“Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.”
It’s easy to think of self-care as self-indulgent or selfish, but it's important for well-being. Self-care is not about indulgent purchases or extravagant self-pampering; it’s about taking care of yourself.
Taking care of your mind, body, and spirit will give you the energy you need to flourish, rather than scrape by on empty. When our energy drops, our health and well-being can suffer, which can affect other areas of our lives.
With a hectic college schedule, self-care can easily drop by the wayside. Make self-care a focal point of your daily and weekly routines by incorporating the following #selfcaretips.
All-nighters are tempting, especially during midterms and finals, but avoid them at all costs. When you don’t give your body the rest it needs, your cells don’t have the chance to replenish their energy.
About 60% of your body is made up of water. Your body needs it to function at it’s best. Daily recommended water intake from the MayoClinic: 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women. That’s more than the previous recommendation of eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day!
In college, your schedule is packed and new things can come up throughout the day. Establishing structure through a daily routine provides a sense of familiarity and comfort. It’s reassuring to know there are certain things you can expect throughout the day, especially when everything else can seem so hectic.
As a part of your weekly schedule, write down regular mealtimes (for example, breakfast at 7:30am, lunch at noon, snack at 4pm, dinner at 7pm) and regular sleep times (for example, 10pm - 6am). Take a shower first thing in the morning to help you wake up, and come up with a comforting bedtime ritual (maybe you read or journal for 20 minutes every night before you go to sleep). Stick to your daily routine as much as possible!
Lean protein (chicken, turkey, tofu, beans and legumes), greens (kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach), veggies, and whole grains are where it’s at! We like chocolate cake, pizza, and cookies, too, and it’s so easy to reach for these things in times of stress! The purpose of eating is to nourish your body, so you have the energy you need to take on the world.
Also, try your best to avoid caffeine from coffee, tea, and soft drinks. We LOVE coffee, but caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety, including jitters and a racing pulse. For people predisposed to anxiety, these side effects can contribute to feelings of panic. It’s especially important to limit caffeine intake during midterms, finals, and on days you’ll be taking an exam or giving a presentation.
Not to look good at the beach, but to feel well :D Heart-pumping cardio exercise (circuit training, jogging, running, cycling, etc.) has numerous benefits: it relieves stress, improves heart and brain health, decreases fatigue and depression, and helps you sleep better. Aim to get at least three 30- to 60-minute sessions in per week. There’s a reason it’s called a “runner’s high.”
Living in isolation from others can take away from your health and well-being. Humans are meant to live in communities. It’s easy to forget that when you have readings, papers, and problem sets on problem sets due. Fit in a social activity once per day, whether that’s grabbing coffee or lunch with a friend, attending an event on campus, or calling a friend or family member. For introverts, this might feel like it’s impeding on your “me time,” but you’ll be grateful you took the time to connect with others on a regular basis during your college years.
Care for yourself by caring for others. Life has greater meaning and purpose when you take the focus off of yourself and bring joy to someone else. Share a word of encouragement with a friend, say hi to your neighbor, volunteer at a local charity, help a classmate who is struggling in class, listen to a friend who is having a hard time, or cook dinner for your study group. Helping people will also improve your communication and leadership skills that will be valuable throughout your entire life.
Practice one of the following techniques regularly. They’re also great for destressing in the moment.
What are you grateful for? Expressing gratitude through your thoughts or a journal is scientifically proven to improve physical and psychological health, reduce aggression, improve sleep quality and self-esteem, and increase mental strength and resilience. Even during a challenging season of life, you can always find something to be grateful for, even if it’s really small. Need some inspiration? Check out this list of 100 things to be grateful for.
Restore your mind, body, and spirit by spending time in nature. Go for a walk or bike ride, take in the characteristics of the seasons, and breathe in the fresh air. Don’t have access to a park nearby? Buy a few small plants and spend time tending to them.
Incorporating these self-care tips into your daily and weekly schedules will help you live a balanced life, which will help you put your best foot forward in college. Remember, it takes time for changes to your routine to become a habit. Learning about and practicing self-care is a lifelong pursuit.