Have you heard people talking about self-care lately? When we think about it, it might invoke thoughts of spa days, bubble baths and massages. Except self-care is so much more than those things.
“Self-care can be defined as the practice of intentionally and consistently tending to one’s emotional, physical and mental well-being,” says Dr. William Hight, licensed staff psychologist at Augusta University Student Counseling & Psychological Services. “It starts with a decision to be kind to oneself.”
While college is a great experience and opportunity, some people can struggle with managing the new stressors it brings. Balancing class, work, friends and family can leave us with little time and energy for ourselves.
“The short-term need to study for an exam may seem more important than finding time to sleep or rest,” Dr. Hight says. “External pressures can make it hard to make the decision to prioritize self-care. However, over time, not finding time to practice self-care can mean that daily stress builds, and it actually becomes more difficult to function well academically and personally, which has short-term and long-term implications for a person’s quality of life.”
Setting time aside to focus on yourself is a great first step. Establishing healthy coping tactics can keep us from unhealthy tactics like drugs, emotional eating or alcohol. Not into bubble baths? That’s okay. Here are our 16 favorite self-care ideas:
- Sleep. It’s often the first thing to go in our busy schedules. Set a consistent bedtime and wake up time.
- Keep a journal. You can also use this space to create a gratitude list. Use this daily list to focus on the positive things in your day and less on the negative things that happened.
- Take a guilt-free break. We promise it’s okay. Watch that new episode on Netflix. It’s when we start to binge that gets us into trouble.
- Unplug from social media. For an hour before bed or for a whole Sunday. Just try it. Take a break from your phone and be present where you are.
- Collect your compliments. Someone say something nice to you today? Keep a jar full of these little compliments and read them later.
- Create a To-Do list. Include big and little tasks. Got to class on time? Check.
- Try something new. This might make you nervous at first, but trying new things can introduce you to new hobbies and break up your usual routine.
- Declutter. Clean your spaces: physical and digital. Still following your ex’s mom or that old coworker you don’t speak to anymore? Unfollow.
- Indulge in little joys throughout the day. Wear your favorite tee-shirt. Order extra cheese. Have breakfast for dinner.
- Exercise. You don’t have to run a 5K. Just take a walk around campus. Movement is good for our bodies and minds.
- Listen to music. Make a playlist full of your favorite songs. Listen to it when you’re having a bad day.
- Buy a coloring book and DON’T color in the lines. Shocked? Let go of perfection. Do something that you’re not going to be perfect at. Dealing with small failures will help us cope with our big ones.
- Say “no.” Feeling pressure to meet up with friends when you really just want to take a nap? Just say “no thanks.”
- Surround yourself with positivity. Keep supportive friendships and relationships. Step away from toxic ones.
- Intentionally relax. Try meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
Dr. Hight’s personal favorite? “Find what makes you laugh and build it into your life.”
You can include a few of these into your everyday life, but you’ll probably need to schedule some “me time” for the others. Whatever your choice of self-care is, it’s important to distinguish self-care from procrastination. Self-care is time to build healthy habits, engage with positive feelings, put negative feelings into perspective and cope with our stresses.