Abigail Ruhman is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
In the past couple of years, America’s constant need to work has escalated to an unnecessarily aggressive point and college students are not immune to. While college can be difficult and extremely stressful, this doesn’t mean that conversations about life need to be a who’s jeopardizing their health the most. I understand that the emotional power that comes from venting about your stress, but the idea that students are failing to get enough sleep, struggling to get a decent meal and are compelled to study constantly should be extremely alarming.
America’s obsession with overworking has some severe consequences that don’t always appear immediately. Being exposed to the blue light from phones, tablet or computers for prolonged periods of time is linked to long-lasting eye damage, according to Popular Science.
In addition, Popular Science links sitting down for extended periods of time to muscle strains and repetitive stress injuries. Inactivity can be linked to an increased chance of premature death.
Overworking in college is just as bad as overworking in a workplace. Society needs to stop pushing the narrative that whoever has the least amount of sleep, least amount of food or the worst story, wins. For years, my friend group used to play a dangerous game of competing for who had it worse. It created a pattern of work, but also a pattern of ignoring what our bodies needed. Sleep, a healthy diet of more than one meal of ramen at 5 p.m. and mental breaks are necessary.
Lack of sleep has a major impact on health, especially lack of sleep on a regular basis. By treating sleep as a luxury rather than a priority, people are putting themselves at a higher risk of chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, according to Harvard University Medical School. Not getting enough sleep can also be linked to a decrease in productivity and focus, according to Medium.
In terms of diet, not having enough calories in your diet can lead to feeling of sluggish, an inability to maintain a comfortable body temperature, mood swings and a failure to regulate regular body functions, according to Insider. A lack of food mixed with caffeine can lead to damage to the stomach line due to the increased acidity. Not eating as a way to get more time out of your day can lead to long lasting effect, and it’s also not a healthy mental stance to take.
The issue with promoting the idea that the person who suffers the most wins is that it makes it difficult for people to feel relaxed enough to rest. It’s common to experience guilt for not working constantly. Often people feel the only way to deal with this guilt is to just keep working. The common belief is that in order to be productive you have to be working at all times, according to Medium.
This isn’t always true. While being productive includes working, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t being productive if you aren’t working. Sleeping promotes productivity, and by denying your body sleep you may be denying yourself productivity. In addition, refusing to let yourself relax can lead to mental stress and physical stress. It takes a lot of energy to keep your attention on one thing.
The average American attention span is eight seconds, which is one second shorter than a goldfish, according to Inc. Keeping your attention focused takes willpower and energy. Taking breaks and allowing yourself to relax means that you’re constantly using energy, and if you don’t sleep or eat enough you aren’t getting that energy back.
College is hard and stressful, but that doesn’t mean that you need to push yourself to an early grave. Don’t engage in the “Who has it worse,” game — no one is going to win. If someone around you is treating harmful habits as bragging rights, ask them if they’re doing OK because they may need someone to point out how that’s impacting their body.
Don’t allow competitions like this to convince you to create harmful habits because they can end up leaving you with a bunch of health issues that can’t always be fixed.