Balancing Work and Life in Architecture School
Mary is a first year student at the School of Architecture. She worked all night on her project for the upcoming interim review.
The next day, feeling sleep-deprived, she forgot to print her main section and the reviewing adjunct was unimpressed. After the crit, she felt unmotivated and inadequate – she began to question if she belonged at the school. She felt guilty that she didn’t pull off 3 all-nighters like her friend Bob.
According to a recent health assessment, at the University of Waterloo:
- 44.5% of students (almost 1 in 2) felt so depressed it was difficult to function,
- 60.8% of students felt overwhelming anxiety,
- and 14.0% of students seriously considered suicide.
Mental health and wellness is an issue that continues to be under-addressed in the architectural field in which studio culture often negatively pervades life in and outside of our work. This chronic neglect can be seen in often unhealthy co-op work environments.
The Peer Support Group would like to help change attitudes towards mental health at the School of Architecture. Our program is tough and it can be difficult to maintain healthy perspectives towards work and life. Getting thrown into a new environment, drastic lifestyle changes (your mom isn’t there to cook for you anymore), or unforeseen circumstances can really throw life out of balance.
Fiona Dhanapala, a University of Waterloo counselor, gives a talk about finding and restoring balance in our busy schedules.
Last Thursday, we invited Fiona Dhanapala, one of the School’s counselors, to give a seminar about finding and restoring balance. You can find the presentation, as well as helpful handouts on common negative thinking errors and the differences between perfectionism vs excellence at this link. Below is a short summary of her presentation and ways to apply these strategies to your own life.
The 3 A’s of this process:
- Allies: Friends, family, counselling, peer support 😉
Mary talks to her friends and calls her mom to vent her frustrations. She also books an appointment with Fiona and with a Peer Support Group mentor to get some additional perspective.
- Awareness: Being conscious of your actions, thoughts, and emotions in a situation
Mary realizes that this is just an interim crit and doesn’t reflect her worth as a person. She realizes the comments made by the adjunct were critical but she sees how they can be constructive.
- Action: Regaining control of the situation
Mary decides to sleep and eat more regularly, and to stop working when she is already tired. She also makes a schedule to plan out her work before the deadline so she doesn’t have to pull any all-nighters. She also decides to talk to Bob about his work habits.
These are the four skills that Mary put towards a better-balanced school life:
Mary makes an effort to take care of herself by sleeping, eating, and exercising regularly.
- Managing emotions
Mary takes her mind off the distress by self-soothing and taking a walk to distract herself.
- Challenging unhelpful thoughts
Mary realizes that the scenario she made up about not belonging at the school was extreme and unbalanced.
- Changing your behaviour
She decides to be proactive to make changes in her school-life balance.
Don’t forget to come and distract yourself from work (not avoid work) by petting some cute goats next Tuesday! 🙂