The Importance of Self-Care for College Students
By Robert Parmer
Prioritizing our own needs isn’t always an easy thing to do. And focusing on self-care can be especially challenging for students, as day-to-day rhythms are oftentimes flooded with too much to do and not enough time.
But self-care for students is crucially important—we must slow down as frequently as necessary and pay attention to our individual needs in order to be our best selves. The following self-care guide for students will help you understand common forms of “self-neglect” and where they may be hiding in your life.
Make Sure Your Basic Needs Are Met
When deadlines, chaotic schedules, and side work all start piling up on top of the other variables of life, it’s surprisingly easy to forget to take care of our basic needs. The following basic needs should always be at the forefront of a student’s self-care routine:
- Get enough sleep: As an article by USC Master’s of Public Health puts it, “Sleep 6 to 8 hours a night—it is a critical restorative process for the body. A regular schedule of sleep does more to fend off sickness than vitamins, exercise, and washing hands combined.”
- Eat enough food and drink enough water: It may seem like a no-brainer to eat, but busyness and stress can lead to students accidentally skipping meals. Depending on your body type, you should drink at least 6 to 8 (eight ounce) glasses of water over the course of each day.
- Exercise when you can: Did you know that getting to the point of feeling a ‘runner’s high’ is essentially as beneficial to mental health as it is physical health? Daily exercise is ideal for most people. Consider low impact exercise, such as hiking or riding a bicycle if you are worried about long term joint health. But remember, over exerting yourself while running or jogging commonly leads to sore knees.
- Keep personal hygiene in mind: Take a shower when you need to, and make sure you feel comfortable with your levels of personal hygiene. Studies show that even something as simple brushing your teeth first thing in the morning helps promote wakefulness.
Recognize the Many Sources of Stress
Pinpointing exactly what is stressing us out isn’t always easy, but it’s a highly advantageous form of self-care. Stress management is so is actually as critical to exam success as studying. This is because stress can consume and distract us, even subconsciously.
You owe it to yourself to eliminate as much stress from your life as possible. Start by taking a quick stress screener to figure out where stress may be hiding in your life. From there, develop a stress reduction plan. Remember: In many ways your stress is as unique as you are.
An interesting stress management technique, highlighted by in a TED Talk by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal takes on the following, insightful approach:
“While stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.”
Embracing stress may prove to help you win the daily battle it presents for the majority of people in this world. Rather than stigmatizing stress or letting it manifest into another emotions, face it head-on in a positive manner. And reach out to loved ones or a counselor if your stress levels become unmanageable.
Ditch Tech for a Day
Our smartphones and other tech devices can frequently be the source of our stress. Modern students are swimming in a tech-heavy sea daily. A tech cleanse can also segue into other positive forms of self-care, because too much technology use has been shown to increase fatigue, stress, and depression.
Consider taking a break from your smartphone for even one day on your weekend—it can truly clear your head!
Overcome Creative Blocks Through Self-Care
As students, we may experience roadblocks in our creative processes quite frequently. An article titled But I Have Nothing to Write About! Strategies for Overcoming Writer’s Block points out some ways that being mindful of your own needs can help you get past creative blocks:
- Just walk away: Give yourself a cognitive break, even if just for a moment.
- Change your format: Are you sick of typing all day long? Take a break and read for a while, or consider writing some of your work out the old-fashioned way—with pen and paper.
- Remove distractions: Headphones (especially over-ear style) can certainly go a long ways, but if distractions become too prevalent, consider another location to work or study from.
- Change your scenery: A simple change to your studying space or work location can boost motivation and moral significantly!
- Do something that inspires you: This is unique from person to person, but it is always worth injecting some inspiration into your day to day life.
If you want to succeed as student you must start by taking care of yourself each and every day. You can’t expect to function to your fullest potential if you are drinking from a dry well. So keep these self-care tips in mind and develop your own plan to address your needs. You owe it to yourself!
Robert Parmer is a freelance web writer and student of Boise State University. Outside of writing whenever he has spare time, Robert enjoys creating and recording music, caring for his pet cat, and commuting by bicycle