Few things in life are certain, but here are a few: water is wet, the day is long, and college is stressful.
Between balancing extracurriculars, working, applying for internships, maintaining a social life, and trying to maintain a decent GPA, being a college student presents countless stressors. In just one day you can navigate more minor life crises than you did in a whole month of high school.
With all of the activities on your plate, adding anything else can seem impossible. However, challenge yourself to pencil just one more item into your daily schedule: self care.
But what is self-care? A quick #selfcare search on any type of social media conjures up images of exotic tea, sensuous bubble baths, and elaborate pedicures- things all virtually unattainable to the cheap-coffee-drinking and dorm-shower-using typical college student. However, practicing self-care doesn’t require you to drop 40 dollars on a pedicure- it’s simply taking time out to take care of yourself.
Here are five simple, cost-effective ways to practice self-care in college:
Get Some Sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, people between the ages 18-25 should get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Crazy right? Getting just five hours every night sounds unrealistic, much less seven or eight hours. With everything there is to be completed during the day like meetings, papers, and presentations, it can seem inevitable that some of that work spill over into the night. Besides, who needs sleep anyway?
You do. Sleep deprivation takes a serious toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health- a lifestyle of fatigue does eventually take its toll. On top of that, when you’re not giving your body the sleep it needs at night, it won’t give you the energy you need during the day. Instead of focusing on your 8 am lecture, or your lunchtime conversation with your roommate, you’ll find yourself zoning out a lot more in an effort to conserve energy.
Start slowly. Instead of saying, “I need to start getting twice as much sleep as I currently do,” which is a lofty goal, do it in increments. If you get 15 minutes more of sleep every day, it won’t take too long for you to start hitting that 7-9 hour mark.
Organize, organize, organize!
Every Saturday morning, Leanne Summers, who is a pre-med psychology major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as stressed as they come, takes twenty minutes out of her day to rearrange her desk. She sets an early alarm, breaks out her Lysol wipes, and organizes every item on her desk. She’s coined it “getting her life together.” Her rationale?
“Having a clean workable space is important because it helps me clear my head in the same way. When my environment is messy, I just think about the messiness and it distracts me from my work, so doing it right before means eliminating a distraction,” said Summers.
Although it seems like a weird option and a throwback to Saturday morning childhood chores, forcing yourself to clean your workspace is a form of self-care. By enhancing your workspace, you indirectly enhance yourself- if you spend a lot of time somewhere, why not make it look nice?
Remember how your elementary school teachers gave you stickers as a reward for your achievements? For less than twenty-five cents, you were filled with these warm, fuzzy feelings of pride and self-accomplishment, which in turn motivated you to want to more.
Unfortunately, our professors don’t attach glittery “Great Work” stickers to the top of our midterm papers, but you can and should #treatyoself and supply your own reward.
“Go get yourself a double scoop of your favorite ice-cream or take a walk in the sun. Do whatever it is that makes you happy,” said Cheryle Jackson, president of AAR Africa.
Treating yourself is not this expensive, elaborate concept; it’s simple: if you’ve done something good, celebrate it. Whether it’s something as simple as finally grasping a concept in your statistics class or something as massive as landing your dream summer internship, reward yourself.
College is almost guaranteed to be a stressful time in your life; there’s just too much going on for it not to be. But if you practice self-care by sleeping more, organizing your area, and treating yourself, you can cut down on this stress. Stop treating self-care like an option and instead, make it a priority.