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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

The importance of maintaining stable mental health while studying

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having pride in your education. In fact, if you do not take pride in it, then what is the point in doing it at all? That being said, however, being a student is quite a chaotic time in anyone’s life. Here in the US alone, almost 80% (78%, to be exact) of educators have seen their students struggling with their mental health. More and more, students in America are struggling with maintaining their studies, having to pay for their courses and learning materials, living expenses, personal time, and studying sessions, all in one big ball of chaos. And sure, students can do things to make the stress easier, like automating set bills, dropping a course or two if necessary, signing up with a GMAT tutor (for business students who want to attend an MBA program) and going out of their way to maintain a healthy routine. At the end of the day, though, sometimes it truly does not matter how much effort you are constantly putting into it all; sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you will struggle. And that is okay. What is not okay, however, is pushing your body and mind’s needs to the side and favouring university work.

Stress can quite easily turn into anxiety (or worse), and it is a recurring problem here in the US and around the world, that students quite often put their academic success before their health. Maintaining positive mental health while being a student can be a difficult thing to achieve. Certainly, it is more difficult than most people care to realise. Having a strong academic career is a tribute to your dedication, but something that nobody tells students is that their grades can be the best, but ultimately everyone around you – including prospective employers after graduation – want you to be feeling your healthiest. Further, you cannot – and should not be expected to – thrive academically and continuously turn out your best work when you are fighting yourself internally. Mental health strains among US students (and around the world…this is a global epidemic) are more common than you are perhaps even aware of, and for this reason it is more important than ever to be taking adequate care of yourself – even if that means deferring a semester to get yourself back on track.

There will always be the courses you are studying, you can always go back to them later. What will not always be around is time. You only have a finite amount of time to take care of your whole health, and mental health plays a massive part in whole health. When you are turning in assessments, studying for upcoming exams, or researching for the next assignment that is due off the ranks, it goes without saying that it can be a draining process. Having to constantly be giving so much energy to your academic progression is a tiring reality. Students quite often do not realise the power of taking a day off to go for a hike, to see their family, to have drinks with a friend, to read a book, to invent something for no other reason than because they want to. Taking time out for yourself is a necessity when studying – anything less will almost certainly eventually become a strain on your mental state. And that is not worth anything, least of all your life.

At the end of the day, you can always go back and kick off where you left off with your studies. You cannot say the same for the time you lose suffering with mental health ailments because of the stress of academic success. You will not lose credibility for having to take some time for yourself – if anything, you will gain credibility. Most people – and again, especially employers – love to interact and spend time around individuals who have an innate sense of how much they can give, when they can give it, and how they can give it. Knowing your limitations is a credit to your strength and your determination to persevere despite struggling to stay afloat. Maintaining a strong sense of self, and understanding of your capacities, will result in you being prouder and more in-tune with your accomplishment once you graduate. And is that not the whole point?

The sheer number of educators here in the USA that have witnessed their students struggling mentally throughout the semester is staggering. Students want to be able to have and to balance it all, but it is an unfortunate reality that it is not always doable. Sometimes, taking a step back and lessening the study load (or whatever else) is necessary to avoid destructive mental health strains is not only recommended, but fundamentally necessary. Actively taking measures to instil a positive mental state is so important, but so is being able to recognise when those measures are not as effective as they once were. Anyone would agree that knowing yourself well enough to know when you need a mental break from studying so hard, is a credit to your character – not a weakness. The importance of maintaining stable mental health while studying cannot be overstated. Before anything else – even academic prowess – you must be willing and able to take care of your health. That is what is most important, that is what will always be most important.

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