8 Self-Care Strategies for College Students
Now that I've finished school for a few weeks for the holidays, I'm in need of some major self-care. If I'm being completely transparent with you guys, this past semester (Sept - Dec) has been one of the hardest on me. The amount of discussion boards and little quizzes I've done in the past few months is unbelievable. I think since we are not required to be in-person for lectures, our professors want to make sure we're engaging with the content even more than normal, and it makes sense but at the same time, I've never felt more burnt out. If you're in the same boat as me, then it's time for some serious self-care over the winter break!
Allowing your body to have a full (8 hour) sleep gives your body the opportunity to heal naturally. A study out of Brown University showed that 73% of college students reported sleeping problems. This could be for a number of reasons but I'm sure one reason has to do with constant stress and it's affects on the brain. So, catch up on your sleep throughout the break and if you're having a hard time falling asleep, try not to look at screens for 30 minutes before you want to get to sleep. Also, alcohol may get you to sleep faster but the quality of your sleep is never great, so definitely do whatever you can to allow your body to do it's natural healing processes while you're having a good quality and long sleep!
Technology has been completely ruling our lives since March with school going on online. Pick a day to completely unplug from screens for the day and go do something outside (if restrictions in your area allow you to). I'm not sure about all of you, but during the semester, I got some serious migraine headaches from being on my computer for 6-7 hours a day. That can't be healthy for your brain! The screen-time will be just as bad during next semester in January, so take as much time as you can away from it as possible.
You don't need to see your friends in-person to socialize, have a group zoom happy hour with your friends and/or family. Socializing with the people you care about is important for your mental health and since it's difficult to keep in touch during the school year, the holiday break is the perfect time to give some love to those relationships!
The practise of deep relaxation and turning your attention inwards isn't everyone's cup of tea (I get it). But, if you feel burnt out and overextended, this is a great strategy to truly relax and be present. The app I use for guided meditation is called Head Space. Although meditation doesn't take the amount of stress in your life away, there has been research support that meditation helps in the way you react to stress. This is the perfect self-care strategy for the person who feels they "can't turn their brain off" (especially before bed).
It's important to shift your mindset during a break from stressful thinking to a more positive mindset. One way you can do this is to journal your thoughts. If you can't figure out what to write, then just write everything down that you're thankful for, this is called gratitude journalling and has shown to be a great stress reliever. If you don't like writing on paper, there is an app called 5-Minute Journal that only takes five minutes out of your day to journal what's on your mind!
Moving your body is so important to do daily, but I'm the first to admit I'm lacking in this area throughout the semester. When we're in school mode, it can be hard to motivate ourselves to get active. Even if gyms are closed, there are many ways you can still go get exercise throughout the winter. You can go for a walk or a hike around where you live or get your skates out and skate around an outdoor rink or you can do a quick at-home workout in your living room! Exercise is one of the most scientifically based strategies to relieve stressful mindsets.
This self-care strategy is different depending on the individual, but this could be anything from having a hot bath while doing a face mask or lay down and listen to your favourite music or it can even be getting your nails done, anything that makes YOU happy. You deserve to be rewarded for all of your hard work this semester, like seriously, we did a semester of school from home during a global pandemic, we deserve some pampering!
If you've been like me during the semester, you've been inside the majority of the past few months. Since I've been doing school from home and working from home, there's literally no reason to leave the house. Now that you don't have deadlines or discussion boards due, get outside and enjoy some sunshine! I'm sure we're all vitamin D deficient right now, so soak up some sunshine if you can and enjoy it!
There are many physiological effects of chronic stress, so it's important to really indulge in self-care when you have a break. Chronic stress can contribute to the onset of headaches, allergies, acne, muscle tension, cardiovascular problems, and autoimmune diseases. Mental health is also affected by chronic stress by putting yourself more at risk of experiencing anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation/focus, overwhelm, irritability, and depressive thoughts. Health and wellness is definitely correlated with stress, so let's all show ourselves some extra love throughout the holidays, we deserve it.