Richard Branson

PEOPLE are multidimensional. While a student may have an ingrained responsibility to do well in studies, this does not mean that he should immerse himself completely in the work that higher education entails.

If you are an undergraduate, take a moment to ask yourself when was the last time that you had fun? While dedicating your time as a student towards studies most likely will result in excellent grades, it is also important to note that tertiary education is not all about studies and burning the midnight oil.

Regardless of the level of studies, the act of studying at institutions of learning is meant to prepare oneself for the future, for life itself. Studies are only part of the process of preparation as you factor in the network of friends, instructors and professors who can be useful in a future working environment.

But the undergraduate should also have fun as part of his education towards a better future. After all, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

The truth is that the life of a college student can be stressful. Competition for good grades, choice of career and many other aspects of the college environment lend themselves towards stress.

In a paper written by Ranjita Misra, a professor at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Health, West Virginia University in the United States, the professor writes: “Students report experiencing academic stress at predictable times each semester with the greatest sources of academic stress resulting from taking and studying for exams, grade competition, and the large amount of content to master in a small amount of time.”

However, the paper also explores a key aspect of combating stress as a student by managing time.

While much of college life revolves around a schedule of classes and exams, it is not so much about managing time, but managing yourself. You may not have access to a personal assistant but it is not impossible to do it yourself.

And it does not even need a concise schedule of doing things at a certain time, but rather more about breaking down your day into parts that are dedicated to types of activities.

It is worthwhile to study the daily schedules of famous successful people. Take for example the famous writer Charles John Huffam Dickens, who made sure to include time for writing, a vigorous walk through the London countryside and spending time with friends and family. The schedule included seven hours of sleep and an hour that was set for waking up and another to bridge the gap of time between his walk and dinner.

Or perhaps you may want to learn from the example of the world renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who dedicated time for courting Constanze Weber.

And it is evident from the schedules of such people that they included time for leisurely pursuits in their daily lives in addition to the rigorous work they put into their careers.

We can also look at modern-day successful people such as Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who told The Guardian in 2012: “I learnt to delegate from a young age. Actually, removing myself from the office has helped me look for the next big venture. I try to exercise every day — whether it is a swim, a game of tennis or a kite-surf when on Necker island. Manage

the BlackBerry, don’t let it manage you. The key is to do it in bursts and not to let it dominate your day.”

So, let us go back to having fun. Why is it important? Why is it as essential as studies?

You’ve probably heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine. And that is not just a saying, it is factually true in some cases.

Joe Hoare, a visiting lecturer at the University of the West of England, writes in an issue of the Nursing Standard: “When we laugh, the ensuing endorphin rush makes us feel better. So, we can stimulate relief from stress or pain just by having fun. Research presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in 2001 showed that even anticipation of laughter and humour are significant. Led by Dr Berk, the research team conducted clinical studies in which they found that the biological effects of a single, one-hour session of viewing a humorous video can last from 12 to 24 hours.” Evidently, fun is an effective way to navigate the landscape of stress within an environment that perpetuates it.

Find out what is fun for you to do. Do you have a hobby? Do you know friends who share the same interests as you? Once you’ve figured it out, make sure it is a permanent addition to your daily life. You may try to reason that your field of study provides you with a significant amount of fun and as such, you do not need to schedule additional fun activities to help you combat stress. However, in the examples of famous people, fun activities beyond their work, especially social activities, were always a part of their daily lives. Fun, for all its jovialness, is a serious business. And it should never be taken lightly.

If you are a student experiencing stress, do not be afraid to seek the help of a counsellor or mental health department as most institutions provide free services to students.

Stress management is about managing yourself, including your emotional needs.

If you are in need of free and confidential emotional support, contact the Befrienders Kuala Lumpur charter +603-7956 8145. The hotline

is available 24/7 in Malaysia and for those

studying abroad. Most countries have similar hotlines available including the Befrienders network.

The writer is an adventurous English and Creative Writing student at The University of Iowa in the United States. Email him at education@nst.com.my

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