Screaming On the Inside

She needs to sort out her priorities

Madeline Fuerstenberg

More stories from Madeline Fuerstenberg

November 2, 2020

Priorities. We all have them.

Whether they encompass your education, job or familial obligations, there will always be things we all need to get done first and foremost. It’s a driving factor in life.

As I’ve made quite clear over the past few weeks, it’s hard for me to feel as though I’m not completely drowning in my responsibilities right now. And what I really struggle with the most is prioritizing one thing above all others.

I’m not really sure how to do that.

My natural instinct is to want to prioritize my education. I am paying thousands of dollars to be here, after all. But first, I need to be able to afford that education. And my rent, food, gas and other utilities. 

So, while I know this probably shouldn’t be the case, I tend to actually prioritize my jobs over my schoolwork. 

However, while I do not get paid to work at The Spectator, my job as editor-in-chief is perhaps my most important responsibility. It’s the job where I have the most people relying on me. 

So, regardless of the fact that I am receiving no college credit and no payment via The Spectator, I tend to prioritize this above all else.

But I know this isn’t right. Education should come first, I just have a really hard time making my classes and homework my top priorities. And because I’m struggling so much with deciding what to prioritize on any given day, I feel as though I am not giving any one thing as much attention and effort as I should.

My counselor gave me a suggestion to combat this dilemma. She said I should make a conscious decision every day to give the majority of my attention to one thing.

For example, on Wednesday’s my attention goes primarily to The Spectator, because that’s when our meetings and layout nights take place. If I have a particularly long shift at the dog daycare on Friday, then that will be my priority on Friday. Any day without any immediate work concern should be dedicated entirely to school.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a very helpful strategy. It might even seem like a no-brainer. But here’s why I find it helpful: when I mentally designate a day to one specific responsibility, I am subconsciously giving myself permission to temporarily tune out those other concerns and ease my stress — just a little bit. 

This strategy has its pros and its cons, but for the most part, it helps me manage my anxiety — and it weakens my urge to tear all my hair out. 

According to USA Today, 85 percent of college students in 2015 reported feeling overwhelmed by all of their responsibilities at some point during the year. 

The USA Today article cites multiple stressors that contribute to the average college student’s stress levels. Every student experiences college differently, just as we all handle our overwhelming workloads differently.

So if you’re in the same boat as me (which I imagine most of you are) then give my prioritizing strategy a try. I also find it helpful to make lists and keep a thorough planner. I don’t always remember to fill out that planner every day, but it always helps ease my mind to fill it out when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed.

When I’m screaming on the inside from the constant barrage of stress I deal with, seeing things in writing helps. Giving yourself some leeway helps, too. There is no right or wrong way to prioritize your responsibilities, but in the long run, it’s really your mental health and well-being that should come first.

Fuerstenberg can be reached at [email protected]