Overwhelmed doesn’t come anywhere close to explaining the state I was in during the first few weeks of the full time MBA program. The hoard of demands from family and school left me with very little time for anything else, including sleep. Supposedly, I lied to myself that I could actually do it all. Sure enough, I started dropping some balls – forgetting to respond to phone calls from my family back in India, skipping meals, and one day I even microwaved watermelon by mistake!!
Life goes on while you’re in school. Many of my classmates have experienced at least one significant life event while in school, and yet, they still kept going. They dealt with the stress, both good and bad, and kept going. We’ve had babies born. Several people got married. Some lost their parents and other family members.
As much as you may try to prevent stress, you’re going to have to learn how to manage it as well. The demands of pursuing a full-time MBA are many. Balancing school, family and fun activities is no easy task. In fact, balancing the demands and managing your time requires sacrificing activities you once never thought of giving up. For me, this meant cutting back on my exercise routine. In order to stay healthy, and manage stress, you must think differently about how and when you train and, most importantly, be creative.
I started to understand the concept of work-life balance during the latter half of my first year in the MBA program. Work-life balance is not actually about mastering everything. It’s about prioritizing. There may not be enough time for everything, so get your priorities right and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish every single task you’ve set out to do on a given day. Stay positive and be thankful that you have got the opportunity to get back to school – B-School – one thing many people in the world go without. It may seem overwhelming at times, but remember that other people have gone through the same thing you are, and they have succeeded! You will too!
Take those much-needed breaks. Give yourself time to collect yourself when you need it the most, so you can recharge yourself and look at things with a fresh perspective. Be active. Pick up some fun sports. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps relieve stress and you’ll find that the more you get out and exercise, the easier work and school will seem.
Add some life to your days, not days to your life!! Don’t forget to enjoy life. Don’t get bogged down by nuisances of the demands of your academic life. Take time to experience the world around you and appreciate your relationships in life. Don’t forget to squeeze in the things that you are passionate about, that make life worth living into your schedule.
In addition, I’ve realized that the MBA experience becomes less about making the highest grades, and is more about connecting with a diverse set of people, advancing your career, personal development, and developing your passion. Taking some of the pressure off of me to perfect every assignment was helpful in achieving that balance. Although, this is a challenging phase in my life, going through the MBA program is an experience worth living, and it gets better and easier with time.
-Neha Bareja, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15