Mental health is so important. Unfortunately, many people don’t know this and so they put their mental health behind school work or social life. In reality, it should be first. I will be the first to say that is hard to do sometimes, especially while in college.
Why you should practice self-care
College is a busy time full of ever-changing schedules and the pressure to do well or flunk out. When life is that busy, it can be almost impossible to say, “No, I need a ten minute Pinterest break right now.” Self-care is so important you should do it every single day, and I even made it a goal of mine this semester which you can read about here.
I want you to know that you deserve this break. With everything that goes on throughout your school day, the stress of assignments and tests, the pressure to do well, it is almost crazy to even think about taking ten or twenty minutes to spend on yourself. Because of everything that goes on throughout your day is exactly why you need and deserve the break.
Everyday stressors, or acute stressors, are the ones that build up over time. Whatever builds up has to come down at some point. Instead of having a meltdown twice a semester when things start getting rough, practicing self-care everyday lessens that stress and allows you to unload and relax for your mental health.
Areas of Self-Care
In theory, there are three areas of self-care: mind, body, and soul/spirit. They are all equally important and should be equally addressed.
Mind: Your brain works for you all day every day before you are even born to the moment you die. It works for you, and sometimes it deserves a break. Read a book or some poetry, listen to music, whatever gives your ever-working mind a break. I also really enjoy mindfulness practices. Mindfulness is grounding yourself into right now and letting go of both regrets of the past and worries of the future. You can read this article by The Maven Circle about Mindfulness.
Body: Your body has it pretty rough. With so many health issues nowadays, you really do need to spend time with your body and making sure it’s healthy. Check in with all your body parts every now and then to see how each part feels. Take a beginner’s yoga class, take a bath, do a face mask, or stretch every morning. Whatever feels good to your body, isn’t stressful or pressuring, and helps your mental (as well as physical!) health.
Soul: Some people call this spirit, but I prefer soul. My soul is the very being of who I am and how I became her. My soul definitely needs self-care. One of my favorite ways to do this is to write out my feelings, my fears and my joys, what I’m looking forward to and what I’m dreading. Talking about anything and everything and getting it all out. Unburdening myself. Checking in with your religion and relationships around you is also an idea.
Of course, some ideas are better than others. I’m an emotional eater. When I’m sad, I tend to eat sweet things. This isn’t the best way to destress in the long run. One way to help you have the best self-care possible is to create a self-care plan.
Create a list of self-care that you like to do, and when you need some time to recoup from the day or it’s your daily to-do, you have several ideas already listed. Sara Laughed has a great post on 7 Ways to Practice Self-Care in College here. Janine Ripper has a list of 64 Self Care Ideas that you can also used to make your self-care list.
You can also incorporate self-care into your everyday routine. In the mornings, making yourself a nutritious but delicious breakfast is a great way to get the day going and pampering yourself. After your morning class, take a walk around campus while listening to music. Read a favorite book during lunch or go hang out with friends. At night, take a relaxing bath before bed or do a face mask.
I also make sure I plan self-care into my schedule. Every day I list something self-care wise that I need to do. I even printed out mini hearts and glued them on each and every day in my planner. When I finish my self-care for the day, I will cross of the heart to show that I am making progress towards my goal of every day self-care and making sure I make time for myself as well.
Also called a coping tool box, I immediately knew when I read about these I wanted one. A coping tool box is a box that you create and decorate for your self-care. When you get overwhelmed or know that you really need a break, you can open up the box that you built and have all your self-care in one spot.
I still need to make my own box, and probably soon. I am already having a stressful semester and it’s only week two. I will definitely be putting a ton of things in there that will make me happy and allow me to relax. You can put several things in there for yourself, depending on what your self-care plan is and how you incorporate each of the areas of self-care into your box. Here’s a great post on How to Make a Self-Care Box.
A few of the things I want to put in my box are a face mask from Target (they have some super good ones I’ve heard), some nail files or nail polish, a mini book of my favorite quotes and poems that I can make myself utilizing Pinterest, a list of songs that I can listen to, a candle or essential oils, and pictures of my family and friends. I think that each of these will be very helpful to me when I’m super stressed and need a day of relaxing.
One piece of advice a close friend of mine gives out to incoming freshman is to take a day. Don’t do it very often, but do it once or twice a semester. When you’re feeling so overwhelmed and you want to run away and drop out, take one day to do nothing. Stay in your pajamas, don’t go to class. But only do this sparingly, and make sure you give yourself ample time to catch back up. If you make too much of a habit of this then you’ll just fall behind.
One of the biggest parts of self-care is having a support system. Especially at college, this can be hard. You are away from all your loved ones, sometimes thousands of miles away. And no matter what, calling your mom is very different from being able to talk to her face to face.
Try to find a good social support group. One of the best ways to do this is to join clubs to meet people. The clubs you join should be what you enjoy, so you’ll meet like-minded people there. It’s how I found my support group on campus.
One really great thing about finding your social support system on campus is that they also need self-care every day. Maybe once a week you all get together for dinner and a movie, which is providing both the social aspect of self-care and letting you all have some down-time to recoup from the everyday interactions of college life.
Sometimes you have to go a step further and go to counseling. My freshman year, my grandmother died during finals week. I was already struggling with school and not being able to be with my family, and this really set me over the edge. I knew I needed help so during the first week back at school the spring semester, I took my butt over to the school’s counseling center. I am so glad I did.
Counseling is a great resource offered to many students on college campuses. At my school, we get 12 free individual counseling sessions throughout both semesters, and then after that it is offered at a much lower fee than other services off campus.
My counseling center also offers group therapy, which I did for a semester my freshman year, and other types of group sessions that help you work on one thing. Last semester, I attended one of these groups to learn more about stopping self-criticism. While it was a short program, I learned a lot of things that I can try on my own and use that in my future.
While you think counseling may not be for you or it might be too much of a time commitment, you do have to think of yourself and put you first. If you start to struggle at all, at least try it out before immediately dismissing it.
What are some tips you have for self-care on campus? What’s your favorite way to take care of yourself during the semester? I would love to hear from you! You can comment below or reach out to me on social media, which is linked below.