As many students can understand, I have a bit of a problem with spreading myself too thin. I have always been this way, saying “yes” to as many commitments as I can, either because I can’t stand to miss out on an opportunity or because I would hate to possibly disappoint someone. In theory, I love the idea of constantly opening new doors in my life, but in practice it can be harmful to my mental health to constantly have things going on that I don’t always even want to be a part of. As an effort to take more time for myself and reduce the time I spend doing things that do not add value to my life, I have adopted a few rules to keep myself on track for the life I want to create.

#1: Learn to say “no”. My first rule is a rather obvious one, but it can be difficult in practice. When someone asks for a favor or your friends ask you to join them on something, my first instinct is always to help them out. But I’ve realized that if you are killing yourself trying to do a million things, you’ll be miserable and ineffective and any help of yours will be nearly worthless. It is better to invest a lot of time and effort into a couple things than to spread yourself too thin and waste your time. Saying “no” will not hurt anyone, and there will always be someone else to walk through the door that you chose not to open.

#2: Do not be afraid to quit things that are not serving you. Leaving a job, organization, or social group can be very difficult and I usually have to fight off feelings of being inadequate or a disappointment. But I have realized that if participating in something harms my mental health or does not add value to my life, then staying can be a waste to myself and the organization. For instance, I recently quit a job that was a bad fit for me and though it was difficult to leave I realized that it would be more beneficial for me to search for a position that played to my strengths and added value to my life, and more beneficial for the company to hire someone better suited to the position I left.

#3: You must take time for yourself and not feel guilty about it. Whether they want to admit it or not, most people intuitively know that taking time to take care of themselves is fundamental to their health and productivity. Yet many people, like myself, often have a mindset of putting off alone time and self-care because it is not a priority. But it needs to be. Taking time to do enjoyable, restorative activities is not only vastly important in maintaining mental health, but it is also fundamental in physical health and productivity. For many people, and definitely for myself, getting stressed means getting sick, eating poorly, sleeping irregularly, and neglecting exercise. Not to mention that stress makes it more difficult to focus, communicate, deal with emotions and difficult situations, and form coherent thoughts and sentences. Stress from doing too much in the short-term inevitably makes it impossible to do more in the long-term.

#4: Control your FOMO. FOMO or the “fear of missing out” is a major reason a lot of college students do things. They hang out with friends instead of doing homework or say yes to another commitment instead of taking time for themselves because they do not want to miss anything and regret taking the opportunity. I am one hundred percent guilty of this. I have found that when I say yes to these opportunities, even when fun, sometimes they just add stress to my life and staying home would have been just as, if not more, beneficial. There will always be more opportunities to hang out with people or to take a job or to join in on an activity. Putting your mental health first will make it more worthwhile once you have some free time and can get involved without overwhelming your schedule.

This all does not mean that I plan on isolating myself or dropping out of every activity I am involved with. On the contrary, I just plan on prioritizing the things that are most important to me, like my mental health and self-development, and investing more energy into those things. I will live life with intentions and make conscious decisions instead of just saying “yes” to anything that comes my way. And hopefully these rules will help improve my life for the better.

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