Students need to change mentalities about overworking themselves

Sam Thielman

Many students strive for perfection. There is immense pressure from peers, families, and society to work as hard as you can. People romanticize sacrificing their mental and physical health for the sake of their grades, and compete to see who can push their own limits the furthest before they break — but this doesn’t need to be a contest. Students need to stop idolizing overworking themselves, and start prioritizing their health.

“I think a lot of students prioritize their grades, which are important, but way above their psychological and physical wellbeing,” Morgan Kretschmer, psychology junior and public relations officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said. “We’re surrounded by people who go above and beyond all the time and that leads people to skip meals and sleep.”

According to the 2016 National College Health Assessment, 88.2% of students reported not having slept enough to feel well-rested in the morning within the last 5 days, and 86% reported having felt overwhelmed by all that they had to do.

What can students do, though? It’s one thing to say that you’ll try to prioritize your sleep schedule, but it’s another thing entirely to act on it when you’re up late and have an essay due the next day, and it’s easy to rationalize mentally strenuous decisions it when everyone around you is bragging about only getting two hours of sleep the night before.

One thing that can help manage stress is to keep a consistent schedule.

“It’s really important to develop a routine,” psychology professor Art Markman said. “You can base it off of your own personal habits, but then you make a really consistent effort to get to sleep at that time. Keep a little food around the house, make it easy for yourself to eat regularly.”

Giving yourself time to sleep is good for more than just your health. It’s also incredibly beneficial to your grades to make sure you’re well rested.

“The assumption is that ‘any time I’m doing something other than being on task is putting me behind,” Markman said. “There is a limited amount of productive work that you can do any given day, and if you work much more than 6-8 hours, you stop being able to pay attention.”

Students need to remember that it’s okay to not do everything at once. I know it can feel like everyone around you is taking 18 hours while being an officer in a dozen organizations and juggling a job, and that you need to do more to try to catch up. But it’s okay to drop a class or an org because it feels like too much. 

This needs more than just a physical change, though. It’s necessary that students change their mindsets. You’re not a failure for not being perfect. You’re not weak for backing out of something that’s stressing you out. You’re not stupid for not understanding something. 

Running yourself into the ground for the sake of your grades isn’t impressing anyone, it’s just worrying them. Striving for perfection in all of your classes, and to constantly go above and beyond just leads to burnout. Students need to stop glorifying self-destruction, and prioritize their own physical and mental health above trying to impress others with their busy schedules.

Thielman is a history and rhetoric & writing sophomore from Fort Worth.