Finding Work-Life Balance as an MSW Student

friends playing video games together
Photo by Yan Krukau

By Adeola A. (MSW’23)

Self-care is such an important life skill to have, but learning it is easier said than done. We are encouraged to focus on self care all the time: in school, during classes, at work, and with our friends and family. But how can we take care of ourselves when our responsibilities or environments are inhibiting our self-care? 

As an MSW student, I sometimes feel like I have to compromise my self-care in order to fulfill my responsibilities. That’s why finding a work-life balance is an essential part of maintaining your mental and physical health. Taking care of yourself will also help you support your clients and peers. While everyone’s needs and responsibilities are unique, I thought I’d share how I balance work and life at BUSSW in hopes that it will help you do the same.

“Work-Life Balance” Is a Process, Not an End Goal

I think viewing work-life balance as an ongoing process and learning opportunity–as opposed to an end goal that can be mastered–releases some of the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect. Instead, we just do the best we can. 

I maintain my work-life balance with a lot of hope, positivity, optimism, faith, and trust in myself. I’m constantly adjusting how I approach and prioritize different tasks as I learn about my limits and how to manage my time. It’s a process, and a life-long one at that. 

Listen to Your Body

It’s easy to think that just a little more time working is worth the sacrifice of our physical, mental, and emotional needs. When I started my MSW, I quickly realized that when it’s time to close my laptop, put the books away, and call it a night, it’s time! Your brain does not need an information overload; your body will let you know very quickly when to stop. Please listen to them! I’m saying this to you, but I’m also reminding myself because it’s an easy thing to ignore or forget. 

When you’ve spent enough time studying, doing some paperwork, completing homework assignments, and doing the millions of other things we have on our plates, it is okay and necessary to rest. You don’t want to overexert yourself and burn out. 

Get to Know Yourself

Take the time to get to know yourself, by yourself. Pay attention to what feels good for your soul in times of distress and ease. Find some time to just sit in your thoughts and feelings and learn what recharges and fuels you, what drains your energy, what makes you anxious, what makes your heart feel warm, or what makes you feel all fuzzy inside. This self-reflection can help you determine what strategies or steps you can take when you need to really care for yourself. 

You may need a couple of strategies to assist with different situations that come up. Don’t limit what your self-care can look like as you learn more about yourself and grow.

My Solution to “Work Smarter, Not Harder”

I remember during my first semester of my MSW, I refused to do any homework or anything related to classes on the weekends. My weekends were my time to have fun. I put in my calendar when I wanted to see theater performances or dance performances, go to the museum or do some touristy Boston things. When I didn’t want to go out, I stayed inside and just relaxed, cooked, cleaned, listened to some music, and enjoyed my alone time. I sometimes used this opportunity to call friends and family. My weekends were my time and I would not give it up for anything, even my classwork. This may have meant I had more work to do during the week and longer days, but at least my weekends were my reward for my hard work. 

I may not be able to keep that same routine now that I’m in my second year. The work has definitely increased, but I still maintain my non-negotiables when I can. So find what works for you in the moment and work smarter, not harder. 

It can be daunting to figure out what self-care looks like for you, but when you do it’s such a great feeling. We deserve it, too!

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Adeola A. (MSW’23) is a second year clinical practice student at BU School of Social Work’s Charles River campus. She is passionate about including the performing arts like dance, theater, and music into alternative forms of therapy.

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