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Self-care in the time of COVID: resisting the urge to overcommit

It’s common knowledge: Brandeis students are chronically overcommitted. I think it’s part of what attracts us to this school: the active extracurriculars, the ease with which students can double or triple major in different fields. But I’ve seen so many people here committed to an extent that they neglect their studies––and worse, themselves. I’ve also been guilty of overcommitting. In past semesters, I’ve held two or more jobs along with extracurriculars and a five-class schedule. I’ve been stressed to the point that I was unable to enjoy my time here. I’m not unique in this. In recent years, student requests at the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC) have skyrocketed at a rate that exceeds the BCC’s available resources. In a recent article by The Brandeis Hoot, they noted that colleges in America have become pressure cookers; while our transcripts might look good, our holistic wellbeing is suffering.

Even disregarding the global pandemic, the Brandeis culture of overcommitment is unsustainable and unhealthy. In addition to our wellbeing, it comes at a cost for our professional and academic lives: According to a fall 2018 survey conducted at Brandeis through the American College Health Association (ACHA), participation in extracurricular activities is among the top five factors negatively impacting academic performance. After all, does anyone in the “real world” really care about how many clubs you were a part of on campus? Do employers think double or triple majoring is a necessity? No. They care about your perspective and the skills that you have to offer. College is not about doing every single thing; it’s about the relationships you build and the opportunities you take advantage of. Accolades are not an accurate or holistic measure of success.

Recently, a close friend called me out on my own tendency to overcommit: “You have so many interests and it’s great, but you end up getting burnt out in the process,” they told me. It hurt, but it was what I needed to hear. If you’re overfunctioning to a point that it worsens your quality of life, it’s time to take a hard look at what’s necessary and what’s extraneous. While cutting out extracurriculars or classes you’re passionate about may feel like you aren’t making the most of your Brandeis experience, it will ultimately add to it. Because you can’t truly succeed if you aren’t bringing your full self to the table. 

As we all settle into classes and campus life amid a global pandemic, it’s even more important now to take a hard look at our schedules and priorities. Do we really need to be on three club executive boards? Do we actually need to take five classes? Unlike previous semesters, students now are navigating the challenges of emerging adulthood while also trying to avoid the spread of a deadly virus. So as we all settle into life in this new hellscape, let’s ask ourselves these questions: How can we dedicate ourselves to what’s truly important? And how can we prioritize ourselves and our communities in this time, rather than false notions of accomplishment? 

End note: If you’re looking to contribute directly to Brandeis community wellbeing, consider donating your time, money, skills or resources to Brandeis Mutual Aid (@brandeismutualaid on Instagram.) Wealth redistribution is a great habit to cultivate, now more than ever before.

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