By Emma Reilly
In high school, students are urged by teachers and parents to build robust resumes so they can attend a prestigious college. Once in college, those same students face the daunting task of rebuilding their resumes to attract future employers.
It can be hard for students to break away from this constant pressure.
The influence of parents, the Washington College Career Center, and the media can lead students to believe that the pursuit of a job is all-important. As a freshman, I felt that everything I did in my first year had to be relevant to the job I hope to have. This mindset makes free time out to be an enemy.
Many students become so focused on getting involved in activities that will appear well-rounded and productive on paper that they forget to make time for the activities they truly enjoy.
I have often found this true of myself. In a typical week, I’m balancing enough schoolwork to fill almost all of my time. So, when I do have a moment to myself, I struggle to convince myself that it’s perfectly fine to do something simply because I enjoy it.
“Some people feel enormous pressure to maximize their downtime with the best choices,” BBC’s Aysha Imtiaz said.
The idea that free time is something to be “maximized” is detrimental to students’ well-being.
The pressure to always be “doing” something can cause unnecessary stress when students try to take time to themselves. It could also cause students to feel that they are inferior or lazy for trying to step away from their academics or their pursuit of a future career. Some may even feel that leisure time directly diminishes their chances of success after graduation.
These negative associations are hard to overcome.
“The view that leisure is wasteful can be deeply entrenched — meaning some people really struggle to enjoy time off,” Imtiaz said.
Students who struggle to truly unwind when they have free time should consider joining student organizations that promote activities unrelated to potential job prospects or academic development.
Washington’s Interactive Gaming Society is one student group that promotes having fun for the sake of fun.
As a member of WIGS, students simply hang out, play board games, and decompress.
Time spent doing something you enjoy is just as well-used as time spent working.
“Believing leisure is a ‘waste of time’ undermines its potential for enjoyment and mental health benefits,” Verywell Health’s Sarah Simon said.
Leisure activities and hobbies allow students to take a step back. They can serve as a buffer between students and their school-related stress, while also providing a space for social interaction.
“It seriously takes a load off. For the two hours we meet…you can just forget about the fact that you have an upcoming exam or something and just hang out with friends,” WIGS President and junior Riley Bruce said.
Students who find themselves with an uneven work-life balance at WC can benefit from the structured opportunity to have fun with peers outside of class.
“Yeah, studying is important. But if you don’t know anyone on your campus, how are you going to…learn to connect…with other people,” sophomore Julia Flaherty said.
Although social interaction isn’t something most students consider productive, it is certainly necessary and important.
“When we communicate with people face-to-face, it could help to make us more resilient to stress factors in the long run,” Medical News Today’s Dr. Maria Cohut said.
Resilience to stress is something I think almost every college student could benefit from. With this in mind, we may even be able to rethink our perceptions of leisure.
“If you focus all the time on just working and being productive, then you may think you’re having a fulfilling life, but you’re not going to feel fulfilled,” Bruce said. “What’s the point of doing stuff if you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing?”
Going for a walk, making plans with friends, or reading a book are all super easy ways students can make time for themselves during the semester. Fun activities don’t have to be elaborate; what is important is that rigor and productivity are set aside for a moment.
Not everything that is beneficial in life is productive, and not everything that is productive is beneficial. By avoiding limiting their on-campus involvements to resume-builders, and by making time for social interaction and hobbies, WC students can reduce stress and establish a healthier balance this semester.
Photo by Izze Rios