Foulk: Work toward balance amidst the busyness

Kayla Foulk

The final stretch of the quarter has arrived.

It’s 2 a.m., and you’re working on a six-page paper that’s taking longer than you anticipated. You need a break, but you can’t afford to waste too much time away from your work.

So you grab another chocolate chip cookie just to engage in a physical routine other than typing.

This reminds you that you can’t remember the last time you exercised, so you optimistically pencil a visit to the gym in tomorrow’s schedule before realizing your only free hour is actually filled with a rescheduled meeting.

Then your friend shows up and desperately needs someone to talk to, and you say you have time. But as he shares his problems, you start planning the project you need to complete before Dance Marathon.

When you truly start listening, you become aware of the fact that you can’t even understand your own emotions, let alone try to help a friend understand his. You tell yourself it’s okay because that’s just how the end of the quarter goes.

Such is the nature of life. To get where we want to end up, we sometimes have to focus on the most pressing tasks and neglect others, even if they are still important.

At the same time, though, we need to maintain balance in our lives.

It is true that some seasons of life will be busier than others, and it is good to work hard to achieve goals. But frequently neglecting entire facets of life (e.g., relationships, physical activity, emotional health, etc.) will eventually leave us exhausted and burned out.

In the face of stress and busyness, an infinite to-do list will swallow us unless we are proactive about preserving a healthy balance.

During the busy tail end of Winter Quarter and the upcoming spring break, use these strategies to cultivate a balanced life.

1. Schedule a break.

As much as you may love what you’re studying, there will be parts of the process that will be frustrating, monotonous and even disheartening. This is simply a part of life.

Make time for activities that will leave you rejuvenated and motivated to work hard at your studies. Exercise, read the newspaper at lunch or laugh with friends. Whatever you do, make sure it’s enjoyable and refreshing.

2. Don’t suppress your emotions.

During a busy week, emotions such as frustration, relational pain and disappointment may seem like nuisances. Making an effort to understand them is important because they are real indicators of the condition of your heart.

If you constantly ignore the reality of your emotions, eventually you won’t be able to feel at all.

When stress is keeping you from properly attending to your emotions, jot down your feelings as honestly and as thoroughly as possible. Later you’ll be able to process them and accurately identify the inward root of your emotional stress.

3. Don’t underestimate the value of reflection.

Sometime during spring break, steal away to evaluate your quarter. Honestly ask yourself if the past four months of your life have brought you closer to achieving your life goals. Appreciate the positive aspects of the quarter and don’t be afraid to acknowledge the negative.

As a human who is bound to fall short of perfection, the best practical remedy is to spot your mistakes as soon as possible so you can learn from them and take steps to avoid making them again. Set goals for your Spring Quarter and reevaluate long-term goals if necessary.

Kayla Foulk is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]

All opinions expressed in this column are solely the opinions of the columnist and do not reflect the views of The Daily Northwestern. If you would like to respond to the column, you may comment below, email the columnist or submit a 300-word letter to the editor to [email protected].