Self care is an extremely important and all too often neglected part of staying healthy. Keeping up on your mental health will have positive benefits in multiple aspects of your life, including significantly reducing stress. Self care is extremely personal, as the name implies, so remember that these are only suggestions! Experiment with customizing your routine to find what works best for your life.
Keeping a journal is one of the most common forms of self care. Even if you are a pretty open person, most people have thought or feelings they don’t share. Allowing frustrations to build up without properly expressing or venting them can lead to extremely negative effects on your mental and physical health, as well as your mood and actions.
Additionally, journaling helps you relive positive moments again in more detail. Recalling an event, transcribing it, and reflecting on the experience can be extremely beneficial and goes a long way towards helping you both decipher and navigate the complex emotions we all feel on a day to day basis.
Have A Movie Night (Alone Or With Friends)
Dedicating a night to relaxing, zoning out, and forgetting about the stressors that trouble your daily life can be extremely beneficial. Find a new show to binge-watch, rent a movie, or pick out an old favourite to enjoy. Then take some time to yourself, invite your significant other over, or have a movie night with a group of friends; the most important thing is that you are happy and comfortable.
If you are on a diet or watching what you eat, use this as an excuse to have a cheat day so you aren’t thinking about how delicious popcorn and Sour Patch Kids would be the whole time.
Meditation is a fantastic way to calm your mind and analyze how you are really feeling. The practice is often thought to inspire a large amount of spiritual, mental, and emotional growth. The most well-known position is to sit on the floor, eyes closed, back straight, with your ankles on top of your knees. While this works well, sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, standing in a comfortable position, laying with your head elevated, or even taking a walk following a trail can all be forms of meditation. The important part is clearing your head and letting the thoughts come and go without lingering or trying to stop them, just observing. Look into guided mediation or other mindfulness practices for more ideas!
Play With Animals Or Walk A Dog
If you or a friend have pets, one fun self care method is simply to let yourself have fun playing with them! Many college students have emotional support animals and may be willing to let you visit them. In some cases, these animals will even be specially trained to handle people suffering from stress and to help them through it. If you don’t know anyone to ask, the local animal shelter is another great option. Simply go in and look around or sign up as a volunteer to walk the dogs!
Read A Book Of Your Choosing
Many individuals who enjoy reading as a child lose their interest over the years as more and more mandatory reading assignments and books get assigned. While it can feel hard to have time, sitting down to read even just one chapter out of a book of your choice can feel freeing and invigorating. Pick a fiction novel or a non-fiction book on a topic you love, but haven’t gotten to explore much and enjoy! Audiobooks and podcasts are also great options, particularly if you already spend time walking or riding the bus and can easily add headphones to the experience.
Get Dressed Up
My great-grandma always used to say that the best way to feel better was to look better. If you feel gross, uncomfortable, or just not as cute and confident as you would like, pick a day and spend a few hours getting dressed up! Take a shower, do your hair, put on makeup if you desire, and put on a cute, yet comfortable outfit. Even though no one’s opinion but yours should dictate your happiness, it can be nice to get external validation or even just to remind yourself how nice you can feel!
Reach Out To Family And Friends
Having a strong support system in place is one of the most important parts of maintaining good mental health. If you ever find yourself struggling, reach out to family or friends. Whether you choose to directly tell them what you are struggling with or simply want someone you feel good around to be near is up to you.
Enjoy A Bubble Bath Or Hot Shower
While bathtubs are hard to come by in college dorms, if you live at home or in an off campus apartment, chances are you may have access to one. Add scented soap or a bath bomb before running the water to make for a colorful and relaxing experience.
If you are experiencing any pain, you can also try adding magnesium flakes and Epsom salt to the water, both of which can have amazing benefits on reducing inflammation and pain. Candles can also go a long way toward setting a relaxing mood. If you do not have access to a tub, try substituting with a long, hot shower and your choice of music.
While this is not the best choice for everyone, many will find that cleaning or straightening up your living space can be a very rewarding self care technique. A cluttered and dirty space can quickly feel overwhelming, anxiety-inducing, and even gross. To prevent the problem from getting too bad, keep up on things like dirty dishes, having a clear pathway, and washing clothes so that you don’t find yourself with a million things to do feeling like the task is impossibly overwhelming. Not only will being in a clean area make it easier to focus, completing a simple task can feel like a huge accomplishment and be quite the mood boost!
Attend A Campus Activity
If you spend a lot of time isolated in your room, try getting outside and socializing by attending an on-campus activity, sporting event, or local festival! Check your school newsletter or information board for upcoming events or simply ask around. Transportation is often available to any events held at an alternative location.
Unplug From Your Electronics
Technology is wonderful, but it can also add a lot of undue stress. Deactivate your social media accounts such as Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram for a week and see how you feel. Many people find that the reduction in stress was so great, they don’t feel the need to reactivate their accounts.
If that whole idea sounds daunting to you, try starting with simply turning off your phone for a day instead. Post something notifying your followers if you’d like, then power off and leave your device locked away in a drawer while you go about your day. When night comes around, everything you missed will be there to catch up on.
Make A List Of Things You Are Grateful For
It is all too easy to let the stress of life catch up to you and to focus too much on what is going wrong. To add positivity to your life and to learn to appreciate what you have instead of getting caught up in what you don’t have, try making a list every single day before bed of what you are grateful for. This little mindfulness exercise will help you find the bright side in situations a lot easier and will generally improve your overall happiness.
Tweak the activity a little and make a list of things you like about yourself or are proud of and look back over the list frequently to build confidence. If you cannot complete these exercises daily, aim to do so at least once a week.
Stay Hydrated And Eat A Balanced Diet
Dehydration can have many negative health benefits, so it is important to consistently keep up on drinking enough water. To figure out your daily intake, take your weight in pounds and cut it in half. Then, simply consume that number of fluid ounces each day to maintain a healthy body, mind, and metabolism.
Eating a healthy diet is also an important part of self care. You will feel significantly better after eating homemade, vegetable-heavy meals for a week than you will by eating fast food every day. While this isn’t to say you shouldn’t treat yourself, be careful how often you choose to do so and with what.
Preparing a meal at home can make you feel accomplished, while also saving money and giving you complete control over the products used. If you choose to go to a restaurant, try finding one that uses fresh produce. When purchasing a snack, spend the extra money to get an organic version. Good tasting, healthy alternatives are more expensive, but often worth the money.
Sunshine offer vitamins and nutrients that simply can not be offered by sitting inside. While supplements such as magnesium and vitamin D are available, spending some time outside each day will have a drastic impact on your mood and mental health. This is evidence by the extremely large number of people who suffer from seasonal depression when spending less time outside during the winter.
Exercising is proven to release endorphins into your brain, producing positive mood-lifting effects. In fact, a commonly known benefit of jogging is the accompanying runner’s high many individuals experience. In addition to providing an endorphin rush, exercising regularly also helps maintain your physical health and can lead to a more positive body image.
Make A Feel-Good Playlist
For a self-care tool you can implement over and over again, use your favourite music streaming service to create a playlist of uplifting, upbeat, and happy songs that you can play to help you feel good at any point during the day. Listen to it whenever you are feeling down and make edits as often as desired.
People often get bogged down with a slew of responsibilities and expectations simply because they say “yes” to everything. Learning to say no is a huge skill that will benefit you for your entire life and make self-care a lot easier.
If you do not want to go to an event you have been invited to, you are not obligated to attend. The same goes for helping someone with a task, using any of your own resources, going into work for unscheduled hours, or generally most things that people ask of you. It is completely valid to say “this time is set aside for me” and stick to that.
If you are offering as much as you feel comfortable with and someone tries to make you feel bad for it, evaluate the relationship. Is it possible this person is toxic and trying to control you or use you solely for their own benefit? If so, cut them out so there is more room in your circle for positive people wh respect your decisions.
Get Enough Sleep For Your Body
How much sleep you need is largely dependent on the individual, though on average you should strive for 8 to 10 hours of sleep when possible. I know that as a college student especially, this can be a hard goal to achieve, but putting in the extra hours will reflect positively in many functions of your body. If you find yourself regularly getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, be sure to put at least one night a week aside to catch up on sleep.