10 Ways College Students Can Practice Self-Care (and Avoid Burnout)
You don't have to spend much time online to see a meme about a mom in a bubble bath with a sparkling drink, proclaiming her desire to spend time on “self-care.” Is self-care time spent in the shower with a drink in hand, luxuriating in the warmth of the water, or is it something more? A busy college student exploring self-care may consider that the image of the woman taking a long soak in the tub is simply not practical for them, but can you experience good self-care while studying in college? The answer is yes, but it requires a closer look at self-care and what it really means.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is an important part of enjoying your college experience. Self-care refers to learning to reduce stress, taking care of your body and mind, and resting when you need to. Self-care helps you enjoy your college experience fully, even in the midst of a busy college student’s schedule.
Why Does Self-Care Matter for College Students?
College is a stressful time for the average person. Not only do you have to manage the deadlines of your classes, and possibly hold down a job, it’s also important to maintain a healthy social life. If you do not focus on self-care, you may end up stressed and frustrated as you try to manage all of these demands. This can quickly lead to burnout as you try to continue your studies and keep yourself sane.
How to Practice Self-Care
So, what does self-care look like when you are in college? Is it simply a healthy dose of self-love, or is it long hours spent in meditation as you find your "True Self?" Self-care is much more than those stereotypes, and these tips will help you take care of your body, mind, and spirit while going through college.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Cramming the night before an exam or pulling an all-nighter to finish a project before its due may seem like a normal part of the college experience, but it can have a major negative impact on your emotional and physical health. Lack of sleep can lead to serious health issues, including hormone imbalances. If you are struggling to sleep, consider these strategies:
- Reduce your stress load as much as possible
- Create a distraction-free sleep environment
- Do not eat or sleep right before going to bed
- Avoid tech use right before bed
2. Exercise Regularly
When you are feeling stressed and tired, exercise can feel impossible, but it’s actually an important part of your self-care. Daily exercise, even if it’s as simple as a walk or some yoga stretches in the morning, can give you a positive mood boost and improve your overall physical health. Regular exercise can also have a position effect on your overall mental health as well, as it has been shown to reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
3. Eat Healthier
College may be a time for indulging in unhealthy food choices with friends, but this is actually very poor self-care. Poor eating habits can reduce your ability to remember the things you study, and the cumulative effects of your poor college eating choices will have long-term consequences on your health as an adult. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as rich in protein. For on-the-go snacks, opt for dried fruit and nuts instead of chips and cookies.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment and aware of your surroundings and what you are doing. If you practice mindfulness, you will be less reactive and overwhelmed by what is going on around you.
What does mindfulness look like in real life? When you are with a group of people, instead of going online to check your social media feeds, look your friends in the eyes and have meaningful conversations. Use your five senses to soak in your environment and connect with what is going on around you. This will help you show your best self, rather than a stressed and overwhelmed version of yourself.
Clutter increases stress levels. While college dorms and bedrooms may not feel like the best places to prevent clutter, if you can improve the organization of your space, you may find your stress levels going down and your overall emotional health improving. Make a rule that you do not bring new things into your space unless you remove something, and always give something a home when it comes into your room. This will help you create a less cluttered environment, and your mental health will thank you.
6. Get Outside
Nature and time outdoors is a natural stress reliever. Studies have shown that spending time in nature reduces cortisol levels, heart rates, and muscle tension. It also boosts mental wellness. You can incorporate some time outside into your exercise routines. Find a forest preserve or park that you love, and take a walk or hike. This will improve your mental health while also giving you more physical stamina.
Staying connected via social media is great when you live far from friends and family, but too much time online can actually hurt your mental health. Not only do you start comparing yourself to people’s best that you see online, but you’ll also find yourself more stressed out as you try to keep up with everyone’s posts.
This doesn't mean you can’t spend any time online, but try to use some control by limiting some of your screen time. Schedule regular times that you unplug for several hours or even a weekend. You will notice an improvement in your mental health if you do.
8. Practice Positive Self-Talk
The way you talk to yourself has a major impact on what you believe about yourself and how you feel as a whole. Learn to practice positive self-talk rather than negative.
Positive self-talk is an internal dialogue you have with yourself that is positive in nature. Telling yourself, “I am doing well with my paper,” or “I will remember what I studied when it is time for the test,” are examples of positive self-talk. Even if something goes wrong, internally re-frame it as a positive by saying, “It could be worse, and I will move forward from here.”
9. Make Time for Hobbies
Taking part in something you enjoy just because you enjoy it is major stress relief. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment, reduces your overall stress and anxiety levels, and gives you a chance to connect with other people that enjoy similar interests.
If you have a hobby already, then make time and space in your life to enjoy it. If you don’t, start exploring activities that sound appealing to you. You may find a community of people with similar interests that you can become part of and enjoy activities together. Even if you try some things that aren’t a good fit, you could make some friends and enjoy some time relaxing in the process.
10. Connect with Others
Isolation is dangerous for your mental and emotional health. If you spend all your time working and studying, it can be difficult to build connections with others.
As you go about these other self-care tasks, take time to connect with others. When exploring a hobby, get to know the people you’re doing it with. When exercising, consider joining a team or club for the type of exercise you like. You can find many ways to combine your self-care with time spent with others, and your mental and emotional health will be better off for it.
You can find your best self in college. All it takes is a little work and a focus on self-care. These ten tips are a great starting point. If topics like self-care interest you, you should consider studying psychology. Learn more about earning your psychology degree online from Johnson & Wales University. For more information about completing your degree online or on-campus, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].