This post was written by a member of the Debut Student Publisher Network. Here Beth rounds up her top tips for self-care whilst you’re at uni:
Starting university can come as a slight shock to the system. You are suddenly surrounded by strangers, after years of stability, being looked after and having someone around to make you some soup when you’re sick. I’m sorry to break it to you, but the only way you’re getting any Heinz Chicken Noodle now is if you use your own money (gasp) and walk to the shop (double gasp) to buy it then cook it yourself (faints due to exhaustion). Looking after yourself takes more than just having a full fridge. Self-care is a practice that includes any actions to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Sometimes it can be challenging just to motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning, but that’s OK. It’s fine to look at these as things to praise yourself for. So what if you haven’t managed to read your books this week? At least you made a nice healthy lunch and went for a run this morning, go you! Here is your ultimate self-care checklist to make sure you’re looking after yourself in every possible way.
First, you’ve got to cover the basics. Sleep is a massive one. If you’re not sleeping well, think about why and if you can change it. Or, if you’re being a bit reckless and have got into a bad routine, kick start a better one by going to bed early, or getting up early.
When in doubt – nap. The benefits are numerous, including increased creativity, alertness, and productivity. Plus the release of growth hormone provides the antidote to cortisol (the stress hormone) which means less anxiety, and an improved mood. I’m seeing no downsides here.
Next step is to give yourself energy by eating enough, regularly, and well. If you don’t have time to shop, then a supermarket delivery is great, and lets you stock up on anything you need without having to lug it back from the shop. Think about what’s healthy, and quick (I’m a big fan of Joe Wick’s Instagram for tasty, speedy and nutritious food) and try to make sure you eat it.
Suggest a group meal in your flat, that way you share the effort and the cost, and get to spend some time with the people around you.
Finally, drink water. Lots of it. There are no down sides, as it gives you more energy, helps concentration, and will keep you hydrated. Plus it’s an easy and free way to feel good.
Managed 3 litres today? Good for you! Especially if your fresher lifestyle involves a lot of alcohol, the only way to get over a hangover is to hydrate.
There are absolutely loads of ways that exercise can benefit your mental health and general mood. Not only does it keep your body fit, but it also promotes changes in the brain, and releases endorphins that energise you.
Even if you’re not athletic, there are so many sports clubs for non-sporty people that you can join at university! Exercise can be a great distraction, and make you concentrate on achieving goals/targets/making it home without collapsing so you forget other stresses in your life. Speaking of stress…
Stress is the enemy of self-care, as it is detrimental to all areas of your health. How you deal with this is completely specific to you. Whether that means having a relaxing bath (if your student bathroom isn’t too disgusting), a Netflix session, knitting, cooking, or playing video games, remember to take a break from work and devote some time to yourself.
You can even practice anchoring which involves using a physical queue, such as pressing your thumb and finger together, in situations where you feel calm. Your brain starts to associate that feeling with the motion, and you can use it to anchor yourself if you feel out of control.
Halt wintertime blues
This is especially relevant at this time of year, as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can mean you may feel in a low mood or lethargic as the days become shorter.
In the run up to Christmas, self-care by keeping yourself warm, looking after your skin (a nice moisturiser can help hands dried out by the cold) or even consider getting a light box if necessary, to simulate exposure to sunlight, and thrive in the winter months. Cook a big flat roast to celebrate surviving the term.
There are some amazing websites and apps out there that can help you on your self-care journey. My personal favourite is Headspace which makes meditation simple, by breaking it into 10 minute chunks. Their free Take Ten sessions concentrate on making you aware of your body, clearing your mind and accepting how you feel emotionally.
Talk about it
One of the biggest hurdles that mental health has to face is the fact that discussing it openly is still taboo. It’s getting better, but there’s certainly a long way to go.
The hashtag #TalkingAboutIt was created by Sammy Nickalls, who began tweeting about mental health to normalise it, in the way that people take to twitter to complain about having a cough or cold. As her website says, “we all have mental health. So why are we keeping ours a secret?”
Prioritise self-care everyday
Make your mental health a priority in your life, alongside your degree. It won’t take effect all at once, but if you start really considering self-care as a part of your daily routine, then slowly you’ll see the difference.
Start by following @tinycarebot on twitter, for reminder such as “<3: remember to take some time to ask your friends for help if you need it please” to brighten up your day. These tweets say it’s OK to slow down, and just take a moment to tell yourself it’s all going to be alright. Treat yourself well every single day, and take care, Debutants.
Feature image via Pexels