Achieving Balance

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 balance

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.

Links to Quizzes:

Career Exploration

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.Career Exploration

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.

TIPS

  • Define your values. Figure out what is important to you and what isn’t. Always keep your values in mind. As you begin to seek out possible careers, see if the possibility matches up with your core values.
  • Use campus resources for picking and finding a major. The University Exploratory Studies Program (UESP) is a great resource for OSU students.  UESP provides guidance as you explore your interests and find a major that fits your personal needs, interests, and career plans.
  • Take the ALS 114 Career Decision Making class. This class incorporates self-assessment, the exploration of academic and career options, as well as intentional decision making and action.
  • Look into internships, jobs, and volunteer work that relate to your interests or major during your summer break. Use these experiences to demonstrate to employers that you have valuable skills that can be useful in your field.
  • Go to Career Fairs. Meet employers and talk to them about job opportunities and what skills and/or classes might help you if you are considering joining their field.
  • Use SIGI3 on the Career Services website, and find out what careers may be right for you based on your interests, values, and personality type.
  • Set up informational interviews and job shadowing opportunities with professionals in the field.  Use those experiences to gather more information about specific professions.
  • Get involved. Join a club or organization, study abroad, volunteer, and/or go to campus events and programs. These opportunities allow you to explore your interests while having fun and adding to your resume.  
  • Visit Career Services. Make a career counseling and assessment appointment. Get feedback on your resumes and cover letters, and set up mock interviews. These services will prepare you for entry into the workforce.
  • Visit the Writing Center or use the Online Writing Lab.  Take job descriptions, your resume(s), and your cover letters to the Writing Center.  A writing assistant can help you focus and enhance your writing based on the job description and requirements.

TOOLS

Getting Sleep

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.Nap Time

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.

TIPS

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Large variations in sleep schedule can have the same effects as not getting enough sleep.
  • Come up with a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Just as you cool down after a workout, your mind needs a cool down before you go to bed.
  • Use your bed for sleep, not as a study space. Separate these two locations and activities in order to use both spaces more effectively.
  • Don’t eat within two or three hours of your planned bedtime. Eating too close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Exercise, but not close to your bedtime. Regular exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and can help improve sleep quality, but if you exercise right before you go to bed, it can be harder to fall asleep. Try to finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine before bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and cause your body to be more alert. Avoiding caffeine six to eight hours before bed can improve sleep quality. Though alcohol is a depressant and can make you feel sleepy, it disrupts your R.E.M. cycle and can prevent you from getting deep, refreshing sleep.
  • Avoid screen time (e.g. cell phone, computer, or T.V. use) before bed. Blue light waves emitted from electronic devices have the same effect as sunlight and stimulate your body to be awake.

TOOLS

Stress Management

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

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.

TIPS

  • Take on challenges and tasks one at a time.
  • Stay organized with your time and money. Much of our stress is related to time or financial management.
  • Journal. Write down your thoughts feelings; use your writing to reflect upon your stressors and how you can manage them.
  • Laugh. Laughing and finding humor in life is one of the best ways to reduce stress.
  • Exercise. Exercising is essential to our physical and mental health and can serve as a great way to alleviate stress.
  • Use campus resources. Visit SHS or CAPS for services available at no additional cost for students.

TOOLS

Health & Wellness

Wellness WheelOptimum 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.

TIPS

  • As you schedule your time each day, week, or month, plan time for wellness-based activities such as preparing and eating healthy meals, exercising, and engaging in stress-reducing activities.
  • Monitor your nutrition. Do you have energy? Feel lethargic?  Using the tools below, and an abundance of resources on the internet, learn more about how to enhance your academic success through nutritional habits. optimal nutrition, exercise habits, and other healthy behaviors that promote well-being.
  • Monitor your physical activity. Does exercise help your stress levels? Is it positively impacting your ability to study, sleep, and get to class? Learn more about how to enhance your academic success through physical activity.
  • Take a proactive approach to using health resources. Find out about the clinical services at OSU’s Student Health Services (SHS), as well as the community health resources, and make use of them for both routine check-ups and urgent needs. When you check out SHS, look into the programs and information they provide to help students improve their health and wellness which in turn help increase academic success.

TOOLS

Getting Involved

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).Getting Involved

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.

TIPS

  • Volunteer. OSU’s Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) has information on service opportunities in the community. The CCE can do individual service consultations to help students connect to meaningful service opportunities. They also lead Alternative Service Breaks
  • Join one of the 400+ clubs on campus. Find out more by searching the student organization data base
  • Get to know your neighbor. This could be your roommate, floor-mate, or someone living nearby you. When you spend time getting to know people around you, you are more likely to have people to turn to when you need support.
  • Explore ways to get involved at OSU’s Corvallis Campus.
    • Ask others for advice. Ask professors, advisors, RAs, and peers about opportunities for involvement based on your interests.
    • See what’s happening with Student Leadership & Involvement. Join a club on campus, or if you have a passion that isn’t represented, start your own club.
    • Go to on-campus events hosted by student organizations and the cultural and resource centers. MUPC hosts Dads & Family Weekend, Moms & Family Weekend, OSU Has Talent, Battle of the Bands, and the Flat Tail Festival. The Office of Equity and Inclusion hosts a MLK celebration every winter. ISOSU hosts coffee hours, mingles, and different cultural nights. The cultural centers on campus host events throughout the year. All students are welcome to join in any of these events.
  • Explore ways to get involved in your local community.
    • When you’re drinking coffee at your favorite café, check out the signs and posters for upcoming events. Pick your favorite and attend the event.
    • Find events and opportunities in your local newspaper.
    • If you're interested in spiritual involvement, visit local faith-based organizations to find a community that matches your needs.  
  • Be intentional about your involvement by asking yourself exploratory questions:
    • What have you done before that you really enjoyed?
    • What new skills or abilities would you like to gain?
    • What new experiences would you like to have while you are at OSU?
    • How can your involvement better prepare you for your chosen career field?

TOOLS

Maintaining a Support Network

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.Support Network

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.  

TIPS:

  • Introduce yourself to people when you attend activities and participate in programs on campus or in your community.
  • Call home. Keep in touch with your family, friends, and loved ones.
  • Get to know your professors. Check in during office hours. Build rapport that could help you throughout your college experience.
  • Join a Supplemental Instruction study table if you are enrolled in a supported class.
  • Create your own study groups for the classes you are taking. You’ll make new friends and most likely better understand course material.
  • Find a community. Some students take comfort in a faith-based community. Others enjoy athletic communities. Finding the right community for you will help you make friends and feel at home.

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