Everything, All at Once

“I didn’t eat breakfast because I had to choose between eating and sleeping, and I chose sleeping today,” said Jaime Kaufman ‘25 as she left for her first class of the day. Meanwhile, Harry Glicklin ‘26 only had 15 minutes between classes to do homework. “I did absolutely no homework, but it’s cool,” he admitted as he walked to his next class. Sam Lipson ‘24 only had 20-minute increments of time for meals throughout her day. “Now we’re gonna grab a bite to eat, I have 20 minutes until my next class!” she exclaimed, speed-walking to her next destination. “I’m a little late but it’s okay,” music major Zach Kleiman ‘25 commented as he walked from one extracurricular activity to the next, “it’s just like just one thing right after the other,” he said. 

As we compiled these chaotic moments into this video, we reached out to each of these students individually to ask them a bit more about their days here at Muhlenberg. We asked the participants how they balance their busy schedules. “[I like] being busy. I love my downtime too, but I tend to feel unproductive or bored when I’m not doing anything. And especially at Muhlenberg, I want to soak it all in, and do everything I can,” said Harry Glicklin ‘26 enthusiastically. In a close-knit campus community where seemingly the sky’s the limit when it comes to involvement, there are definitely perks to having a vibrant campus life. Tim Silvestri, head of the counseling center at Muhlenberg, explained that “the more successful you are, the more you report having stress in your life. Stress is a very normal, beneficial thing, and success [generates] stress.” Clearly, these students are successful and eager about their campus involvement. At Muhlenberg, maxing out our schedules has become normalized. Full calendars are a facet of campus culture. But when is too much, too much? Silvestri acknowledged that being busy is undoubtedly part of our campus culture, but that being busy can also serve as merely a distraction from stress itself, or a result of a fear of missing out. “Being busy is a behavioral coping strategy for stress. It’s ineffective. But it’s a coping strategy,” he speculated, as he remarked on the trends he sees in how students choose to fill their time. 

Silvestri emphasized that there is a difference between good stress and bad stress. Good stress can be understood as short-term and can work as a motivator and energizer. Bad stress, however, is much more long-term and can wear you out overtime, becoming harmful to your mental health. “Good stress keeps me safe and often is a slight form of motivation, when bad stress consumes every aspect of your life and prevents relaxation even when going to sleep,” Lipson remarked as she reflected on what good stress and bad stress means to her.

Good stress is mostly acute stress, whereas bad stress is more of a chronic type of stress. “Acute stress increases learning and memory. Chronic stress suppresses learning and memory,” explained Leah Wilson, a neuroscience professor at Muhlenberg who specializes in research involving stress responses. Chronic stress results in burnout, a condition that is all too prevalent in college students, especially nearing the end of the semester. Towards the end of the day documented in the video, Jaime Kaufman and I (Alena) reached a point of peak stress, which is not an uncommon occurrence at the end of a long day, or a long week, or a long semester. I can be heard saying, “We’re really going through it,” as we sat on the floor of the CA, while a muddled cacophony of band instruments can be heard from the next room over. “So typically, stressors sort of come and go –when stressors don’t come and go, when stressors are ever present, the stress response changes. And that’s sort of what might be happening with burnout,” explained Wilson. 

Life doesn’t stop for us, even when we need it to slow down. Especially when the expectation is to do as much as possible. In a culture where involvement seemingly equates to success, there can be pressure to put 100% effort into everything all the time. But sometimes our best may not look like 100% – perhaps it’s 80%, or 60% – and we need to give ourselves the grace to be at peace with what we can realistically accomplish.


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