Set your priorities straight

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With exams on the horizon and the final few weeks of classes rounding up, it becomes increasingly important that students take care of their health.

Why is it, then, that this is instead the time when many students put sleep, exercise and nutrition at the bottom of their priority list? Last week, the Journal’s Health and Wellness supplement examined the negative effects that poor sleep and meal patterns can have on a student’s health.

But most of what we reported was—or should be—common knowledge. We all know that we should be getting at least eight hours of sleep, and yet, many of us have trouble putting our knowledge into practice. Health is seen as something that you can always deal with later—unlike that 15-page essay, due tomorrow.

This is more than just a university issue, it’s a systemic problem in our society. Western culture places enormous value on doing more and being busier. Whatever the excuse, those who choose to will always find a reason to sacrifice sleep in order to get things done. However, the competitive environment experienced at university doesn’t help.

The student who uses the extra eight hours to finish a paper, get ahead on readings or do research for a seminar, rather than using those hours for sleep, is considered to be acting productively. With a university life crammed with courses, part-time jobs and extra-curriculars, it seems that there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything, including taking proper care of one’s health.
It may be a personal decision on how to structure priorities, but there is a substantial amount of societal pressure to focus on present gains, whatever the risk. It’s important, therefore, to look out for signs of unhealthy and possibly life-threatening behaviours in friends such as alcohol abuse, eating disorders and depression.

Students may be taking on more than they can handle, pushing themselves to extremes and their personal health and well-being to the sides. For the sake of health, students must learn to recognize their limitations, as a human being, and not look at sleep as a sign of weakness. More attention needs to be paid by professors and administration surrounding stress factors and the impact of papers and examinations on a student’s wellbeing. It’s important during these stressful months that we all watch out, not only for friends and loved ones, but also for ourselves.

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