We caught up with three area teens to see how they handled the overload without going under.
17, A SENIOR AT NORTH AUGUSTA HIGH SCHOOL
Melanie is always on the move.
She has band practice "a gazillion hours" each week, yearbook photos to take, homework to do, a communitywide service project to complete for her Girl Scout Gold Award, and she still has to find time for several other clubs and community organizations.
She can handle it..
"The first step to getting it done is accepting that you have to do it," Melanie said. "You can't complain about it. You just have do it."
That means prioritizing.
"If you have something that's due the next day, you do it first," she said. "You can lose sleep later on for something that's due later."
Melanie has lost plenty of sleep.
"With all that I do, the things that get cut out of my life are sleep time and time with friends and family. How's that for prioritizing?" she said, with more than a little bit of sarcasm.
Last year, she gave up dance because, she said, "I realized I was overinvolved."
It's still hard, even with a slimmer schedule, but Melanie copes.
"One thing that helps is that I'm not alone. I have 11 other students in IB with me," she said. "There's a really nice support system and our teachers know what's happening. If they feel we're overloaded they let up on us."
Many busy teens just never let up on themselves, however. With more emphasis on rsums, scholarships and getting into the right college - or the right program to look good to the right college - it seems more students are doing more.
"There are people at school who are just as involved as me, who do just as much stuff," she said. "It definitely gives you competition. It means you can't complain, because if you complain about it and somebody's doing more than you, then it makes you look bad."
It could be argued that the competition among students to outdo, outjoin and eventually outlast other teens is dangerous.
Melanie doesn't see it that way.
"I guess it's good to have students who are still involved and who do care," she said. "It's cool there are still students who are in a school club or in band or want to strive to be the best student possible.
"Me, I like the challenge. You're supposed to live life, so why not just live it to the best?" she said. "I wouldn't do this if I didn't love this, but sometimes you lose track of loving it because you get so frustrated that you have so much to do."
16, A SENIOR AT THE ACADEMY OF RICHMOND COUNTY
Christopher's day usually begins around 5 a.m. (some days, it's 4:45 a.m.) so he can catch the bus at 5:30 a.m. for the two-hour ride from his south Augusta home to his midtown school. That's followed by seven hours at school, then band practice until about 6 p.m.
He'll be home by 6:45 p.m., eat dinner. and by 8 p.m. he's started his homework for the International Baccalaureate program.
He tries to get to bed by midnight.
"Then I start the process all over again," he said.
Christopher said he doesn't see himself as overextended.
"I'm not overwhelmed," he said. "I'm balanced out. All of my minutes are being used."
Still, living in a world where there aren't any rollover minutes can be challenging.
Christopher says he manages by being focused and flexible.
"A lot of people try to schedule their whole week. They have everything put down for a certain time. It's stiff. I just know what I have to do and I know what things I can't get around to and what things I have to do," he said. "Everything else, I take it a day at a time. It's all prioritizing. That's how I keep myself in order."
He makes it sound easy, but it's not.
The IB program "is the most rigorous program in the world," he said.
Although Christopher can set limits on the frequency of his community commitments, they still require that he give up some weekends. His job as a lifeguard takes up time, too.
"I'm one of those people that I work hard to get it so that I don't have to do it again and I can just move on to the next thing," he said. "I stay pretty much busy but when I get time to relax, I try as hard as I can to enjoy it.
"Even though I do have a lot on my plate, I make a decision to enjoy my time doing it."
That element of fun over competition should be what drives more teens in their busy lives, Christopher said.
"You want to be able to compete," he said. "You kind of have to do more so you can look good when you put your name down on those college applications, but it's not that much pressure to me. I like to have fun with it, with the things I do, it makes them worth doing."
Christopher is genial about it all, he said, because he sees the prize at the end.
"Maybe the hard work and sleepless nights and evenings will pay out in the end," he said. "It's just the pain of getting through during the day."
16, A JUNIOR AT HARLEM HIGH SCHOOL
Emor gradually saw it coming.
It started off with cheerleading and church and then it morphed into more.
"The more you're involved in things, the more things start to come with it," she said. "It gradually got to be more."
While she didn't just wake up one day to a full agenda, there was an element of things starting out small and then growing into something totally different.
Her schedule is proof, she said, of how life can catch up to a teen.
"It's so funny how the world seems to have things fall into place all at once," Emor said. "Tomorrow there'll be 10 different meetings and the next day there will be none."
Emor said the secret is to know her schedule and keep in mind all her responsibilities, so that she can let other groups know when she has a conflict.
"I try to learn my things so that in other activities we can try to plan around it," she said.
Sometimes it works out wonderfully. Other times not.
"Sometimes I just want to slam my head against the desk," Emor admitted.
She rarely goes through with slamming, however, choosing rather to step back a moment from all the things she has to do.
"I try not to let anything stress me out. If I get stressed, I take a break from it," she said.
The break could be five minutes laughing with friends or making the call and opting out of practice or a meeting some days.
Emor can't simply stop, though.
"Actually, I work better when I have a lot to do. I happen to do better in school when a lot is going on," she said.
"At the end of the semester when cheerleading is ending or church isn't doing anything, I'm not (focused). Being busy, it levels everything off for me."
Being involved also helps in other ways.
"It's fun and keeps me out of trouble," Emor said. "It keeps me active and benefits me as a whole person. I'll be a lot more eclectic when I grow up. I'll be more advanced socially. Plus, I'm an only child and I like being around a lot of people."
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
KEEP YOUR HEAD
Here are tips from our busy teenagers on how to stay active and sane at the same time:
- Prioritize. Not everything is equally important. Figure out what should be at the top of the list and put that first.
- Leave some wiggle room in your schedule.
- If you start to feel overwhelmed, let someone know. It might result in their giving you a little more time or a little less work.
- If you are feeling stressed, take time off from some of your activities, but explain why.
- Take a break. So you can't miss the meeting; you can still take five minutes between meetings to have a few moments for yourself.
- Enjoy your friends. Take some time to just laugh and hang out.
- Indulge yourself. Sometimes your to-do list is the things you love (and that's great). Tap into the fun of things and not the chore. If your outlet is somewhere else, like, say, shopping, schedule time to do that.
Sources: Emor Campbell, Chris Johnson and Melanie Aldred