By: Tim DePass
For me, going away to university was one of the most exciting times of my life. I had the chance to shed my teenage angst and become whoever I wanted to be. It was a fresh start and I finally had the independence I was yearning for all throughout high school. But what came along with this new sense of freedom was a brand new lifestyle as well. There was very little cohesion to my life. It was filled with class, homework, going out with friends, and it was all on my own schedule. I was finally the master of my own chaotic life and I relished the experience because I knew I was never going to be able to live like this again.
But there were times that all these changes caught up to me. I would start to feel overwhelmed from the stress of my classes and that would be compounded because I no longer had the same support as when I was living with my family. This lifestyle is fun and challenging but it can burden our mental health if we don’t take the opportunity to watch out for ourselves. I started to realize that I had to find ways to take care of myself in order to protect my mental health. I attempted to incorporate three of the following self-care activities into my life as a student.
Adjust your schedule
A student’s schedule is an organizational nightmare. There are classes dispersed throughout the day followed by readings and homework to be done at night. It is not like a job where you get home afterward or have the weekend to separate yourself from your work. As a student it is not unusual to have days where you have classes and once you get home, you are doing work until you go to sleep. This leaves no time to eat a proper meal or take your mind off work. I recommend in those busiest of hours to take a moment to yourself to recharge. Even if it is just taking an hour to cook a proper meal, take a break from the work for a moment so you don’t overexert yourself.
Get involved with school activities
Whether it is joining a club or going to the gym, most schools provide substantial social activities for students to use. For me, I played intramural sports at my university. It gave me an opportunity to socialize with friends and improved my physical health, which we know is helpful for our mental health. This gave me an outlet once a week to separate myself from the stressors in my life.
Get your sleep
This one may be the most important self-care tip. With the various class times and responsibilities, maintaining a proper sleeping schedule is immensely challenging for students. You may be up until two in the morning studying and then have to wake up at seven to go to class. Then the next day you may sleep until noon because you don’t have class until the evening. Sleep is an important factor in our mental health. A lack of sleep or a disorganized sleeping pattern can leave us feeling lethargic and unenergetic, which can affect our attention at school. Having consistent bedtime habits and getting between seven to nine hours of sleep a night can help our ability to think clearly.