Self-care. If you’ve been on YouTube at all in the last few years, you hear all the bloggers talk about self-care and the importance of a healthy work-life balance. Going away to college for the first time makes anyone scared, and I certainly was. I went from a high school with about 100 people in my graduating class to Florida State University, a big party school with over 30,000 students. For anyone going into a place that big, you might find it easy to get overwhelmed and sucked into an unhealthy lifestyle. I’ll tell you how I learned I needed to take care of myself.
Before going to college, I pretty much had only one form of self-care.
I played multiple sports, so any time I felt stressed or overwhelmed by my schoolwork I always had that three-hour-long practice to look forward to after school to work away any worries I had. Once I got into college, that all changed.
I think every person going to college feels overworked at some point or another, and the stress just gets to you so much that you don’t know what to do with yourself. I felt this way in my sophomore year of college. My coursework got more rigorous, and I started to cut time away from the extracurricular sports I played, but I didn’t realize at the time doing this took away from my only real stress-reliever. Soon my days were dedicated to doing my classwork, and any real free time I had got eaten up by any chores I needed to do, like cleaning my room, doing dishes or other things like that. I worried more about my classwork to the point where I stressed about getting stressed, and everything felt like it got piled on top of each other.
As time went on, my classes stressed me out way more than they needed to.
I still got the grades I wanted, but I always felt high strung, and that at any moment a grade would drop, and I wouldn’t get to fix it before the semester ended. I’ve always been the type of person to have trouble sleeping, but this definitely impacted my sleep schedule, and most days I woke up more tired than when I went to sleep. I would go to bed stressed and wake up even more stressed. I even scared a campus barista one day when I came into the Starbucks at my usual time and asked to add four shots of espresso to my coffee. She probably thought I lost my mind.
Honestly, most of my stress really boiled down to two things: not planning out my time effectively and procrastinating. This ensured that I didn’t have enough time to do both my school work and enjoy myself. On top of that, I didn’t do anything to help calm me down during the day and center myself.
My skincare routine ended up as one of my first self-care routines.
It was more than just washing my face in the morning and at night. I know it sounds silly but starting and ending my day by doing something really simple like taking care of my skin did two things. First, the skincare routine helped clear up my skin and gave me a boost of confidence I really needed in college because for whatever reason my skin started acting up. It also gave me about 10 minutes or so in my day where I could slow down and collect my thoughts.
Doing very small things to ground myself when I felt stressed really helped me in the long run.
It actually really helped my school life, because I started and ended each day with a clear head, which helped me both focus during the day and sleep better at night. On days I couldn’t work out I started stretching before I got out of bed in the morning and before I slept. On days I had tests, when I got home at the end of the day, I cleaned the clutter left behind from hours of studying and would treat myself to a face mask or celebratory food like mac and cheese or a batch of freshly made cookies. Before I thought doing small things for myself made me selfish, but I realized it just made me human. Now I can recognize the anxiety and stress I feel for what they really mean: I’m not taking care of myself properly.
I know what many people say — taking care of yourself takes up too much time, or maybe too expensive, it doesn’t have to work out that way. If I notice I feel stressed, which usually presents itself by tight muscles in my shoulders, after every hour or studying or doing work, I’ll let myself have a five-minute break where I’ll quickly do some stretches to try and relieve the tension. Other times where I have more time for self-care, I might light a candle and read a book for a while, maybe do a face mask or clean a space in my room if I have the time. Planning time in your day to take care of yourself, even if you only have time to sit and collect your thoughts for a couple of minutes, or maybe listen to that podcast you’ve been wanting to hear truly makes a difference, and maybe it won’t solve everything, but it will definitely help more than it will hurt.