This article was written by Sydney Leung, a 5th year BMOS and Sociology student at Western University.
From as early as I can remember, the pursuit of academic achievement was a core value in my Asian upbringing. The expectations placed on me and the pressure to excel served as both my primary motivation and my greatest enemy. My self-worth quickly became tied to my ability to achieve good grades, and any mark less than perfect was not good enough. Due to the mental health stigma in many Asian cultures, I kept quiet about my struggles, and my mental health suffered as a result. The pressure to maintain a perfect image contributed to a seemingly endless cycle of self-destruction.
Navigating and reflecting upon the academic expectations in my Asian upbringing has shaped my approach to learning and personal growth. Through my experiences at Western, I’ve learned that maintaining your mental well-being can actually be the secret ingredient to achieving academic success! Here are a few strategies I utilize to maintain a balance between academic pressure and mental wellness.
1. Be honest with yourself
It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling, and acceptance of this can be an important first step in engaging in strategies to help rectify this.
2. Set attainable goals
A quote that I once heard that continues to have a profound impact on me is something along the lines of: “Success can be defined as doing your best with the time and resources you have.” Manage your time wisely and use organization tools like lists and calendars to keep track of upcoming deadlines. Be realistic about what you can accomplish within a given time frame, and break larger goals into smaller ones if necessary.
3. Celebrate wins, big or small
Recognizing and rewarding yourself along the way can be a great motivator in achieving your goals and boosting your confidence, even (and sometimes especially) if you don’t think you deserve it. Whether it's an improvement in your grades or finally tackling that concept you’ve been struggling with, be sure to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Take a moment to admire your progress and reward yourself by enjoying your favorite meal, watching a movie, or simply taking a break to recharge.
4. Spend time doing fun activities
Make it a daily habit to allocate time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether this entails going for a walk outside, spending time with friends, or engaging in physical activities. Don't be afraid to venture outside of your comfort zone and explore new experiences, meeting new people along the way. It is important to remember that there is so much more to life than just school.
5. Seek support
Reach out to your peers and professors for academic assistance, and confide in your friends and family for emotional support. It is important to engage with individuals you trust and who can offer the encouragement you may need during challenging times. Western also offers two free wellness tools that are available to students: Togetherall and the Wellness Navigator.
Togetherall is a peer-to-peer mental health site where students can anonymously share their thoughts in a 24/7 online community. The Western Wellness Navigator is a digital tool that serves as a “one-stop shop” for students to have instant access to all of the mental health and wellness available. Students can create an account and complete a confidential self-assessment to monitor their well-being. You can also book an in-person or virtual mental health appointment with a counsellor to seek additional support. Visit uwo.ca/health for more information.
6. Prioritize sleep and eat healthy
Remember: healthy body, healthy mind. Try your best to get 8 hours of sleep each night so that you have enough energy for the next day. Make sure to drink water throughout the day and maintain a balanced and nutritious diet to provide your body and mind with the essential fuel for optimal performance.
By prioritizing mental wellness and finding the balance between academic pressure and personal well-being, not only is it possible to excel academically, but the ride to success itself becomes more enjoyable. After all, success is not just about the destination; it's about the path we take to get there and how we have grown along the way, picking up new tools to achieve even greater success.
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