Working against the demands of a fast-paced world

Beau Bilinovich, Development Editor

The final few weeks after returning from spring break are always the hardest: assignments pile up, exams wreck havoc on sleep schedules, registering for classes for next semester becomes a constant worry. No matter what we do, it seems like there is never enough time to finish everything. Life temporarily speeds up, and it can leave some of us behind, leaving a cruel feeling that can damage self-esteem.

Outside of the classroom, stress related to expectations and meeting deadlines does not go away. Whether it be work, family, friends or general societal expectations of where someone should be at a certain age, finding time to just breathe seems pointless—relax for one second, and you might find yourself weeks behind.

It is no surprise, then, that college students report exceedingly high levels of stress. In a psychological survey of 980 college students, 88% reported school life is stressful. Exams, as we can imagine, were the top stressor, with financial concerns coming in second. Juggling all of this stress is challenging. The demands of a fast-paced world getting even faster takes a toll on our mental health. Such expectations have left nearly three-quarters of college students in moderate to severe psychological distress, increasing the need for school mental health resources.

Our lives don’t have to be this way. Though getting back on track might seem insurmountable from afar, there are steps we can take to reduce the stress we are experiencing.

First, we need to let go of the tendency to blame ourselves.

Intensive demands are not any single person’s fault. Technology has progressed in such a way that we are expected to do, learn and say more. Communication is now instantaneous; we can immediately talk to our closest friends and family members, including those who might be hundreds of miles away, instead of having to wait the weeks, months or years it would take before the invention of modern technology. The internet itself has endowed us with endless sources of knowledge that would have seemed like pure fantasy before its invention.

This constant flow of information overwhelms us and overstimulates us. We might find ourselves pulled into new trends on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram or engaging in an endless debate with others online. Social media platforms were designed specifically to keep users engaged; social features such as liking and commenting on posts keep us coming back, often to our own detriment.

These platforms are not inherently bad; however, if they are a major stressor in your life and constantly overwhelm you, it might be time to reconsider how you use them. Commit yourself to using social media for only a set amount of time each day, or even getting rid of certain accounts if they are of no value anymore. Your health matters more than any trend or the persistent rush of news, so take care of it.

But the chaotic nature of social media is only one component of stress. We still have school and work to deal with.

If education has become a significant stressor, then take some time to reflect on what is important to you. Is working around your schedule an issue? If so, consider writing down all of the assignments that need to be completed for the week. Slowly, each day, work at one or a few and cross them off the list. This way, you can see the progress you’re making, and you don’t have to go through the hassle of worrying about what needs to be completed.

Is your workload too much? Are you taking too many classes? Problems like these can be pervasive for students across all majors. Don’t feel the need to take on more than you can handle. You can only deal with so much. In some cases, it might be worth it to withdraw from a class if you can’t find the energy to keep up, but don’t make this decision without talking to your academic advisor or navigator first. Dropping a class is a significant change, but it doesn’t make you or anyone else a failure. Ideally, your education should be enriching, not draining, so if you need to let go, make the decision that benefits your health. Chances are your professor will understand.

Not everything is within our control; we cannot control the amount of work we are assigned or the expectations of our professors. But we do have control over how we respond and what we value—and there are countless resources available to help us figure that out. Make an appointment with University Health and Counseling Services through MyHealthConnect. Seek support from friends and family. Disability Resources is always open for students who require accommodations. Reach out to those who want to help you and see you succeed, and don’t be afraid to talk to your professors. Many of them were once in your shoes and understand the struggles of college and daily life.

Regardless of who you are or your position in life, be proud that you made it this far. There is strength in persisting despite the bumps you encounter on the road. Sometimes those bumps can seem like mountains, but all that means is that your journey will take a little bit longer. Eventually, you’ll get to the end. All you need to do is accomplish something small each day and consider what matters most to you. You got this.