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Walking the tightrope: How to find balance at university

Korinna, Class of 2022, Life Sciences 

You might have some fond memories of being at the circus when you were little; now, you get to re-experience all that wonder in university. The circus, in many ways, can be a metaphor for your experience at Queen’s: it is crazy and unpredictable, and can elicit a wide range of emotions. Like a tightrope walker’s performance, our success depends on finding and maintaining our balance. As a busy student you may find yourself as a tightrope walker trying to stay balanced on the wire while juggling your performance. Balance is not easy to maintain as a student who has to juggle school, relationships, jobs and more. Sometimes it can feel like there’s more than you can handle, and you wobble back and forth, juggling all aspects of your life. Being a combination of a tightrope walker and a juggler is common, but that doesn’t make it easy or fun.

It’s stressful when you’re trying to balance everything, especially while you are walking along the wire and trying to juggle at the same time. Here are some tips from the big top that can help you manage your juggling act while staying balanced on the wire. Let’s pull back the curtain and see what lessons we can learn among all these flips and tricks.

  1. Plan your act: set a schedule.

Whether you are performing in a circus or in university, you have lots to do. Instead of improvising your performance, you should plan your act. This will help you stay organized and manage your time more effectively. Use a weekly schedule to plan when you’ll go to classes, eat, sleep, exercise, fulfill commitments and do homework. Make sure you also plan some time to relax and enjoy the show. Use a term calendar to keep track of due dates for assignments and see the big picture for the whole term. This will also help you to plan your weekly schedule.

Here are some templates and some tools you can use to schedule your time:

  1. Make it to the end of the tightrope. Set specific goals.

It’s hard to walk on a tightrope when you don’t have anything to focus on. Just as it’s important for a tightrope walker to see the platform at the end of the wire, it is important for you to set clear goals, to know exactly what you are working towards. Setting goals will help you prioritize the important things in your life and help you stay on track to achieve them.

Imagine yourself on a tightrope. Now, think about three areas in your life that you want to succeed in this year and envision them at the end of the wire. These areas could be your health, academics, finances, friends and family or any of your other interests. Take some time to think about what is important to you and set some long term and/or short-term goals. Long term goals are things you hope to achieve in the next year or couple years. Short term goals are things you hope to achieve in the next couple of weeks or months. When you are writing your goals, keep in mind that they will be most effective if they are SMART, or:

  • Specific (What do you want to accomplish?)
  • Measurable (How will you know when it is accomplished?)
  • Achievable (Is this realistic?)
  • Relevant (Is this worthwhile?)
  • Time-sensitive (When will you accomplish this goal?)

Write your goals somewhere that you can see them, so you are reminded of what you are working towards. Reflect on these goals every couple of weeks to track your progress and to see if they are still relevant.

  1. Toss your hat in the circus ring. Be social and get involved.

Get involved on campus or in the community. Don’t spend your time at Queen’s as a spectator and sitting on the bleachers; toss your hat into the ring and become part of the act. There are endless clubs, committees, volunteer opportunities and teams to join. Get involved with things you are passionate about and things that will push you to learn something new. Make the most out of university. Set aside some time during the week to step away from academics and spend time doing things you love.

  1. Be the ringmaster. Take care of yourself.

You are the ringmaster. You are the leader of your own show. You are important, and this means that your health is a priority. Although university can be a stressful time and academics are also important, don’t let this tip you over to one direction and lose control of your act. Stay balanced by taking care of your mental health, getting enough sleep, making sure you’re eating well and exercising. When the show is over, take some time behind the scenes to decompress and relax. Take a moment to relax and set some time away from work and school. Find a way to treat yourself after you’ve had a busy day or accomplished a goal. Like an acrobat putting on sweatpants or a clown taking off their makeup and having a nap, make sure you’re taking some time to yourself to step away from all the stress. It’s easy to forget about these things but they will help you stay focused for the whole act. Self-care is also essential for the three tips above.

If you find yourself toppling over and falling off the tightrope, take some time to collect yourself. Ask yourself: “Am I leaning to one side more than the other?” If so, be sure to use these four lessons to help yourself to find balance. There are many resources on campus, such as Student Academic Success Services, that can help you recover and maintain your balance. Don’t forget that the resources are your safety net and they will always catch you and help you get back up!