It's that time of year where people are going back to college, and if you're anything like me, you're ready to get back to the grind of school and research. However, it's important to ask yourself, "When should I make time for myself?". This is a critical question, because while you should definitely work hard, get good grades, and finish weekly research, you NEED to make personal time for yourself.
Take it from me, I wasn't good at balancing school and my own personal life my Freshman and Sophomore year of college. Unlike most college students, however, I focused way too much of my time on school work. I distinctly remember staying up past midnight almost every night in my dorm working on general chemistry and refusing offers to go hang out with friends every single week.
In fact, the main problem wasn't even really that I wouldn't spend time with friends, it was that I wasn't taking taking care of myself.
Let's unpack that statement because it's an important one.
What taking care of yourself looks like
* Spending some time doing things you enjoy doing
It sounds simple, but when you get into your head thinking that you NEED to be working constantly or you'll fall behind everyone else, your workload gets toxic. At least a few times a week, go do something you like. Whether that's getting coffee with friends, going on a walk, or shooting hoops at the basketball courts. Put it into your schedule if you have to! I definitely had to do this before throughout college.
* Realizing you're doing better than you might think you are
Most often, we perceive ourselves as doing inadequate work when we're actually succeeding quite well in reality. From an objective, outside perspective, you're killing it. Ask one of your closer friends to give you an honest opinion of how they think you're doing. It might actually surprise you to hear that they admire your work and believe that you're crushing the college game.
* Understanding that your work/grades don't define you
In academia, it's so incredibly easy to measure your self-worth using your grades or academic accomplishments as a proxy. It's easy for anyone to say that, and it's much harder to actually realize when you're in the midst of a study crisis during finals week. Take a walk and reflect on all of the other great things about you that make you who you are, and you'll realize that your character is not just a set of letter grades on a sheet of paper.
In a nutshell, the answer to my question that I posed in the title is a resounding YES. However, that social life can manifest itself in many ways. Sometimes spending time with a lot of people is stressful for you, rather than fun. So instead of a social life, I would re-hash that term as a personal life. Make sure to include things in your life that you love. If you don't, classes and research can take their toll on your mental health, like they do for so many people around the world.
Work hard. But also enjoy the little things that make you happy. You'll be happy you did.