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When do you know when you are pushing yourself too hard or just need to toughen up in school?

I feel like I will join a lot of clubs and have different classes. I want to know when it is okay to take a break, or stop doing an activity or just know if I am just taking the easy way out. #dotoomuch #howdoyouknow #study-skills #mental-health


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Jerrica’s Answer

Hi Janiyah,

Right off the bat, I want to commend you for asking such a self-aware question so early on. Many students trudge along on their path, wear themselves out too thin, and are surprised when they burn-out. So you should be proud of yourself for having the idea to check-in with your mental health and well-being.

At the same time, I am sorry to say that there is no "standard" for when you can immediately say "I am pushing myself too hard," or "I need to toughen up". That threshold is different for everyone and something you will have to learn for yourself.

From my experience, the likelihood of you doing too much is much higher than the likelihood of you doing too little. Just the fact that you are inclined to signed up for a lot of classes and clubs leads me to believe you are erring more on the side of too much. In fact, let me just dispel the belief there is a such thing as "too little". I didn't participate in any clubs my freshman year - I just focused on balancing my school and my social life and my sport. I have nothing extra to show for that year, but it gave me a much better perception sophomore year to know what I could handle on my plate. Seriously - I did zip and I don't regret it.

When you go to these extra-curricular fairs, don't meander or else you might sign up for too much. Identify a few fields you want to go into or skills you want to have and make a bee-line for those select few clubs that align with those qualities. That way, you have all your bases covered and you spent quality time face to face with people in the club you wanted to see.

There is only a few reasons why you should sign up for a club. One is that you're passionate about the matter or you think you might be and you want to try it out. Do you like volunteering? Go for it. Do you like engineering abroad? Sign up! Do you like writing? Try your hand at writing articles for the school paper. If you do a club for any other reason, you should seriously consider why. An extracurricular should not be a chore, an obligation that drains energy from your day instead of giving you energy. Your time is valuable! Spend it wisely.

And if you're worried about not having enough clubs on your resume or even as much as the person next to you, remember this: quality over quantity. It is always better to have a few quality extracurriculars that you love, can talk avidly about, and are in leadership positions than 10 diverse club experiences where you are simply a member and couldn't care less about. The more committed you are to a cause, the more impressive you become.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you are considering whether you are pushing yourself too hard or whether you need a break:

What are some things that are important to me that I will not compromise on. Is this commitment preventing me from doing those things? (I need 8 hours of sleep. I do not want to skip a meal. I need at least 2 hours a day to do my homework.)

What do I want out of school? Is this commitment in-line with my vision/ future goal? (I want to become a writer. Maybe I shouldn't waste time talking to the French club. I really want to dive into cultural clubs. Maybe I should sacrifice this computer club meeting time to do that.)

What do I need more right now: sleep or this commitment? Will this commitment matter to me in the long run? If I prioritize my commitments, what is at the bottom?

One last thing Janiyah, remember that your well-being is your highest priority. If your gut tells you that you need to slow down, listen to yourself and you can't go wrong.

Jerrica recommends the following next steps:

Check in with yourself every couple of days. Ask yourself these questions.
What do I want out of school? Is this commitment in-line with my vision/ future goal?
What are some things that are important to me that I will not compromise on. Is this commitment preventing me from doing those things?
What do I need more right now: sleep or this commitment? Will this commitment matter to me in the long run? If I prioritize my commitments, what is at the bottom?
Identify a few fields you want to go into or skills you want to have and make a bee-line for those select few clubs that align with those qualities.

Jerrica, this is excellent advice. I'm impressed with your insight and ability to communicate these concepts in such an organized and accessible manner. Well done! Pamela Hampton

Jerrica, I couldn't agree more. There is nothing more I would add but would emphasize quality over quantity. Join a club or organization because you are really interested, not just to list it on your resume. Having a leadership role or important contributions to 1 or 2 organizations is much better than a list of 10. Also agree with taking care of yourself first - get enough sleep, make time for friends and family, eat right and get exercise. Only then can you give back. Beth Friel

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Xochitl’s Answer

It’s okay to take breaks and it’s okay not get involved in every single club. If you overwork yourself, you’ll end up burning out and that’s not good, but it’s not good to do nothing at the same. So how I handle clubs and school was dedicate myself to one club and if I feel like I can handle the workload, then I would join another one next semester. However, we are human and you should know your limits on things. See if you can manage both and get involved in a club you actually enjoy that doesn’t feel like extra work. However, school should be your top priority, so if you know your club gets in the way of your education then unfortunately, you are going to have to drop it. Set goals for yourself every day and learn to manage your time by keeping a planner and schedule out your homework and classes and club activities. Trust me, scheduling everything made my life so much easier.

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Michelle’s Answer

It’s okay to take a break whenever needed. It’s important to be able to balance school work and a social life. Balance is key to not feeling overwhelmed. If you feel like there is too much on your plate at times, it’s okay to dial it back and take a break. And if you find yourself with a lot of extra time or feeling bored or unfulfilled, it’s okay to take up a nee hobby or to join a club. What’s important is to do whatever is right for you in that moment in your life.

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Sachin’s Answer

Hi Janiyah,
It's important to retrospect and then define your goals - and then prioritize them as (must have, good to have, not so important). Make a list of these goals and then periodically revisit them. You'll be surprised at how dynamic the list is - and that's perfectly okay. Most importantly, focus on being happy in the long run.

All the best!

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Janiyah! I think sometimes we do need to push ourselves and toughen up especially as education can become more complex however we need to know when to take breaks too. Our mental health is important and if you feel tired and need to take a break then that is okay. I've come to the point where my body and mind both tell me that I need a break and to relax; even though we may always want to be hardworking we do need to find ways to reset. Always take frequent breaks when studying, eat well, get a good number of hours of sleep, exercise and find something you love to do on your free time.

I hope this helps, best of luck!

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Thomas’s Answer

Hi Janiyah,

When I coached high schoolers basketball, I told my team during time-outs to not worry about the score but to "play hard and have fun." The same goes for school: keep up your hard efforts and don't forget to have fun along the way. When you make BOTH happen, the "score" will take care of itself, and new doors will open for you. All the best to you!

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