By Alyssa Abel
It’s challenging to be a student while working – let alone keeping healthy and maintaining a healthy social life. Pulling it off requires positive habits and time-management savvy, but we know you’re up to the task.
When you work and attend university, saying that you’re busy is often an understatement. However, self-care is vital to performing at your best, and many people neglect their needs when things get hectic. How can you take online classes while working full-time and still enjoy time for yourself? You need to get organised and a be a bit bold in communicating your needs. You also need to nurture your physical body so it can handle the pressure.
Here are six tips for creating a healthy balance if you’re working and studying:
1. Invest in a planner
It doesn’t matter if you prefer the latest app or opt for an old-fashioned paper planner — it’s important to be able to identify potential schedule conflicts early so you can make arrangements. You don’t want your boss to assign you to a shift on the day before your exam.
Scheduling work, classes and schoolwork into the appropriate time slots is crucial to keeping up and allowing your brain time to recharge — plus, learning to prioritise is an essential skill you’ll carry with you into any career.
2. Talk to your employer
You owe it to yourself to discuss your scheduling needs with your employer. For best results, set up a one-on-one with your manager. Start by checking in with expectations — what am I doing that needs to change? What works about my approach? Then, go over important dates you'll need to be covered for and work together to find a solution to meet your needs without leaving your employer stranded without help.
3. Brush up on healthy meal prep
Many commercially available foods are stripped of crucial nutrients due to processing. Without the vitamins and minerals you need, you can start feeling sick and sluggish. Your mood will lower, and you might find it challenging to focus — which isn’t acceptable when you work and attend university.
Instead, learn how to use your least-busy day to prepare whole-food freezer meals so you always have grab-and-go nutrition. If you like to snack while studying, skip the chips and pretzels in favour of magnesium-rich nuts and phytonutrient-packed fruits and veggie strips.
4. Move your body daily
According to the Department of Health, you need 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. That translates between 30 and 60 minutes daily, but you don’t have to pencil in that at the gym session.
Instead, go for a cumulative effect with mini workouts. If you drive to class instead of living on campus, park further away from the assigned building and walk. YouTube is ripe with free exercise videos — you can do anything from yoga to a Zumba routine in five minutes. There are many apps out there that feature shorter workouts.
5. Join a social club
You don’t want to overextend yourself — doing so can create more stress. That, in turn, depletes your physical and mental reserves. However, you do want to remember more than the grind when you reflect on your university years.
Find a social club that allows flexibility when you attend meetings and activities. You might enjoy a book group if you love to read, or the chess club if you prefer competition. Lacking time for gruelling sports practices doesn’t mean you need to miss out on camaraderie.
6. Make your bed welcoming
You need adequate shut-eye if you are to perform well academically — your mind processes and integrates new knowledge as you sleep. If you’re living on-campus, finding quiet and privacy can prove problematic, and the issue becomes more complicated if you work unusual hours. If you share a room and have the means, consider investing in a bed tent that gives you privacy, even when your roommate is 2 metres away. You'd also be wise to score some noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds to provide you with quiet from the people you live with.
Alyssa Abel is a college and career writer with a special interest in student life and health. Read more of her advice on her blog, Syllabusy.