Self-Care in College
by Mackenzie Conners
Photography courtesy of Noor Nasser
As a student at BU, you are a strong young scholar with an endurance for rigorous academics. You might be involved in various extracurriculars, you might be overloading on classes or you might be extremely stressed out. As school is in full swing and effectively out of the honeymoon period, many students likely fall into the latter category. So let's take a moment to talk about stress and how to maintain good self-care in college, despite demanding schedules and the hustle of everyday life.
Stress is reflected in different people in different ways. For some, it may manifest as a headache, tight muscles or persistent sleepiness. For others, stress might be represented as a salty mood, lack of motivation or an upset stomach. Regardless of how your stress is exhibited, it is likely impacting your life more than you might initially think.
According to the most recent study (Fall 2016) from the American College Health Association, 55.8 percent of students said that they felt overwhelmed by all that they had to do within the last two weeks, while 54.1 percent of students also said that they felt exhausted, but not from physical activity. While it is true that correlation does not assume causation, this is important to note because it means that in the last two weeks of your time on the BU campus, over 50 percent of your peers have likely felt overwhelmed and exhausted.
Take a moment to think about that. If school has only been in session for a month and approximately 50 percent of students are overwhelmed and exhausted, how will we make it through the year?
The answer is obvious: get into the practice of good self-care. Yes, it might be cliché, and you've likely heard about it before, but ask yourself if you really know what self-care means or what it might look like. Self-care is not just the new fad or a suggestion from an obsolete psychologist that simply gained traction—it is a real, measurable and proven tactic for combatting stress, achieving overall wellness and being a better student.
According to the University at Buffalo, self-care is defined as "activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short and longer-term health and well-being. Self-care is necessary for your effectiveness and success in honoring your professional and personal commitments."
Therefore, self-care is an activity or practice that helps you to feel better in a healthy and productive way. Just as stress manifests itself in different ways for different people, self-care is similarly unique.
A general recommendation and a good starting point for practicing good self-care, aside from consistent exercise and healthy eating, is to take ten minutes a day to yourself.
"All you need to do is take ten minutes out of your day to step back, to familiarize yourself with the present moment, so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in your life," mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe said in a TED Talk in January 2013
If you are the type of person that struggles with mindfulness practices, you can make self-care your own. The only general suggestion is to do something that helps you to live a healthier life.
As college students, who do not have the luxury of time or resources to the extent of working adults, it is important to find something that specifically suits our needs. Taking ten minutes to walk along the Esplanade, listening to music while picking up your space, taking extra time in the shower, planning for the upcoming week or even making it a point to note all of the positive things that occur throughout the day are all forms of self-care.
If you're feeling like you need more space from school, take a day on the weekend to explore Boston or take advantage of the student discounts that are available in the city. Check out the Boston Public Market or the SoWa Open Markets. Go window shopping. Spend a Sunday strolling around Beacon Hill. Almost anything will work if it brings you joy and offers a reprieve from your stress. Just remember to take the time, be kind to yourself in it and don't doubt whether it was the right choice afterward.
So as the school year continues to ramp up, try to remember that taking time for yourself is just as essential as studying for your midterms and you’ll likely be a better student for it.