Becoming a LuHi Lion is a blessing in many ways. We have so much to offer our students, including college-prep classes, exemplary teachers, and an enriching community life. But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Statistics show that today’s academic responsibilities can cause half of high school students, particularly those in private schools, to undergo unhealthy stress levels. SAT exams, college applications and scholarships, extra-curricular activities, volunteering and work responsibilities, and less time to do it all can amount to major burnout.
But it doesn’t have to. What can you do to maintain your health while also achieving your academic goals? Here are some ideas.
“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Just as God demonstrated resting on the seventh day and asking us to do the same, health requires a balance of work and rest. In summer or in school, mental, physical and spiritual health begins with establishing a spiritual rhythm.
When you put time with God first, you’ll find that God will direct your steps. Have a mini-Sabbath each morning by spending time in His Word and prayer before you start your day. Ask him to guide you to the most important things, and to help you make room for the divine “interruptions” or appointments he will send to you.
Take a weekly Sabbath to spend time in worship with other Christians and rest physically and mentally. Dedicate time to relationships.
Mental health requires vision. Before you sign up for classes and activities, be intentional about setting realistic goals for your day, your week, your year, and your future.
For daily tasks, it can be as easy as making a to-do list. Whether it’s on a Post-It note or a journal, dedicate time each morning to think through the day. The most time-sensitive or important items should be at the top of the list.
When it comes to long-range goals, use the “SMART” acronym to track your objectives in a journal for your mental, physical, and spiritual health; relationships; academic goals; financial goals; and anything else you want to achieve.
Specific: List the specific objective: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Which?
Measurable: How will you measure it? Use metrics and milestones to describe how much or what percentage.
Achievable: Do you have skills and tools to accomplish this objective? List them.
Relevant: Does it fit with overall/longer objectives?
Time-bound: Create bite-size deadlines and final deadlines
Remember, setting intermediate deadlines helps you reach the finish line so that you’re not rushed or stressed at the last minute. For example, if one of your goals is to submit an application for college, look ahead to the application requirements as soon as you think you may want to attend that college. Your final deadline would be to submit the application. Mini-deadlines that help you accomplish that goal could be to have a conversation with one of your academic advisors about AP classes; finish volunteer hours; request recommendation letters; write the application essays, etc.
Food is fuel. Mindful eating means not eating whatever you want whenever you want, but eating what fuels your body well. Plan meals around balanced amounts of fruit, vegetables, protein, healthy carbohydrates, water, vitamins, and small amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Pay attention to what makes you feel best.
It also means enjoying your meals. The French philosophy of eating is based on paying attention to each bite of food that you put in your mouth. The opposite of that is distracted or stressed eating, which leads to overeating comfort foods like sugar, caffeine, and processed products. Try eating mindfully at a table without a TV or phone or book in front of you, savoring each bite, and treating yourself in moderation!
Exercise benefits not just your body, but your mind as well. It increases your brain’s production of endorphins (your feel-good hormones), takes your mind off your problems, increases self-confidence, alleviates stress, and improves your sleep, as well as keeping your heart and muscles in shape.
But remember, exercise looks different for everyone. If you don’t like running, try riding your bike or going on a weekly hike in the mountains. Balance cardio activities with yoga stretches or pilates sessions through the week. Turn on some music and have a dance workout in your room. The options are endless. The most important thing is that your body gets moving.
As you can see, it’s possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle while pursuing academic ambitions. By putting God first, establishing measurable goals, and eating well and exercising, you’ll find a comfortable rhythm for your life that prevents stress and burnout. Establish your wellness habits now and it will be easier to sustain them in college and beyond.