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I used to have a poster in my dorm room that read “Work Hard, Play Harder” and right next to it, a poster that read “Make Your Mental Health a Priority.” For the longest time, I thought these two phrases went hand-in-hand with one another. But after living by the former motto for some time, I realized that this is far from the case.

“Work hard, play harder” is the mantra by which many Penn students live. Let’s be honest: When we say “work hard, play harder,” we’re really saying "work hard, party harder."  Considering that Penn is often called the “Social Ivy,” it is unsurprising that this has become our mantra. When we want to take a break, we tell ourselves to take a break by partying and that partying is what we need for mental health. Let me first state that I am all for taking time for your mental health; however, the phrase “work hard, play harder” negates the importance of a balanced lifestyle. 

This work-hard mentality is not conducive to our mental health. Penn already is one of the most stressful colleges in America. Having a mentality where students feel compelled to go out constantly does nothing to improve our well being.

As a freshman, I see my peers go out at least three times a week. I do not think there is anything wrong with partying and I’ll be the first to admit that going out can be fun and exciting. But we must also acknowledge how draining and tiresome going out truly is. Going out that much did not make me any happier and I can't imagine I'm the only one who feels that way. Partying has become a form of escapism and the phrase “work hard, party harder” only fuels this toxic mentality.

While constant partying can make you happy in the moment, it is not the answer to stress. So then what is the answer? If partying makes students feel unhappy and working around the clock also makes students feel unhappy, what direction should students take to improve their mental health?

In order to prioritize one’s mental health at Penn, students should aim to live a balanced lifestyle. Given that every student is unique, a step-by-step formula for mental health would be naive. If you feel as if you are solely working, do not feel guilty about taking a break from work. Likewise, if you feel as if you are solely partying, do not feel guilty about not going out. While resting can mean partying, it can also mean spending time alone, watching TV, or going for a run. The "work hard, rest well" mentality is more conducive to improving our mental health. 

You don’t need to go out twice or three times a week. In fact, you don’t need to go out at all. Remember that there is beauty in balance and playing harder disrupts that balance. There are other ways of resting than simply partying all the time and there are other ways to find moments of happiness. 

Enjoy your time at Penn and remember: Work hard, rest well. 

EMILIA ONUONGA is a College freshman from Middletown, Del. studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Her email address is eonuonga@sas.upenn.edu 

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