Imagine that this is your week: You’ve got an English essay, science lab, history presentation, and math final all due within the next few days. On top of this, you have sports practice every day before school, your best friends’ birthday is coming up, your siblings need constant rides, and on top of this, you have an out-of-state debate tournament over the weekend.
Sounds chaotic, right? The ironic part is, most debaters don’t have to try and imagine this scenario and all of the stress that comes would come with it because it is the reality for a lot of them. Debate is not only time-consuming, but it can be mentally exhausting, too. Having to juggle a challenging activity with the other responsibilities and facets within your life can be overwhelming. All of this built-up angst may leave you wondering one thing: how do I strike the balance between debate and the other elements and responsibilities within my life?
First, remember that your mental health needs to come first. There are things in life that are okay to sacrifice from time to time, such as social events. However, your mental wellness is not something to be added to the chopping block. To speak in “debater terms,” your mental wellbeing is very much a prerequisite to every other facet of your life. If you feel mentally drained, it is going to be very difficult for you to want to invest in other elements of the wellness pillars such as your social or physical health. To take this thought into practice, there are several things you can do to make sure you are mentally keeping yourself in check. Whether that be talking to a school counselor, meditating before bed instead of watching TV, or going for a jog -- take the extra step to care for yourself through these acts of self-kindness.
Second, remember that it is okay to ask for help and speak up. If you truly feel that your agenda is too much for you to handle, tell other people this. You can ask teachers for extensions on assignments if you will be away debating for the weekend, tell your debate coach that you might need to cut back a little on weekly practice rounds to help out around the house, or even just grab a friend or trusted adult to vent to for a bit. Everyone feels overwhelmed from time to time and with that commonality comes empathy. While you should never take advantage of or make a habit of delaying work, you should never feel bad about asking for it when necessary. Almost all of the time, the educators and adults in your life want to see you succeed and will help you balance your life to allow this to happen. Remember: asking for help isn’t a weakness, it shows strength and a willingness to improve your quality of life.
Third, don’t stretch yourself thin. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pushing yourself and being a person with a busy schedule. However, these things can become a problem when they start interfering with your daily necessities such as meals, sleep, and relationships. If you find that your schedule is taking away from your ability to get three meals, exercise, and an adequate amount of sleep daily, consider asking yourself where your priorities lie. You may find that you can have more success and improve your life even more if instead of doing several activities and classes, you focus hard on a few and put in high-quality work and commitment.
Fourth and finally, stay in the moment. If you are working on homework, try not to distract yourself from thinking about different debate arguments or tennis practice. Instead, focus on the task at hand and take each assignment one at a time. Keeping this mindfulness whilst doing these tasks will help you to do them more efficiently and of higher quality, too. Give each area of your life your undivided attention when you are partaking in it and these areas will give back to you in rewarding ways.
Dealing with many responsibilities at once all while being extremely young is tough, but it truly does set you up for a balanced future with healthy habits once you learn how to deal with them effectively. So remember to show yourself kindness and forgiveness. Prioritize and stay present in what gives you meaning in life, and the rest will work itself out.