Whether you’re in recovery from a mental illness or simply trying to get yourself through the day-to-day shuffle, self-care is incredibly important. As a high school student, I was constantly pushing myself to the limits of what my mind and body could handle. There was always another paper, test, or group project that I had to work on. My motto was “sleep is for the weak” and I would stay up later and later each night to get everything done. The concept of “me-time” was foreign and unobtainable.
Coming to college was an incredible switch for me. I realized that after all those years of pushing the limits of my academic abilities, I was nearly burnt out and something needed to change. The problem was that even though I only had four classes a semester to worry about, the workload felt the same as if I had my eight classes in high school.
There’s this idea that self-care is lighting candles and incense, throwing a bath bomb in the tub and sitting in the water for three hours while reading a novel. That’s unrealistic for multiple reasons: one being that I don’t have access to a tub at college and even if I did I wouldn’t trust its cleanliness, and two being that I don’t know anyone who has time to sit in a tub for that long, and three is that I personally can’t sit still for longer than twenty minutes at a time. If any of this resonates with you, here are some self-care methods I’ve found helpful when I’m incredibly busy but need a break.
Grab your favorite drink. I personally love coffee. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is—morning, afternoon, or night—you can probably find me with a cup of coffee in my hand. For me, the caffeine isn’t really the importance. I just genuinely love the taste of coffee whether it’s hot or iced. Drinking coffee makes me happy, so taking five minutes to brew a cup in my Keurig or taking ten minutes to go to the café on campus is a great study break.
Have a dance break. Have a song stuck in your head? Tired of writing that paper or studying for that exam? Dance it out! Most songs only last 3-4 minutes, so listening to your favorite isn’t going to put you too far behind your work. Getting up and moving not only causes a momentary distraction, but will also supply you with some endorphins and positive energy!
Get outside. A lot of times I find myself trapped inside all day doing work and it feels like I haven’t seen the sun in weeks. Taking a step outside for five minutes, or going on a short walk has always had a rejuvenating effect for me. Feeling the fresh air on my face wakes me up and helps me feel ready to keep working on the task at hand.
Meet a friend for a meal. When we’re busy, it can be difficult to prioritize real meals over work. I’ve been guilty of just making mac and cheese really quick so I can eat while I’m working, but a big part of eating is the social interaction that comes with it. Taking even a half hour of your homework time to eat and catch up with a friend can change your entire mindset.
Take a ten minute cat-nap. Spending hours reading article after article for class can drain the life out of you. Even if the material is interesting, putting all your energy into focusing on readings is exhausting and sometimes you might catch yourself fighting to stay awake. Try putting your head down for a few minutes, even if you’re in the campus library! Closing your eyes for a few minutes can be enough to prepare you to take on the next task.
Snuggle up with a blanket. You don’t need to be going to bed to be cozy. Sometimes curling up on the couch or your bed with some homework is exactly what you need to feel great and be productive.
Hydrate. It’s simple enough, but often forgotten. Sometimes self-care is just remembering to drink some water! I try to carry around my refillable water bottle with me so I can take some sips here and there. Trust me, your body will thank you.
Self-care isn’t always taking days off and spending them at the spa; sometimes self-care is just focusing on incorporating the little things that keep you going.