These are unprecedented times with loads of uncertainty, whether that be with grades, work, relationships, or home life. Everything has been up in the air. If you’re like me, you’ve been feeling “bleh” a lot recently, mostly from our situations right now. Like many others, online schooling has taken a toll on my mental health, so finding the positives in this trying time has been super important. At this current point in the semester, staying motivated might seem super difficult, but it’s not impossible.

The hardest part for me is learning to keep a balance among work, school, and home life, and I have had to learn how to say “no” in a positive manner. Personally, I tend to be a people-pleaser. I always try to make people happy because that in turn makes me happy. I strive to constantly be the best in everything, but these two don’t mix well in real life. As the perfectionist I am, I am always running around and doing stuff for other people without even thinking about myself. When my job calls asking if I can come in, my first instinct is to say “yes”. Or, when my family wants to go out and get McDonald’s or go to Walmart, my first move is to say, “Absolutely!” I do love me some free food or shopping. The problem occurs when they clash together.

When I have a lot of Honors Computer Science homework, and then work calls, I am stuck in a dilemma. If I go to work, then I have the chance to earn money, but I may turn my work in late. If I stay home and do my work, then I don’t earn any money, but I do get a better grade. Which one is more important? Right now, to me, the obvious answer is school. School comes first. The hard part is learning how to say “no” to the other things that I also want. I want to work and earn money as well as pleasing my managers by saying that I’m able to come in, but I don’t want my grades to suffer. I’ve had to learn how to say “no” to work no matter how much I want to go in so that I can get my schoolwork done. My brain rationalizes my decision by knowing that the show will go on. Work will be work. They don’t absolutely need me; someone else will come in and cover that shift. My schoolwork, on the other hand? I am not getting out of that; no one else will do my Honors work for me as much as I want them to. 

On top of this, learning to say “no” in general to school and family is important too in order to take time for yourself. Learning to step away from the computer and the schoolwork to take a walk or to read a book is key in keeping your mental health in shape. I know this is easier said than done, but I do think it works. Saying “no” to my stressors, even for a short period of time, helps me relax and refocus. I come back with fresh eyes, and I get work done faster.

The big thing: how do you say “no”? It’s hard at first, but try to rationalize. For school, look at what needs to get done, set aside times to work on it, and then walk away when that time is over. Try to tell yourself, “I have thirty minutes for this. After that, I’m moving on until tomorrow.” Or, the way I do it: “I’m finishing this part of the assignment today. I’ll finish the next section tomorrow.” For work, if you have nothing else on your schedule, consider picking up the shift, but if you’re in the middle of finishing a Calc WebAssign, don’t take the shift (*cough* *cough* at myself *cough* *cough*). I usually tell my manager, “Sorry, I can’t today. I have a lot of homework to do.” At first, I internalize that they might hate me for saying no; but realistically, they probably end up forgetting twenty minutes later. Again, all of this is much easier said than done, especially for people-pleasers or Type A personalities, but it is a key to success. Saying “no” isn’t a bad thing, especially now during these uncertain times. 


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