For many of us, coming to uni is our first time living out of home and/or making big decisions about our lives with minimal structure and guidance. Whether it’s filing out our first tax returns, finding time to complete assignments, or keeping in touch with our loved ones, staying across everything we have to do is a scary part of “adulting”. As we become independent and form our own futures, the new things we have to learn and confront can be immensely intimidating. But life is full of potential and opportunity, and a way to balance what we want out of each aspect of our lives really makes all the difference.
Schedule, schedule, schedule.
Getting stuff done give us this incredible sense of achievement – a testament to our potential as responsible humans. Whether you prefer handwritten notes in a diary, or phone apps are your go-to, make note of every plan the moment you make them. This can help avoid double-booking, which can often cause confusion, disappointment, and tension in relationships.
In my schedule I have down social plans, meetings, appointments, and deadlines. This gives me an idea of how stressed I may be at a given time, and I can work my other plans around that. If I know I’ve got three assignments due on one day and I’m going to be too stressed to make food for myself, I might reach out to a friend and ask if I could come over for dinner one of those days.
Prioritise and have a to-do list handy.
Whether it’s laundry, booking a holiday, catching up on lectures, or sending out a single (but very important) e-mail, maintaining an ongoing to-do list can help relieve stress. When we go from tutorials to work and then home, our mindsets change with every activity – what this means is: work will be fresh in your mind, so you’ll be more inclined to follow up with work things, and forget about the tutorial stuff earlier in the day.
Jotting down a short dot point (“degree plan”, “bank”, “groceries”, “Josh”) is usually enough to spark your memory about that particular item; what’s important is to put it down the moment it comes to mind so that you don’t forget it altogether. It’s also crucial to prioritise the items on your to-do list: some things can wait, while others are time-sensitive. So when you find a pocket of free time, take a look at your list and think about what you could get done with the time, energy and resources you have. This is where scheduling and to-do lists come hand-in-hand, as you’ll be able to gauge how you might be travelling after a particularly exhausting day.
Communication and relationships* are so, so important.
From friends, to family, to professional working relationships, the way we relate to people around us can really make or break our experiences in the world. Keeping our loved ones close is one of those things that comes back to us in all kinds of wonderful ways when we need them. However, our time doesn’t need to be spent worrying about where we’re at with people in our lives. Communicate openly and genuinely with others: tell them you love them and when what they’re doing doesn’t sit well with you. Create a culture of honesty that comes from a wish to make things work, and talk about things before they become problems.
If you’re not feeling up to a massive hike you may have planned with someone, tell them, “It’s been a crazy week, and I don’t think I will have the energy to conquer the hike. But I would still love to see you in some capacity. Perhaps we could do something else instead, like go to the markets or bake.” This makes it clear that it’s not themthat you are bailing on, but the specific activity – and it makes them comfortable to do the same in future if they need to!
Pro tip: Combine your to-do list and maintaining relationships. Some of the most memorable hangouts with dear friends have been grocery shopping and hunting down Canberra’s cheapest petrol. When people want to spend time with you, they’ll understand not being able to take a chunk of time out – and chances are they’re on the same boat too – so it’s perfectly okay to suggest that someone come along to return your library books, or ask if you could drive them to the train station.
Keep asking questions and learning.
Nobody has it all figured out. If there’s something in particular that you’re struggling with, reach out to those around you who may be able to point you in the right direction. Whether that’s going to the gym for the first time, or putting together a project proposal and budget, seeking out the guidance of people around us is an act of great humility. Similarly, if you’ve got something covered and someone else is just coming to it, be wary of being dismissive, as they may bring new perspective and insight.
It is also important to keep pushing our comfort zones outward, and to seek out new experiences. This is the way we grow and learn. Trying an activity seemingly unrelated to everything else in our lives may end up opening up opportunities we’d never considered before, or we may meet people who teach us things about ourselves and the world that fascinate us.
The one thing to remember is to stick to things. Self-care is, at times, about sucking it up and getting stuff done – even if it may be the last thing we want to do. It is easy to find distractions and excuses – and sometimes we may really need that break – but it’s when I’ve pushed myself through a particularly rough time that I’ve felt the proudest of my achievements. Good days and bad days are a reality of our lives, but adulting involves being responsible to ourselves and others, and being able to continue with what we’ve got to do even at our worst. It doesn’t mean ignoring our well-being, but it means giving ourselves a certain amount of tough love and credit for how resilient we really can be!
*I speak of relationships, in this case, as those platonic and otherwise. I believe it’s really important to think about our friendships with the same weight and through a similar lens as our romantic ones, and give them the importance they deserve.