College lifestyle leading to unhealthy habits; mental, physical neglect

Published by Savannah Peterson on

The stress of being constantly busy can take a toll on anyone’s body. On top of the countless hours that students now spend working to pay bills, they are expected to spend about 10 hours a week on each course while tending to family, cooking meals and running errands. Little time is left to think about mental and physical health.

College students must consider the time spent on grooming, sleeping, and other activities.
Photo provided by Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The 10 hours a week of study per class is a rule of thumb for most UCC students. As students continue their education, they should expect these hours to stay consistent with universities. Oregon State University suggests, “One credit is generally given for three hours per week of work in and out of class. For example, each hour of class lecture is generally expected to require two hours of work out of class.” Thus, a four-credit course represents 12 hours of work a week.

Hannah Culbertson gives a lot of advice on how to manage college stress.
Infographic by Peyton Manning / The Mainstream.

Many UCC students are spending 20 to 40 hours per week on a job. This added onto schoolwork can be time-consuming, leaving students left with no time for themselves or other important roles, such as being a parent or partner. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average amount of parental time spent with a child under the age of 6 is 3.89 hours per day; between the ages 6 and 12 parental time is 1.42 hours per day and under the age of 18 is 2.25 hours. These statistics show why many UCC students truly have little to no time to manage their mental and physical health.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted a survey on how many hours an average college student spends on different activities each day. Students now work around 2.3 hours each day, this represents a part-time job. This 2.3 hours a day would be a luxury for some UCC students working closer to 6 hours per day. Students who are working full-time often spend more time each day at work.

Many UCC students are juggling two to three jobs each day, so making sure to schedule time for themselves is important for their physical and mental health.

One UCC student who asked to remain anonymous is juggling three jobs. “The most challenging part is finding a balance to do all three of them well. We tend to have certain standards that we set for ourselves, and the trick is to keep meeting your standards in each individual area. For instance, something important to me in my home life is eating dinner together at the table, so I arrange my homework and reading materials around having dinner together with my family,” she said. “I have been doing a lot of late nights, working on school after I have tucked kids into bed. While at work, I remain focused on the things I need to do because my position requires a lot of organization and communication, but when I’m on lunch I’ve been watching lectures asynchronously, so I’m more available to my family when I get home.”

In order to keep up with the busy weeks and set self-care time aside, this busy student is very organized. “I bought a planner and schedule myself study time, so I have a clear time to schedule a pedicure with a friend or a movie night with my family. Having excellent support at home has played a major role in my ability to balance work, school and family,” she said. “Monday through Thursday my fiancé has been making dinner and making sure kids are showered for the night. In doing so, I get to squeeze in some light reading before dinner, and then after dinner, I get time to see all of the kids and have quality family time. Then once the kids are tucked in I get back to schoolwork.”

This student’s success comes partly from the ability to find time to recharge.

Without recharging, the negative health effects of overworking can be damaging, according to UCC’s Wellness Coach Hanna Culbertson. “​​When we are working full time, going to school full time, and also parenting full time, there is often little to no time for self-care and attending to our mental health,” Culbertson said. “The accumulated stress this puts on our bodies and minds definitely can make people feel anxious, depressed, lack motivation, etc. Over time, when we do not take time for our physical and emotional health, we will feel the physical and mental health impacts of that.” 

Another UCC student, Kiona Villegas, said, “I hardly ever socialize with friends, but I believe that the pandemic doesn’t help with the current situation. With family and working around the schedule, making sure we set aside time for each other as spouses, children and other family members is crucial and a must for our home.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics studies the average amount of parental time with kids every day.
Photo provided by Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I do feel alone sometimes when the situation gets overwhelming, but I have never had a hard time finding someone who can relate to me. I’ve been lucky with meeting people who are also having to juggle life like me,” Villegas said.

Feeling alone and misunderstood is common, according to Culbertson; “I would emphasize that you are not alone,” she said. 

The challenge with living such a busy life is stepping back and looking at the progress being made. “I’m excited to share that I am three classes away from finishing my Associate’s degree, and at home I see my children grow, they are healthy and meeting milestones which I am grateful for and I celebrate it,” Villegas said. 

The anonymous student who shared her experience said, “The most rewarding part of living such a busy life is feeling all of the support from my family and friends. Knowing that being busy is going to make me a better person and provide a better life for myself and my family truly keeps me pushing forward. It helps that I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I work best with a busy schedule, I have to have a clear, regimented schedule in order to stay on track.” 

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