you need when you’re having a difficult or frustrating day.
Dedicating adequate time to building relationships is an important part of achieving balance. Spending too much time socializing can detract from your studies, but spending too little time may make it harder to feel supported. Finding the right balance between school, work, and socializing is an important part of establishing a positive support network.