By Meghen Jones
Staying true to passed down stories from previous generations of college students, your university experience has undoubtedly been one of the best times of your life. There are so many things to look forward to in college: new connections, epic parties, on-campus events and sports, extracurricular activities, awesome professors, and of course, the part where you carve out the path for your future. The list goes on and on.
But, have you thought about how exhausting life can be as a college student? There’s always so much to do and so little time to do it. While it’s important that you keep your academics at the forefront of your priority list— so, you don’t fall behind or risk losing financial aid— it’s even more important that you avoid burning yourself out completely. Between balancing schoolwork and social life, it doesn’t take much to struggle with carving out some much-needed time for a bit of self-care.
Practicing self-care is an excellent way to focus on your own well-being and happiness during stressful periods of your life. If you’re not sure where to begin, it can be just as difficult to understand self-care habits, as it is to incorporate them into your normal routine. Because we want you to live your best life – while you’re a college student or otherwise – uCribs has come up with 6 handy tips for treating yourself to the proper self-care regimen.
Write Your Thoughts Down in a Journal
Remember when you were a kid and your teachers made you journal about simple topics, like your dreams, family, and favorite holiday? Simple journaling allowed you and your classmates a little time to reflect on your thoughts before diving into classwork for the day. And, thinking about it now, you might even say that pouring your ideas into your wide-ruled notebook was a form of self-care. Why? Because journaling allows you to express thoughts and feelings that you may have either held in or can’t wait to discuss.
As a college student, it’s not uncommon to feel like you can’t adequately express your thoughts and feelings – or, perhaps you’re simply a private person who doesn’t like to overshare with others. Either way, not having a good emotional outlet can lead to built-up tension and unnecessary stress. Next time you feel like you have no one to help you work through a personal issue, try picking up a pen and translating your emotions onto paper. Writing about your concerns will help shift your mind into a more positive state, even under the most stress-inducing of moments. On the flip side, acknowledging the positive things can make you more grateful for life itself –you know, the good times and bad.
Prepare, Cook, and Eat Healthy Meals
How often do you find yourself in line at the on-campus burger shack, or making a quick stop at the closest fast food joint on your way home from your part-time job? When you’re an on-the-go college student, it’s easy to neglect nutrition in favor of fast, cheap – and, admittedly delicious – eats. Unfortunately, indulging in greasy comfort food isn’t a reliable fix for whatever is bringing you down at the moment. In fact, unhealthy food can even worsen mental distress over time. This is because junk food includes high levels of saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-6 fatty acids, which messes with your body’s digestive system, as well as its neurological system since your digestive tract regulates the neurotransmitters responsible for sleep, appetite, and mood.
Now that you’ve had your biology lesson for the day, it’s time to commit to a healthy diet for the sake of self-care. Nutritious foods are known to give your body the natural vitamins and nutrients needed to encourage healthy brain activity. As a college student, we highly recommend that you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, take multivitamins, drink six to eight glasses of water a day, and indulge in healthy snacks in between classes. It’s also wise to avoid large amounts of fried food, refined sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Not only will your new, healthy diet prevent your body from feeling weighed down and irritable, but you’ll also soon notice an improved sense of self stemming from your dietary choices.
Practice Meditation and Other Relaxation Techniques
You’ve tried boxing and biking your way to inner peace, but sadly, sweating out your feels doesn’t seem to do the trick. Don’t stress, though – there’s seriously a self-care hack for everyone seeking a little personal pampering. If you’re looking for an alternative to heart-thumping physical activity, why not try your hand at meditation? Meditative practices are anchored in self-awareness and focus, squashing any college-related stressors that might come your way. Recently, meditation has become quite popular with the college crowd—thanks to its many benefits, including anxiety control and lengthened attention spans.
One of the easiest ways to meditate is with simple yoga moves that prioritize deep, holistic breathing. Most college campuses offer free yoga classes to students as a part of their on-campus recreational activities. However, if your college doesn’t have these classes available, you can still practice relaxation and mediation from the comfort of your own apartment. All you need to do is find a quiet space, power off your electronics, and play some soothing music— then simply breathe in and out while releasing yourself from all your troublesome worries. You can even find a guided YouTube video to help you nail down your technique. By the time you’re done with your mini meditation session, you’ll feel refreshed and better than ever – hey, science says so!
Venture Outside of Your Comfort Zone
For as long as we can remember, we’ve always been told to take chances and step outside of our comfort zones. This can be difficult to do, however, when you’re already so acclimated with your normal college routine. But, staying in your comfort zone can lead to missed opportunities and a lack of personal growth. Additionally, never straying from our usual schedule can make us bored, and over time, even depressed. Admit it: how many times have you passed up a local festival or on-campus event, just because you were anxious about schoolwork or really wanted to sleep in? Sometimes, chilling solo at your apartment is just what the doctor ordered… but more often than not, it results in a severe sense of FOMO, while your friends indulge in all things YOLO.
Self-care is all about helping yourself reach your own potential. So, how do you expect to do that if you remain in your comfort zone? Make a pact with yourself to venture outside of your comfort zone and open your eyes to the limitless possibilities in the world. Ignore that worrisome voice in the back of your head and push yourself to do things you never thought you’d be able to do, like zip lining, traveling abroad, or just dancing to greet the sun in the very early morning hours. You’re sure to experience a boost of self-confidence, and you might even find that you’ve overcome some of your biggest fears in swapping comfort for adventure.
Travel Alone for One Weekend
Prior to the semester, you spent time with your friends, living it up like there’s no tomorrow. Once school swung back into action, though, you became swamped with numerous papers, research projects, and assigned readings. Needless to say, you no longer had much time for light-hearted fun. As crucial as it is to keep your studies at the top of your priority list, all schoolwork and no play can drain your mental health battery—and it’s not easy to recharge as your smartphone.
To avoid burnout, we advise that you set aside some time to plan a mini getaway and entertain the possibility of enjoying one weekend alone. While it may seem a little intimidating to travel alone, doing so is beneficial to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Let’s put it this way: exploring the world solo will super-charge your confidence in yourself, and since there’s no one around to distract you, you can indulge in the ultimate relaxing weekend on your own terms, soothing your stressed-out student soul. We bet that’s something you haven’t done in quite a while! After a peaceful weekend getaway, you’ll be ready to tackle these last few weeks of the semester—and yes, gulp…finals—with relative ease.
Set Realistic Goals for Yourself
How many times have you established goals for yourself, only to have trouble following through with them? Perhaps, you’re still holding onto goals that may not actualize before your looming graduation date – like securing a worthwhile paid internship or full-time job. Maybe, you still have a few semesters to go, but you’re stressing about the upcoming Student Government officer election—you really need that position on your resume! Big or small, your goals can often leave you feeling drained and/or exhausted.
Even on our best days, we know how easy it is to allow goals to weigh us down. We are our own worst critics, after all. Fortunately, we have a fix for this common problem. To avoid overwhelming yourself, we suggest that you write out your goals and prioritize them. A good strategy is to utilize the S.M.A.R.T. formula, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Timely, and Realistic. Adhering to this formula will help you decide what goals are actually worth your effort!
It’s so easy to ignore our intrinsic need for self-care when we’re consumed by the realities of college life. But, it’s important to remember that even on our busiest days, it’s always in our best interest to take a mental time-out and recharge those proverbial batteries we discussed earlier. When you prioritize your own well-being, you’ll feel productive and balanced. Best of all, your schoolwork will benefit from your improved mental headspace. And that’s what really counts in the long-run, right?