You don't have time to read this. You should be squeezing in 20 minutes of study time before you punch in at your part-time job. And after your shift ends you'll have to hustle if you want to make it to practice on time.
Sound familiar? Then you ought to make time to read this.
Some stress is a natural part of life, but maxing out your schedule to the point where you're constantly stressed out can have real dangers. Overtaxed students may find themselves abusing drugs or alcohol, engaging in risky behavior, making poor ethical choices and coping with depression.
"There are a comfortable number of balls that even the most skilled juggler can juggle, and beyond that it becomes impossible and the balls start tumbling down," says Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist and author of, Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We're Going to Grandma's: Hanging In, Holding On and Letting Go of Your Teen. He discussed some warning signs that might help students recognize when they've got too much on their calendar.
Signs you're over scheduled
- Sleeplessness. You have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up. Rest is critical to your health. Falling asleep during class might only hurt your grade, but nodding off at the wheel of your car is dangerous. "You cannot continue to take out of the sleep bank, and not be punished by it, mentally as well as physically," Kendrick says.
- Nothing gets done. You add three items to your to-do list for every two you cross off. Over-scheduled students have a difficult time maintaining priorities. And if they are able to get things done, often they're not done well.
- Low self esteem. "Since you're not accomplishing what you're attempting to accomplish, there's a drop off in self-esteem," Kendrick says. You enroll in less challenging classes to guarantee a good grade, or look for the path of least resistance in another facet of your life.
- Forgetfulness. "It can range from vital, important things, like when to turn in a paper, to the mundane, like when to feed your pet," Kendrick says. "You're out of synch and out of rhythm." As a result, your grades and schoolwork suffer.
- Sport injuries. Stress can affect your ability to focus on the field, which can result in injuries. If your performance is dropping in sports you've excelled in for years, it could be a sign of stress.
- Personality and attitude changes. Kendrick says that for stressed out students "there's not as much excitement or joy about school or extracurricular activities." You feel like you've lost your sense of humor, lost your patience or find yourself complaining more often. This can hurt your relationships with friends and family.
- Physical health. Stress can manifest itself physically in the form of a nervous tick. Stuttering or stammering while you try to express yourself can be a sign that you're mentally clogged by everything you're taking on. You may experience migraine headaches and become ill more often.
- You're overwhelmed. You've lost perspective and aren't sure why you're involved in half the activities you're committed to. You feel like you're not in control of your life. You feel trapped. If this is true, it's appropriate to reassess what you're involved in.
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If you are stressed out, turn to your parents, siblings or friends for support. Scale back your activities and choose to get involved in the things you love. Focus on pursuing one or two things you're passionate about, rather than getting involved in half a dozen clubs you were told look good on a college application.
Kendrick says, "You have to take a look at the number of hours in the day and say, what really is possible for me to handle, and have a life. And a life where I can kick back for awhile and play a video game or catch a movie and just veg out."