What is self-care and why is it important to students? Self-care is taking time for self out of busy schedules; shifting focus from never ending to-do lists, continuously beeping phones and inboxes and assignment deadlines, to stop and think about your health; both emotional and physical.
It seems to be a natural human response to put our health on the back burner when we become overwhelmed by everyday life and all the things we are required to accomplish. It is important to remember losing sight of our mental clarity and physical health is a vicious cycle leading to inefficiencies in the long run. This is exactly why creating a habit of self-care is so important. It is about creating a balance in life which doesn’t allow stress to take over. In the end this makes for happier and more productive students and humans.
Have you ever been studying for hours and realize you’ve just been blankly staring at the computer screen no longer absorbing anything, only to take a quick walk or grab a glass of water to come back and feel like you have more clarity to focus on studying? This is the definition of self-care. Allowing time to decompress, leading to clarity of mind and increased productivity.
Hydrate and Stay Hydrated
We wake up every morning dehydrated. Depending on how long you sleep each night (and the importance of sleep is up next!) you have not hydrated for the past 5-8 hours! Your body is already behind in water consumption the moment you wake up. And what do most people do right when they wake up? Drink a cup of coffee. Caffeine only dehydrates us further which can cause us to start our day feeling foggy.
You don’t have to live without coffee, just remember to start your day by chugging a couple glasses of water as soon as you wake up, drink a cup of water for each cup of coffee, and continue to drink water through the entire day.
The busier we are, the more tired we tend to be; drinking more caffeine to get through the day. Therefore, it seems the days we have the least amount of time to hydrate are the days we should be most focused on remembering to do so. Staying hydrated increases focus and energy, decreases appetite and helps our minds feel clearer.
Want to make hydrating more fun? Plant Nanny is available free in the app store. You drink water, record it and keep your plants alive. It’s a great way to keep track of your water consumption with a fun gaming component. Drinking water doesn’t have to be boring!
Sleep – Just Do It
We all want to make the most of the 24 hours we get each day. It never seems to be enough! Sometimes we sacrifice sleep to knock a few mores things off the to-do list. But just remember even Olympic athletes and the military are making time to sleep. Read more here on 5 Olympian sleep secrets and why sleep is the military’s powerful new weapon. Sleep should be a priority and it may come easier if you create a bed time routine.
Need a few suggestions?
- If possible, create a separate space for studying and sleeping. If you study and sleep in the same room, being able to see your study materials may keep your mind awake. It is important to create a place in your bedroom that you solely associate with sleep.
- Put lavender oil on your pillow before lying down to sleep. University of Maryland Medical Center confirms that research indicates lavender has calming, soothing and sedative effects upon inhalation (read more on lavender from UMMC here: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lavender)
- Turn off your TV! Even better, remove the tv from your bedroom altogether. You don’t want to stimulate your mind right before you want to turn it off.
- So you aren’t falling asleep to the TV, but you don’t want to be in silence? Try a little white noise? Apps like Rain Noise can create simulated thunderstorms to ease you to sleep. Or even better turn on the Sleep With Me Podcast; a podcast self-described as, “…a bedtime story for grownups, just interesting enough for you to forget your problems but boring enough to put you to sleep.” A boring podcast sounds like an oxymoron, but with a 5 star rating with 1,397 reviews, it is clearly putting listeners happily asleep.
Learning to Say No; A Must of Self-Care
You’re focusing on staying hydrated and working more sleep into your busy schedule, but you still feel overwhelmed by daily life. It is important to prioritize what is important to you because no matter how much we wish we could fit in, we can’t increase the amount of hours in the day we have to do it all in. It’s important to spend our life doing those things that are most important to us.
You can’t say no to homework assignments or deadlines assigned by your professors. You can’t say no to job duties. But we say yes to many things we really wanted to say no to, but didn’t know how to. By saying no you free up more time for self-care and create a life where the most important things are those things you say yes to. This allows you to prioritize time for those things that truly matter to you.
The author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success (Find a synopsis of the book here) explains how to say no and why it isn’t selfish to learn the skill of saying no. Watch the video here.
Fit in Meditation and Mindfulness as a Quick Study Break or During Everyday Activities
A yoga teacher would often say during class, don’t look at the clock; this is an hour you have gifted yourself to be in your body and out of your mind. It is a sacred hour to be mindful and not worry about those things outside of the yoga studio.
As pleasant as that sounds, you may not have a solid hour to fit in mindfulness but hopefully you can slip in a quick meditation during a study break using one of these apps that offer guided meditations as short as two minutes:
- Headspace is a guided meditation app suitable for all levels. You can set reminders for meditation or just simply to remind you take a mindful moment. You can choose meditations from 2- 60 minutes. So, even if you only have 10 minutes you can fit it in.
- Stop, Breathe & Think also has short meditations for all levels. It encourages you to keep up the practice by tracking your daily streaks and your total minutes of meditation. It also helps you check in with how you are feeling emotionally. You can pick your own meditation or the app will pick for you by letting you choose five emotions and it provides a meditation appropriate for your mental state.
If you’re so time crunched you can’t even spare 2-10 minutes this Huffington Post article highlights 9 ways to sneak mindfulness into daily activities you are already required to do like your commute or during household chores. This is proof that self-care can start with small changes. It doesn’t have to be an overhaul of your life. Just keep reminding yourself:
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” -Anne Lamott