Going away to school presents a fun, fresh start to your young adult life. Whether you are living on a traditional college or university campus or at a boarding school, this may be the first time you’ve lived away from home. It can be exciting to leave one chapter of your youth behind in exchange for another one. But while you’re building the skills necessary for a future career and creating precious memories, it can be easy to forget the importance of self-care.
Remembering to tend to your physical and mental health needs can sometimes fall to the bottom of your list of things to do. You have classes to worry about keeping up with, as well as clubs and other social activities that can take up much of your time. The amount of things you have to do can seem overwhelming. But your capacity to cope with the stress that your college, university, or boarding school can bring your way is often dependent on how well you’re taking care of yourself.
Your body and brain often need time to rejuvenate, and by following a few simple steps, you can enhance your ability to handle your workload.
Planning Out Your Day
Within your first few days of starting school, you probably realized there’s a lot your mind needs to keep track of throughout the day. From what time you need to be in class, to how long you have to complete your homework before you have to be at your job or club meeting. On top of all of this, you need to find some time in the day for yourself. It can be exhausting for your brain to continuously keep a mental checklist, and if the day seems to come at you in one big jumble of activities, you may begin to feel a little anxiety-ridden.
This is why it can be helpful to organize your day by outlining everything you plan to do in a clear schedule. Instead of forcing yourself to remember all you have to do in a particular day, it’s recommended you make a list in a physical planner or set up a series of reminders through an app on your phone. On top of giving your brain a break, mapping out your day can also reduce the risk of you forgetting important tasks.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Food gives you energy, and while it may be tempting to skip a meal or two in favor of studying, depriving yourself of vital nutrients can impact your physical or mental health. Attempting to remain productive on an empty or nearly empty stomach can make the day much more difficult. On top of feeling fatigued, anxiety levels tend to increase if you do not have a well-rounded diet to supply you with the nourishment you need.
It’s a good idea to eat things like eggs, fruits, leafy greens, granola bars, and other healthy foods to keep yourself bright and alert. While some students may struggle with eating enough while they’re away at school, eating too many fried or processed foods can also be a problem. It’s tempting to reach for the hamburgers, pizza, and other goodies that your school’s cafeteria may offer, but these types of foods take longer to digest, leading to fatigue.
Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Sleep is crucial to our well-being, but some students struggle with ensuring they have enough time to rest at night. But your body needs this time to recharge itself. When you’re asleep, your brain goes through a reset, and this is what helps you store and process memory. While it may be tempting to stay up all night to review for an exam, not allowing yourself to have enough sleep the night before can make your daily tasks seem harder.
Try to schedule a reasonable time each night to go to bed and stick to it. By developing a consistent rhythm, your body will get the rest it needs at night and be more energized in the morning. If you’re having trouble with falling into a healthy sleep pattern, you may want to download the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. This app monitors your movement throughout the night, and you can input notes that will help it calculate why you may not be sleeping well. For example, are you scrolling on your phone at night? You may want to trade this activity for something that will relax your brain before bed instead of stimulating it, such as reading, drawing, or meditating.
Utilize Your School’s Counseling Services
There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re stressed or struggling with anxiety in school; in fact, this is perfectly normal. However, if emotions such as panic or sadness persist, do not hesitate to reach out to your school’s counseling or health center. Acknowledging the need for help is a sign of acute self-awareness, and most schools have resources and can work with you to devise healthy coping methods. If your school does not have such a resource (and even if it does), there are apps you can download to deal with stress and anxiety, such as Sanvello.
The state of your well-being matters during your academic career and beyond, so try to remember to not only take care of yourself, but to be aware of what resources are available to assist you.
By Samantha Kamman