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VAKULSKAS: Sacrificing wellness doesn’t equal success

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College culture incorrectly measures success with overextertion.

College culture incorrectly measures success with overextertion.

Photo by Michael Carpenter

Photo by Michael Carpenter

College culture incorrectly measures success with overextertion.

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We’ve all been there — the moment when the alarm jars you out of sleep and you feel a stiff heaviness in your eyelids, knowing it’s going to be a struggle getting through the rest of the day. I’ve been up past midnight multiple times this week, sometimes only squeezing in five or six hours of sleep. But compared to many, even that much is an unprecedented luxury. Lots of people I know run on fumes, ignoring the clock in favor of more pressing deadlines.

It’s important to work hard in college, not only so assignments get done in time, but also so you can get a jump on what’s coming up in the future. But when does it get to be too much?

We place this 24/7 work ethic on a pedestal; we make it the standard that everyone should meet. It seems that the busier you are, the better. The best students cram the most onto their resume, study the hardest, sign up for every activity and never turn down an opportunity. The people with free time? They don’t have much to show for themselves. They won’t get far.

It’s almost as if we compete in tests of strength to see who can juggle the fullest schedule while getting by on the fewest hours of sleep. I have to admit that even I feel some wry pride complain-bragging to others that “I was up until 2 a.m. finishing this assignment,” as I laugh breezily, roll my bloodshot eyes and clutch my large coffee. It’s me proving I’m tough enough to fight my way through my classes and, ultimately, the real world. Look, everyone, I can do it all.

While this mindset may seem impressive, it’s promoting a risky lifestyle. Humans are not nocturnal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night for college students, and goes so far as to call inadequate sleep an “epidemic.”

Even more concerning, a 2015 study published in “Sleep Medicine” warns that getting less than six hours could lead to all sorts of health problems like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Yet we are still encouraged to stay up late. That’s just college, and you have to deal with it, right? You stay up and do homework, using caffeine to get yourself through the night. It’s the quintessential picture of a drowsy student passing another night in the library. It’s time-honored; even my parents get excited when they hear about my late study sessions in Memorial, knowing I’m living “that old college kid life.”

Marquette itself takes pride in overwork — a new promotion video shows students just beginning their work at sunset and working until dawn, making pots of coffee and struggling to stay awake in the meantime.

This is not the work ethic that we should be endorsing. Students’ main goal, the reason they come to this university, is to receive an education. That doesn’t mean it’s not important to work, gain experience, earn money, be involved and make new friends, but at what cost are we trying to achieve all of this?

There is nothing good about being in a constant state of stress or depriving yourself of what you need to be healthy and well. Do not sacrifice that for anything, because it will come back to bite you in the long run.

Start practicing self-care now, when you arguably need it the most. You need to take care of you before you can effectively take care of anyone or anything else.

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