Put one hand on your abdomen, right underneath your rib cage. Take a full, slow breath through your nose and down into your belly. You should feel your hand moving out as the air fills your body. Pause for a moment, and then exhale slowly, allowing your whole body to let go of any tension you might be carrying. Go ahead and do that two or three more times.
Congratulations, you’ve just practiced self-care! Think about how long it took ... probably about a minute or so. Deep breathing is just one way to take a minute for self-care, whether you’re on the bus to campus, studying in the library, or waiting for your next class to start.
You’ve probably heard or read about how important it is to take care of yourself while you’re in school, but when life gets busy as a student, even the idea of fitting self-care in can get overwhelming. Maybe you want to get out to that yoga or meditation class, or take a long soothing bath, but it feels like you have no time in your schedule right now. Here are some ways to fit self-care into your semester, even when the going gets tough.
- Back to basics. Having your basic needs covered can go a long way in ensuring that you stay healthy over the semester. Unfortunately for a lot of us, things like sleep and nutrition can be challenging with a heavy workload. Take time to have a healthy snack between study sessions – an apple or a handful of nuts can help keep both your body and brain going. If you’re feeling fatigued, it can be better in the long run to make time for a nap than trying to push through the last few pages of that assignment.
- Body and brain breaks. It may not seem like it but taking a quick timeout might help more than reading over that last page countless times. Take a stretch break at your desk, or while standing up. Walk around your room or look out the window. Even doing a few jumping jacks or push-ups can get your heart going and help you feel energized and alert. Take a moment to take your mind off your work by mindfully attending to how you feel in the present moment – or try looking around and noticing things around you in a new way, such as the books on your shelf or the view coming in from your window.
- Study outside. If the weather is nice, take some time to get some sun, even if you still have to finish those readings. Being outdoors and in nature can have a vitalizing effect, so find a comfy spot under a tree in the park or sit outside a café close to some flowers or plants.
- Aromatherapy. Get a pot of coffee brewing, grab your essential oils, or bury your nose in your freshly cleaned laundry. Our favourite aromas can have a positive effect on mood and decrease anxiety.
- Call a friend. Long hours spent on coursework can have the potential to make you feel isolated. Take five minutes to talk to a friend, family member, or other person in your support network. Or organize a group study session!
- Positive affirmations. Finally, a major component of self-care is taking the time to reassure and support yourself mentally. Whether you think it, write it down, or say it out loud, practice positive affirmations such as, “I can get through this,” or “Even though things are difficult right now, I will pull through.”
The more you practice, the easier it will be to fit self-care into your daily routine in school. Even small things can make a big difference and can get you through to the next time when you can go to the gym, cook a healthy meal, or take time to just relax. Take care and self-care!
Featured in Issue 1: Mental Health Supports