Oh, the joys of being a student leader. Being a role model for other students is an amazing feeling, but sometimes we just want to crawl into a corner and hide from the stress and responsibilities that come with it. What stress, you ask? Read on for eight of the biggest struggles that all student leaders deal with. #relatable
1. You check your email way more than you check social media
And you expect everyone else to do the same, too. Admit it. “I am constantly responding to emails,” says Reilly Tuccinard, a junior at the University of South Carolina. “I think I check my email more than I check Instagram. Taking the time to sit and respond to 10+ emails a day can be pretty stressful.”
While it’s a hard habit to break, try not checking your email all the time, especially if you’re with friends or working on schoolwork. It’ll just stress you out more. Take 30 minutes out of your day two to four times per day to answer your emails, and that’s it. No one else responds with lightning speed, so you don’t need to either.
2. When your members are sad and tired, you’re sad and tired
When something goes wrong with your group or organization, it’s easy for members and leaders to get into a slump. “It can be a real struggle when morale is low,” says Sarah Self, a sophomore at Belmont University, “Regardless of why, you have to remind them why they're doing this in the first place. Things may be hard in this moment, but you've got to go uphill to get to the top of the mountain, and that mountain is worth it.”
As the leader, try to stay positive through the tough times. You’re a role model; your members are reflective of your actions. “Make sure they know their problems are heard too. If they feel valued, they'll give you so much more,” says Sarah. Make time during meetings to listen to feedback so you know how to keep your group running smoothly.
3. Schoolwork is the last thing on your to-do list
Often, as a student leader, you have so many things to do for your organization(s), that academics get put on the back burner. Plus, most of the time, answering emails and talking to your executive board is way more fun (and feels more important, let’s be honest) than finishing your biology lab report. “Whenever I sit down to do homework, I usually end up spending at least an hour working on leadership stuff before I even get to schoolwork,” says Reilly.
Prioritizing your groups and organizations isn’t inherently bad, but you are in college for a reason. Try setting a timer for 25 minutes and doing academic work for that amount of time, and then take 25 minutes to work on extracurricular tasks. It’s all about balance!
4. Overscheduling is your middle name
You told your friend you would get lunch today. You told three others the same thing. You also didn’t realize that it was impossible to go from class to the city for a photo gig in 10 minutes. “Overscheduling restricts the soul. It makes it seem like college is just a to-do list,” says Jacqui Fricke, a sophomore at Temple University. “You just end up getting more stressed when you realize how many things you signed up for. Be spontaneous, but when it comes to your organization, get a planner so you know what times you can be spontaneous.”
Writing in your planner might seem tedious, but in the end, it’s a tool of freedom. It organizes everything and keeps all of your obligations in check. Plus, there are just so many cute planners in this world, so why not buy one?
5. You take on everyone else’s jobs instead of just doing your own
Doing everyone else’s work is a common practice of all perfectionists. You want to make sure everything is the best it can be, which isn’t bad in itself, but it can be perceived negatively by your group members. It can also lead to unnecessary stress on your end.
“I try to do everyone’s job for them and then I end up overworking myself,” says Tiara Curow, a junior at Central Washington University. “I don’t know if it’s because I have control issues or I just don’t want to put too much burden on my executive team. I usually end up getting stressed out or not completing my other tasks to my full potential. What I try to remember is that my executive team would not have taken their positions if they weren’t aware of what the jobs entailed.” Remember that your organization is a team effort; it’s not every woman for herself. Pitch in when others need help, but try not to take on everyone else’s tasks.
6. What’s a social life?
While your girls get ready to go out on the weekends, you’re holed up in your room, answering emails, meeting deadlines, contacting event coordinators and just trying to keep everything in line. Sometimes it’s nice to stay in, but you’re definitely tired of scrolling through Instagram and having FOMO every single weekend.
“Having to stay in every weekend to do work for my organizations and homework that I neglected during the week due to said organizations gets old,” says Emily Miller, a senior at Temple University. “I’m not a huge party girl, but I would like to hang out with my friends and visit the city during the weekends.” It’s tough when there are only 24 hours in a day, but we suggest picking one night or day out of the weekend to socialize, and then using the rest of the weekend to focus. While academics and leadership are incredibly important, you can’t restrict yourself from a college experience. We know you; you’ll get your work done.
7. You never give yourself “you” time
You’re so busy trying to make everyone happy that you forget about what matters most: your happiness. “One of the things I find really difficult as a student leader at my university is being able to balance time I spend on that and time I spend doing things for myself,” says Emma Hoey, a freshman at the University of Vermont. “I feel that after I put so much of my free time into something that takes a lot out of me I deserve to relax and de-stress. But my commitment to being a leader for all these girls is so time consuming that I find myself skipping yoga class again to read more current events, or missing out on a group outing because I'm planning so much stuff in my head to get done.”
Remember that an empty cup can’t pour into others. You need time to fill yourself up with what makes you happy, whether that means watching The Office on Netflix for two hours, journaling or getting your nails done. If you’re a spiritual person, take time out of your day to meditate or pray. Keeping your happiness in check is more beneficial than running yourself dry.
8. Your planner stresses you out way more than it needs to
What’s a leader without her planner? Nothing. Planners can be the most beautiful organizational tool, but they can also cause issues. “As a student leader my biggest struggle has been overlooking my schoolwork and relying too much on my planner,” says Tiara. “Usually if something isn’t written in my agenda it doesn’t exist and that has created issues.”
We’ve all written down events, assignments and deadlines that get cancelled or changed and we forget to fix them. That’s why it’s important to write in pencil. Or use different colors to mean different things, like “definitely happening,” “possibly happening,” etc. And remember, you have a planner for a reason—use it! Carry it with you everywhere, or else you run the risk of overscheduling yourself (see #4).
Being a student leader can be a major struggle, but if we didn’t want the hustle, we wouldn’t have taken the position. Be proud of your leadership positions, but above all, make sure that you’re happy. Your well being is worth more than any position.