Balancing Mental Health and School

« Back  |  

Written by Rye Barker

Sometimes, we all struggle with mental health. Whether it’s simply stress, a more serious illness, or a tough point in our lives. Everyone struggles mentally. And during these times, it can be difficult to balance out school or work, and taking care of yourself. Because school still needs to get done, but you also need to adjust your activities to take care of yourself mentally so you don’t feel worse. So how do you balance your well-being with what needs doing? 

Be Nice to Yourself

Most importantly, you have to be nice to yourself. Realize that meeting the standards that you previously were making is going to take more energy now, or simply is not possible. Be gentle when working with yourself, not angry or upset about how you’re doing. Pretend that you’re tutoring one of your friends, or a kid, someone you would be kind to while guiding yourself along the right way to accomplishing things. Being nice to yourself will go a long way with your mental health, and it will often result in more work being done. 

Identify the Important Things

While your productivity might lower, it’s important to recognize what needs to get done and what doesn’t. If you spend all your time on smaller projects and then forget the final, that’s not going to work in your favor. Prioritize things by, “If I could only do one of these, which would be more important?” Of course, try to finish everything, but make sure the important things are done first. 

Also, try to figure out what grades you need in what classes in order to do what you want to do. If you don’t need straight A’s, or all you need is to pass, don’t aim for the highest goal. Aim for what you need in order to do what you want. If it’s a possibility, go for those A’s! But if you just have enough energy to pass, and simply passing will get you where you want to go in life, then don’t risk worsening your mental health for something unnecessary to success. 

Break Things Into Small Portions

Even for small projects, break it up into smaller bits. Sometimes just writing an essay just feels like a lot of work… And what I like to do is write down every bit that needs doing and cross it off. Such as “choose the topic,” “pick a title,” “write the first sentence,” “write the thesis statement,” etc. And even if you only do one thing, it’s still something. But crossing items off a list will give your brain some happy chemicals, which makes it easier to keep working! So having a bunch of very easy tasks that all build up into a whole project will be less overwhelming than looking at the project as a whole. 

Communicating With Stressful People

Having someone to work with can be great! Study buddies are a great way for both parties to work on school and be more productive or get new ideas. But not all people are helpful. The most obvious example is often parents. Many people have parents that pressure them to get perfect grades or focus on certain subjects. Obviously, not helpful. Often, this can be due to misunderstandings. Try communicating reasons why you might not get the grades they want you to get, or what you want to do with the future. If you’re looking into something that doesn’t need outstanding grades to be realistic, try sharing this with them. They want what’s best for you, and knowing that stressing over school to get unnecessarily high grades can help them to better gauge how to work with you. Communication is important, so share your thoughts and feelings, don’t shut down or lash out. This can often reduce stress and make you happier. 

The most important thing here is to be kind to yourself though. You can’t control everything. The one thing you can control is your relationship with yourself. It can be easy to think negatively… But you’re a valuable person in this world who deserves your own love. That shouldn’t be dependent on how successful you are in school or otherwise. You’ve got this.