Megan Chow ’23
As college students navigating consistently busy schedules, the importance of simple acts of self-care is often overlooked. As a result, these practices are often left out of one’s everyday routine, despite their significance to our health and lifestyle. Practicing self-care can help you refocus on where you find value in your life, as well as realize your own personal goals.
Self-care is about understanding yourself, realizing your worth, and caring for yourself so that you can improve your overall well-being and better understand how to care for your loved ones in a similar way. When discovering what self-care means to you, it’s important to understand that anything that makes you feel good is usually a means of self-care. Here are 20 suggestions to consider as you think more about what practicing self-care means to you:
- Engage in your passions
What reaffirms your greatness? What gives you a feeling of empowerment and freedom? Find something that is meaningful to you and that allows you to harvest your talents and watch yourself excel. It’s incredibly important, especially for people of color and from the LGBTQIA+, community to discover creative outlets that are not only empowering and strengthen one’s skills, but also allow one to fully express themselves and recognize self-potential.
It may sound simple, but it’s definitely difficult to get enough rest when you’re constantly swamped with work from classes and club activities. Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night (7-9 hours), or even just dedicating a time or day to catch up on your sleep is important to not only your overall physical health and wellbeing, but also improves your mindset, concentration, productivity, and decreases stress levels. However, it’s not just getting enough hours of sleep that’s important; the quality of your sleep also matters! Making sure you are in the right environment for sleeping (lights turned off, electronics put away, and silence) and finding your perfect sleeping position or space (what makes you feel most comfortable in bed) will also ensure that you get a good night of sleep, leaving you to feel more energized and positive the next morning.
Exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. In line with the self-care conditions, what’s important is that you choose a form of exercise that you like!
- Take a long, relaxing shower or bath
Your shower time is also your alone time where you can destress and think about happy thoughts. It’s the time where you can escape from any worries or responsibilities you have.
- Make a photo album
This can be a physical photo album or a digital album on your phone camera roll filled with your favorite pictures. This way, you can always reminisce about your happiest memories and remember how you felt in that specific moment. Instead of wishing to go back to the past, use this as a way to reflect on what caused that positive feeling and think of ways to recreate such emotions in the present and future as well.
- Engage in solitude
Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, everyone needs at least some alone time to unwind. Where are some places you enjoy spending time alone? On campus, I personally enjoy visiting the Margaret Fowler Garden or The Sallie Tiernan Field House’s Wellness Room to unwind after a long day.
With this, it’s important to realize that what constitutes as clean is different for everyone. Cleaning doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore you feel required to do. I find that tidying up my personal space makes me proud afterwards, since I can see the physical results of the time and effort I spent cleaning. Having a more open, organized space helps me feel more open-minded and flexible to change. I also feel more comfortable welcoming company over, which is similar to the feeling of creating a safe space and community of friends for myself.
- Write in a journal
Journaling doesn’t have to require a specific structure, routine, or time commitment. Instead, you have the freedom to determine when you want to write in your journal, what you want to express in it, and how much. Writing down your thoughts and significant events that have occurred can help you decompress and feel less overwhelmed. It can also help you reflect on past events and change your way of thinking in certain situations. For those who find journaling to be too time-consuming, Penzu is an alternative to the traditional paper and pen method. It’s a private, online journal that you can take with you anywhere and quickly record daily reflections.
- Listen to your favorite songs or make a new playlist
Listening to music can help you destress and relax. When I have free time, I enjoy searching through different genres and radios to find new music that I could add to my current playlist. I find that exploring different musical genres and discovering new artists is an exciting, unique feeling that I can’t get from anything else.
- Watch your favorite movie or TV show
Spend time catching up on missed episodes of a TV show, watching the latest movie released, or rediscovering an old YouTube channel you used to binge watch.
- Cook your favorite meal
Eating your favorite meal or comfort food is the perfect way to feel more relaxed. When you’re away from home, there are meals that you might miss eating or they just aren’t the same when made by the dining hall. Go grocery shopping for ingredients and recreate your favorite dishes for a positive boost to both your stomach and well-being! I’m personally horrible at cooking, but my friend and I recently made taro smoothies in a dorm kitchen. They didn’t come out tasting as amazing as I had hoped, but putting the time and effort into preparing the ingredients and following the recipe was very calming as I could work at my own pace within my own comfortable environment.
Read a book, light a candle, make yourself a cup of hot tea, listen to a podcast, create art, dance, or go on a hike. What are some other things you enjoy doing that you often don’t have the chance to do in the midst of a busy semester? For me, I enjoy completing my skincare routine as a form of self-care at night before I go to bed. It’s a way for me to unwind and feel refreshed after a long day as I apply my favorite products, knowing that I am taking good care of my own skin.
- Build a support system
Whether it be trusted friends and family members or a community of people with similar experiences as you, creating a space where you feel comfortable openly communicating about your feelings and experiences can have a profound impact on how you feel and reflect on your own life and cope with struggles. Talk to a close friend — set time aside to grab dinner one night or simply sit on a common room couch and chat. Whatever the medium, it’s an opportunity to connect with others who have similar experiences to be available when needed. There are always people in your corner, so find your community and hold onto that.
- Catch up with an old friend or family
Facetime a family member or an old friend and catch up on all their new life updates. Sometimes, hearing about others’ experiences can help you feel more connected to others and less alone. Talking to them about your day can also help you feel less overwhelmed by all the events that have occurred or any upcoming responsibilities.
- Write down what you are grateful for
Gratitude is a powerful tool that can shift your usual perspective. Remember what or who you are grateful for, and appreciate everything that has helped you along your path so far.
- Identify negative thoughts
What is making you feel down lately? How can you change your way of thinking so that you have a more positive mindset? Is there something specific that is causing these negative thoughts, such as an environment, class, or person? What can you change in order to get rid of these thoughts and their causes?
- Write an affirmation letter to yourself
Remind yourself of your worthiness and importance. Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Consider your personal goals and how you can accomplish them. Recognize that you are beautiful, brave, and strong. While writing this letter, consider the following questions: What motivates me or gives me strength? What advice would I give to my younger self? What are some things I am proud of myself for? How have I grown over the past years? How can I celebrate my personal achievements and triumphs?
- Acknowledge your worth
Know that you are always worthy of respect and acknowledgement. You are valued and loved by so many people. You may have not realized it, but you have touched someone around you. Your very existence has changed someone’s life, bringing happiness and positivity to them. You are important! Nothing and no one can replace or change who you are. Stay true to yourself and realize that you deserve nothing short of happiness.
- Seek culturally competent mental health services
Seeking mental health services that will understand your personal desires and needs can be difficult, especially for people of color. Oftentimes, mental health service providers are catered towards Caucasians, and it can be hard for them to relate to or understand the different experiences people of color have. This is significant as it will change the way these providers respond to the health needs of a patient of color, whether it be the way they conduct a therapy session or the amount of medication they prescribe. There are, however, resources that assist in finding a therapist or psychiatrist of color, such as the Tessera Collective.
- Destigmatize mental health
This is arguably the most important part of practicing self-care. Taking care of yourself is NOT selfish. You are worthy of care and happiness. Self-care is what allows one to be more productive and effective in their everyday lives. It also helps prevent burnout, which is common for stressed college students. It’s also important to learn how to love and care for yourself before understanding how to do the same for others. By practicing self-care in a healthy way, you can learn to make healthier life decisions and improve your overall physical and mental well-being.