Self-care has gotten a bit of a bashing in the media as of late, with people arguing it has become too commercialised. Is self-care forking out for LUSH bath bombs, Yankee candles and a record player to ensure the best sound quality for your relaxation experience?
I would argue that as ideal as this scenario sounds, that is not self-care. Self-care is about looking after yourself, both your physical and mental health. Self-care should be practical, not abstract. Taking concrete steps to alleviate anxiety or pressure is very important.
Having a clean and tidy room can be very beneficial to your mental health, as silly as that sounds. If everything is getting on top of you, and you have no motivation to do college work or meet up with friends, tidying and hoovering your room is something small that you can do alone. This simple task can give you a sense of accomplishment and might give you the confidence to tackle an essay. Decluttering your room can lead to a decluttering of your mind.
Writing down things can also be a form of self-care. Organising all of your upcoming projects into a to-do list with a set deadline can help you realise you don’t have that much work to do after all. Breaking down these projects further will help you tackle them one step at a time, and stop you feeling overwhelmed. Another good idea to help stay organised is to have a wall calendar or planner so you can prepare yourself for upcoming social engagements. A lot of people have to gear themselves up mentally for big events like a party, so having this marked down on the calendar can be helpful.
The mental health benefits of journaling are well documented in an episode of the “Stuff Mom Never Told YouQ podcast. Writing down what happened on a difficult day, and analysing why you felt these negative thoughts, can help you identify negative thinking patterns or even negative people in your life you should consider seeing less of.
Diagrams can also be helpful. I recommend drawing a dot in the middle of a page and adding five lines of the same size extending outwards from the centre dot. Label each line with family, friends, work, college, and love.
Then draw a notch in the line to represent how happy you are in that current area of your life by giving it a percentage, 1% being very unhappy and close to the centre, 99% being very happy and nearly at the end of the line. No area of your life will ever be 100%. Connect the notches and the more circular and even the shape is, the more balanced your life is at that moment. You can then select the worst scoring area and write down why you gave the low score, why you shouldn’t worry about it, and any concrete steps you can take to combat your feelings about it. This way, you can see what you’re worrying about and tackle it before it grows into a bigger problem.
Exercise is also very important. Simply walking to college every day and taking in your natural surroundings can be a mindful moment. Try not to listen to music, and instead listen to the cars passing, the birds, and the sounds of the trees. You can also organise going for a walk with friends instead of wasting money on food or coffee. Most college campuses have exquisite nature walks to enjoy.
Being kind to yourself is also a vital part of self-care. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Don’t put yourself down or be too critical of your appearance. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Meet up with friends frequently as they are your friends for a reason – they value you as a person, and they can help you see positive aspects of your personality you might not be able to see. Try to stay in contact with your family while you are in college. It is hard being away from home, and your parents will often be able to give you sound advice from an older adult perspective that your college friends might not.
Taking breaks is also an important part of self-care. It can be very difficult to juggle college, a social life and a part-time job. Make sure you are not spreading yourself too thin. Ask for an extension on essays if you need one. Talk to your boss and explain why you can’t keep working so many hours, and get a note from the college doctor which states you are physically and mentally exhausted and need time off. There is no shame in taking action like this- don’t let yourself burn out.
Knowing when to seek professional help is also paramount. If you can’t get out of bed in the morning, are dealing with crippling anxiety, and are struggling to see anything positive about your life, self-care is not enough. You should seek professional help. Most colleges offer a free counselling service. Jigsaw mental health services are also present in a lot of college towns, check out their website to find out where your closest centre is. Samaritans also have a 24/7 free helpline for everybody who may need help. Ring them on 116 123.
Still here? Check this out: Oscars 2018: Our Best Dressed