Photo by Jessica Johnson.
You wake up. You quickly head to your classes; no time to make breakfast. You get out of classes and immediately head to work. You get off work late and rush home. You barely have enough time to make a meal for yourself before you throw yourself into your homework for the rest of your night, before finally deciding that you absolutely need to sleep. Wake up again the next morning and wash, rinse and repeat.
If you can relate to the above paragraph, you’re not alone.
For those struggling to balance school, work and a social life, students can feel like they’re trapped in a cycle of constant, soul-crushing stress. In fact, in a study conducted by the American College Health Association, 32 percent of college students reported feeling so stressed that it was “difficult to function.”
While that number may seem ridiculously high, it’s a sad reality many students have come to accept. In fact, countless students feel guilty for even taking breaks. That shouldn’t be the case. Students should not feel guilt for prioritizing their own mental health.
That being said, the importance of self-care is not stressed enough among students.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, self-care is defined as: the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during feelings of stress.
That may seem simple enough, but ensuring you actively practice self-care regularly and set time aside for yourself may be harder than you think.
What can I do to practice self-care?
Anything you particularly enjoy, whether this is taking a few hours out of each day to read a book you enjoy, going to a yoga class or going for a walk. Take some time to unwind and decompress each day.
According to wanderlust.com, some self-care tips and practices to follow are:
- Eat healthy meals.
- Keep a journal expressing your gratitudes and accomplishments.
- Find something you loved to do as a kid, and attempt it as an adult.
- Try rearranging/redecorating your room or apartment to make it look the way you want it to.
- Read a new book.
- Get off social media for a little bit.
- Create something, bake, etc.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go do all of those and force yourself to enjoy them. If those eight don’t apply to you, then find something you personally enjoy and do that for a bit.
How much time should I take for myself?
This can vary, depending on how much time you have in a day. At the very least, svmassagetherapy.com recommends getting in a minimum of 30 minutes a day of downtime. But if you feel like you can fit in more, two 30 minute breaks a day is optimal.
What if I don’t have the time for that?
Try to squeeze it in. Even if it means waking up just a little bit earlier, cutting down on how much time you spend on homework or occasionally showing up late to that morning class just so you’re able to take a little break for yourself.
Put simply: Some things can wait. Even though you may feel like you need to get that assignment done right away, you can hold off for a few hours. Your life will go on when you skip the occasional morning class. Realizing this doesn’t make you lazy or entitled, it just means you can recognize your priorities and adjust them according to what’s healthiest for you.
This isn’t an invitation to skip every assignment and class, however. There’s a fine line between taking time for yourself and skipping out on all your responsibilities.
The bottom line is: Your mental health is the number-one priority at all times, so take care of yourself. Making time to relax is just as important as the rest of your priorities, so don’t feel guilty about rearranging some of your time to practice self-care.