Many College Students Forget to Make Self-Care A Priority When Getting a Degree, and May Even Be Unaware of It’s Importance
It’s hard to remember to do nice things for ourselves when getting a paper in on time feels like a survival situation. Since this time in college is so inevitably stressful, there has to be a way to make it through without also killing ourselves with stress.
The term “self-care” has been on the rise in the helping professions, such as counseling and nursing, as a way to combat burnout and exhaustion. It is also what I have found to be the secret to thriving in college, work, and all of life as a whole. Fort Garry Women’s Resource Centre defines self-care as:
“Self-care is care provided “for you, by you.” It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do some of the activities that nurture you. Self-care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.”
Before you go any further, let go of the idea that self-care is selfish or that you are too busy. Trust me when I say that is not true. If you feel like it is, then you, my friend, need it the most! If you value your well-being, it is entirely possible to find moments to take care of you. It’s just like finding time to scroll through social media or eat a whole bag of chocolate covered pretzels while watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians (I definitely don’t do that… ever!!).
Here are a few easy practices that have worked for me:
Yoga poses: I often don’t have time or money to attend a yoga class, but I always have time, usually in the evening when I get home, to do a yoga pose before bed. They calm my nervous system, help me to slow down, and get me back in my body. These can also be helpful for the bodies of those of us who sit all day in class or at a desk doing homework. My favorites are child’s pose, happy baby, cat/cow, pigeon, and Śavāsana. If these sound completely foreign to you, here is a great and easy resource to learning more about yoga poses.
Vision boards: I do this whenI have a bit more time; often when I’m on a break from school. I get some magazines, glue, scissors, and markers, and put on some fun music or a movie. It is a relaxing way to envision the future or just get crafty. I sometimes pick images or words that convey how I am feeling or something that I am wanting to happen. Either way, I find this to be a meditation of sorts that ends up being a lovely act of self-care.
Nature walks: Getting out in nature is a researched and proven stress reducer. Which makes sense because our brains were developed with us living in nature. Not to mention, we often forget in American culture that we ourselves are nature. Walking is also great exercise, another proven stress reducer. Put on some tunes in your headphones or just listen to the birds, both are great for mood elevation.
Self-massage with oils: This practice actually comes from ancient Ayurvedic traditions from India, and is called Abhyanga. This is a wonderful thing to do when things are particularly stressful, but also as a weekly practice before taking a shower. It can take only a few minutes and your body will thank you for it. I usually use a coconut or sesame oil and mix in lavender or frankincense oil. Massage the oil over your whole body, an then take a nice warm shower. For further tips and education on this, go here.
Lots of water and healthy foods: This might seem obvious (although can be a luxury for many Americans, as many acts of self-care can be for those struggling), but is so essential to our well-being. Water hydrates our bodies, while also grounding, cleansing, and energizing our systems. Healthy food is also much more essential to our well-being than our culture teaches us. Eating quality ingredients that are prepared with love is essential to our entire systems functioning, even our brains and stress responses. Author Anthony Williams has written a book called Medical Medium, and a cookbook to go with it called Life Changing Foods, that are amazing resources about healthy eating. Another good tip for healthy eating when possible is to sit down while you eat, focus on just eating during that time, and breathe deeply.
Get support: Whether this is from friends, family, your dog, or a therapist, support is crucial to human survival. In times of stress, support can be even more important. When we feel alone, we are more likely to spin into depression or have anxious thoughts. While alone time is another good act of self-care, being listened to and encouraged is always nice. Plus, being with others can take our mind off of some of the stresses of school for a time, and that is sincerely welcome!
BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE! and yes, meditate: Breathing is essential to life, so don’t tell me you don’t have time for it! Intentional, mindful breathing can make a world of a difference when done throughout the day. It can prevent outbursts of stress when things get tough, it tells our brains that we are safe, and it just feels good. Additionally, meditation can help even more on a daily basis with our focus and quality of being. For inexperienced meditators, I urge you to do some research on the many different ways of meditating. There are also some great apps for guided meditations like Stop, Breathe & Think, Insight Timer, and Headspace.
Here is a link to a great podcast all about self-care called Inhabit: Living the Art of Radical Self-Care.
And a link to a program that I am a participant in that teaches me all this wonderful stuff called Yoga’licious with Melanie Elkin.