The word self-care gets thrown around a lot, so that it can feel like self-care is just one more thing to add to the bottom of your long to-do list. But staying mentally healthy and physically healthy is important, even if you are a busy student juggling your college classes with your personal and professional life. Good self-care routines can have many benefits, including helping you move through life energized and happy.
Below is a list of mental and physical health tips for hardworking students and anyone else ready to take better care of themselves with a few minor changes to their days.
Rejuvenate with a relaxing bedtime ritual and a full night’s sleep
One in three adults don’t get enough sleep. Too little sleep can slow down your reaction times, decrease your ability to focus, and negatively impact your health and energy. If you have trouble falling asleep, follow a consistent sleep schedule. Keep your room dark and quiet with phones on alarm-only mode. A relaxing bedtime ritual—like reading, drinking caffeine-free herbal tea, or taking a soothing bath—can help. At a minimum, let your brain wind down by avoiding tv shows, computers, and exercise for 30 minutes before bedtime.
Eat food that gives you energy for your day
Eating well is among the most important self-care activities. Start with a high-protein breakfast, and then avoid high sugar foods that will result in a crash that will leave you feeling exhausted. If you’re on the go, bring easy-to-eat snacks with you for the day ahead, like nuts, yogurt, or pre-cut veggies. If you know you get too busy during the week to make healthy meals, prep meals over the weekend that you can simply heat up and eat. You can even do breakfast this way, by pre-making and freezing breakfast wraps.
Spend time in nature at least once a week
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, fresh air could help. Being in nature is scientifically shown to lower stress hormones, reduce mental fatigue, and increase emotional well-being, including boosting the serotonin in our brain. Time in nature has also been linked to improved attention span, creativity, and short-term memory. (Studies even suggest that walks in in the woods can lower blood pressure, boost your immune system, and decrease cancer risk.) If you don’t consider yourself the outdoorsy type, don’t worry—weekend hiking excursions aren’t required. Even sitting under the trees in a local park can do you good.
Daily physical activity can help you feel more alert, productive, and happier. Of course, when you’re busy, it’s hard to put exercise at the top of your list. To change that, find something you actually like doing. If running or lifting weights is not your thing, try turning up your music and having a daily dance session before the kids come home. Or maybe yoga or kickboxing classes will do the trick. With the many YouTube videos online, you may not even have to leave the house. Your exercise doesn’t need to be intense; just moving and stretching can lower stress and help you stay mentally healthy.
If you need to, get creative and find ways to combine activities. Do you have any one-on-one meetings at work that could be held while walking instead of sitting? Could you do some exercises while watching the evening news? Maybe you could get family time in by going for walks or biking around the neighborhood together. Or plan to go hiking or canoeing with friends to get the triple benefit of exercise, nature, and time spent with people who make you smile.
Quit a bad habit
Self-care doesn’t have to be about starting something new. Sometimes, it’s about quitting what is bad for you. What habits should you stop? Do you feel guilty for eating the junk food in your pantry? Don’t buy it anymore. Get burnt out from sitting so long in front of the computer? Stop doing that and take breaks every 30 minutes instead. From how often we check social media to the way we talk to ourselves, we all have things we should stop doing. Think about it. What’s getting in your way? What can you do to simplify the process of quitting that habit?
Make your self-care routine stick
Remember, a good self-care routine doesn’t have to be fancy. Self-care starts with getting enough sleep, eating well, and moving your body. It involves building some new habits and dropping others. If reading about these self-care activities feels overwhelming, take a step back. Pick one self-care activity to focus on and start there. Change doesn’t happen overnight, so give yourself some grace and aim for progress, not perfection, as you work toward a physically and mentally healthier you.