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When school is a big priority, it can be challenging to find time to spend with friends and family. But studies show that spending time with loved ones is vital for health and happiness. According to a 2008 poll from Gallup, “The majority of Americans experience [more] enjoyment/happiness on days that they report spending more time with friends and family.” Time with your loved ones will actually help you excel in school.

Your Support System

Gail M. Syring, program administrator at the Health Education and Wellness Center at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, explains, “Wellness is a wheel where all aspects-physical, psychological, and social well-being [among others]-are connected.” She says doing things with friends and family can give you balance and perspective. So how can you make the time?

Plan for Your Personal Life

Perhaps you feel guilty for putting aside your course work to socialize, so you don’t allot time in your schedule. But instead of squeezing plans in between other demands, examine your syllabi and take advantage of points in the semester when your workload will be lighter. Victoria S., a third-year medical student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, says, “I have one day off per week, so I prioritize calling my family that morning.”

During busy periods, strive to find shorter bursts of time to spend with your loved ones. Kristin Hlubik, health promotion coordinator at University of California, Merced, says, “People are less likely to follow a schedule [for academic work] if there’s nothing fun on their calendar.”

Multitask Creatively

In a recent Student Health 101 survey, several students said that balancing a commute, schoolwork, and family time is particularly challenging. So, how about multitasking and integrating your loved ones into your college and household routines? For example:

  • Study with your child. He or she is likely curious about your class subjects and can help make flashcards. Have your child play teacher and quiz you!
  • Do household tasks together and talk about the day. Andrea T., a sophomore at Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin, says she makes a point of having dinner with her family each night.
  • Prepare and enjoy meals with friends.You have to eat, right?
  • Catch up with friends while exercising.Play a favorite sport or take a brisk walk.

Chris T., a second-year graduate student at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, suggests getting suggestions from  fellow students. His classmates stressed making time for significant others. “I do something with my fiancée each day, even if it’s just watching one of our favorite TV shows,” he says.

Seeing loved ones’ faces or hearing their voices can make a world of difference in terms of your stress level. Rather than a distraction, think of time with friends and family as a key to your academic success.

Creative Ideas for Family & Friend Time

  • Make a list of things on or near campus to do together, like exploring campus parks or museums. Choose something to do once a month.
  • Set aside a half hour each night for your spouse or partner. Share what you each enjoyed about the day.
  • Invite your children to have one-on-one time with you. Take a quick trip for ice cream or for a bike ride.
  • Ask a relative to join you at the grocery store. Swap some favorite cooking tips and grab a quick lunch.
  • Plan a movie night and watch a documentary related to your course work.
  • Volunteer for your favorite charity with friends and family.
  • Make weekly chores into a game. They’ll go more quickly and you’ll spend time with your family.

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Ashton Porter is a recent graduate of Trinity College Dublin with a master’s degree in science and global health. She currently works in non-profit fundraising and development.