November 17, 2019 by Shankari Sivanathan
Imagine having to take care of a toddler and make that toddler YOU. Set yourself a bedtime, feed yourself 3 meals a day, give yourself enough time to hang out with friends, and take part in new interests or hobbies! Reward yourself with a chocolate bar while studying or take a nap when you feel stressed. You have to parent yourself and understand the value of catering to your personal, social, and professional needs. That is the secret recipe for taking care of yourself as a university student.
University can be the best time of your life: you get to make the most of fulfilling opportunities, new adventures, and exciting memories, but it comes with its challenges. We get the chance to live independently – make new friends, explore a new city, choose your own classes, and build your own schedule. Yet, we don’t quite realize how dependent we may have been until we try to stand on our own two feet.
Change can be scary. It can be stressful, overwhelming and makes us feel a whole variety of different emotions. This is all a part of the process; we are meant to go through ebbs and flows that will ultimately serve as learning experiences down the line.
It can be difficult balancing our academics, extracurriculars, and a social life on top of managing change. Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. Students feel this unspoken pressure to constantly be studying all the time — if we’re not studying, we’re falling behind. In reality, taking care of ourselves improves our ability to perform.
So, how can you fit self-care into your busy university schedule? Here are some ways to treat yourself, even when it feels like you only have a few minutes to spare.
It’s easy to take the simple act of breathing for granted. It’s something everyone does so naturally, yet it’s difficult to realize that deep, slow breathing inevitably calms us down. It is an incredibly powerful tool that we have at our disposal to regain composure and refocus our minds to concentrate on precisely what we need to do in the present moment.
Know that everything is going to be okay and trust that where you are in the present moment will lead you to greater heights. Sometimes we tend to push ourselves too hard to force things to happen. As long as you have faith in the process and you are focusing on yourself, you know that you’re doing all you can do. You are not always going to have a 10-year plan figured out or be able to control every little thing in your life – it’s important to take a step back, relax, and make space for everything to unfold on its own.
Nothing ever stays the same – as we continue to grow and evolve, we are bound to experience more change. Don’t get me wrong — change can be daunting. As humans, we become so attached to the way things are. By staying open-minded and not getting too comfortable, we will have the opportunity to embrace change and make the most of it. Throughout university, there are going to be SO many opportunities that will come along your way. Keep moving forward and continue to steer into the unknown optimistically. Change is what you make out of it, and as we become more mindful of it, the more we will grow. Some of the best moments in our lives are ones that are still waiting to be experienced.
One of the most common things you hear from a university student is, “I don’t have enough time.” As busy as life gets, it becomes essential to prioritize time to do things for yourself. Pro-actively scheduling into your calendar to dedicate time to yourself will help promote your well-being. With the stress that midterms and finals season may carry, it is important to listen to your body and focus on finding your calm through whatever makes you happy. That might mean taking part in mindful meditation, restorative yoga, or maybe even going on an energetic run.
As so many opportunities come your way, you need to recognize when things become extremely overwhelming to prevent burnout. Making sure you don’t take on more than you can handle is crucial for success in university. By doing a few things that you are passionate about is the better alternative to overworking yourself and taking on too many responsibilities that you can’t fulfil in time.
“In university, taking a break from studying and leadership activities is extremely important to help maintain a balanced lifestyle and prevent burnout. However, when my to-do list is ever-growing and finals season is fast approaching, spending time with friends or pursuing my hobbies often makes me feel guilty – there’s a voice in the back of my head that is constantly saying that I should be working instead of having fun. To counteract this, deliberately schedule “personal time” into your week, where you can play video games or watch Netflix. Knowing that you’ve earned this time to have fun makes for a guilt-free experience, and also better enforces a time limit on your activity, preventing those 2 am binge sessions from eating into your sleep and productivity.”
“Some parts of life during university were extremely challenging – dealing with loss, stress, struggles with mental health – these are things that most students have to go through. When things got the most difficult for me, I really had to ask myself what my values were. I realized through this process that practicing meditation and yoga regularly really helped me to focus on what is important to me; my well-being and happiness. It has helped me so much to centre myself physically and mentally. When things come up in my life now, I know that aside from my external support system, I can also be my own best friend and help myself through it.”
“Self-care is about staying physically and mentally healthy. It means having a balance between working towards your goals and staying within your limits. You should feel good about yourself and work to make yourself feel better! My advice is as follows:
1. Busy does NOT mean anything. Be busy with purpose. Don’t do things for the sake of doing things. Reevaluate your schedule and commitments every once in a while and compare it to your goals and wants, I guarantee you’re doing things you don’t need to be doing. Once you stop doing these things, you’ll have more time to focus on what’s really important.
2. Be a smart rester! Everyone needs rest, but most of us aren’t resting properly. Try different tactics to see what works for you. Pick things that rest your eyes, brain, muscles, whichever feel tired. Personally, I like to talk to friends, play a sport, or my favourite – listen to music.
3. Super cliche, but PLEASE live a healthy lifestyle!! This means getting 8 hours of sleep, 30 minutes of exercise every day, and eating balanced and nutritional meals (yes MEALS, meaning breakfast, lunch, dinner and even a snack). This also means being EMOTIONALLY healthy! Spend time with the important people in your life, communicate your feelings, and go have FUN.”
If you keep pushing yourself past your physical and mental limits, it will catch up to you. You cannot live forever on three hours of sleep, caffeine, and Red Bull. You won’t be able to overpower your inner need to relax and recharge. And you will reach a point where you burnout if you don’t respect and care for your well-being. Don’t wait for yourself to fall apart to realize self-care is a priority.
This weekend, take some time to do something for yourself. Read a chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to get to. Eat a slice of cake. Get that extra hour of sleep. Go out and spend time with your friends. Remember to take a long deep breath at the end of the day. Do whatever makes YOU happy. You are just as important as whatever has been causing you stress, so give yourself the attention you need.
Self-care is not as easy as it sounds to implement in our lives, especially during your journey through university. I’ll admit that one of the first things that get neglected whenever I am stressed is my self-care. I hope by adopting these tips, my future self, as well as yours, will appreciate taking the time to take care of yourself!