I slept for 8 hours on Friday night. And when I woke up, I realized that it was the first time I’ve slept that long in 3 months. In fact, it’s about 3 hours more than I’ve slept in the past 3 weeks. How does it relate to this post? Well, it jump started my thinking about how badly I’ve been treating my body. And how terribly most students treat themselves. Basically, it was the inspiration for thinking about self-care. So read on if you know you need or want to start treating yourself better.
Clearly this is something that I need to work on but the truth still holds. Sleep is what makes your body function. Well, sleep and sustenance.
Here are some of the terrible things that happen when you don’t get a good night’s sleep (according to the NIH):
- Decreased awareness and reaction time
- Decreased immune efficiency
- Increased mood swings and irritability
- Increased risk of obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke
- Higher than normal blood sugar levels
- And one that I’ve personally experienced, headaches/migraines.
To avoid these terrible things, you need to get at least 7-8 hours a night.
One way that I’ve found to be pretty effective is to set an alarm for 8 hours before I need to be awake then set another alarm for 1 hour before then. By setting that second alarm, you’re letting yourself know that you have exactly 1 hour to get everything done for the night. That may mean you need to stop working on whatever assignment you’re working on and start your evening routine. Or it may mean that you have one hour to finish editing that paper you’ve been working on for hours. Whatever it is, once that one hour has passed you need to go to be going to bed.
2// Drink Water
This is one of those things that everyone says you should do but most people aren’t. Various sources give different amounts of recommended ounces to drink per day.
The most common, and easiest to remember, is 8 8oz glasses which totals 64ounces per day (half a gallon or approximately 2 liters). I’m not particularly fond of this method because someone who weighs 100 pounds needs less water than someone who weighs 200 pounds. Because of this, I follow the method of drinking half your body weight. That means that yours truly should be drinking half of my current weight of 152 or 76oz (0.6 gallons or approximately 2.2 liters). Do I always get 76oz in a day? No. Do I try? Yes.
The best way that I’ve found to get in your daily water intake is to set specific times to drink water. My routine is: 16oz before/during breakfast, 24oz during the day, 16oz after class/during dinner, and another 16oz before bed. Scheduling your water ensures that you’ll be hydrated throughout the day which will make you feel great (aka, the point of self-care!).
3// Take an Hour
Sometimes you need to be a little “selfish” with your time. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t make time for anyone else or do things with other people. What I mean is take an hour to focus on you.
Every single day, take one complete hour where you spend some time by yourself for yourself. During that hour, you can do whatever you want as long as it isn’t for the benefit of another person. I know it sounds harsh but seriously take some time for yourself.
This hour cannot be used for exercising at the gym (because you’re around other people) or for texting your friends. It is an hour that is for you and you alone. No one else gets to join in. That may mean that it happens in that hour before you go to sleep when your roommate’s already off in la-la land. Or it may be immediately after class when you have the house (or maybe just your room) to yourself.
Do something you love, something that makes you happy. It might be making a list of all of the good things that happened in your day or doing some yoga and meditation. Or It may be reading for pleasure (not for class) or watching funny YouTube videos. It could even be watching Netflix for an hour. Whatever it is, make sure it helps you destress and feel good about yourself.
I don’t mean move house, although if that would make you a happier human then by all means go for it.
I do mean that you should be moving your body. More specifically, turn up your music and have a dance party. If you’re so inclined, ask your roommates or hall mates to join you and make it a semi-social event. Dance without alcohol or for a special occasion, just have a good time. If that makes you uncomfortable, dance by yourself. Sing along and have fun by yourself while shaking what your mama gave ya. You can also join a dance group on campus and have a dedicated time so you can learn something new while also moving your body.
Exercise is another thing that falls into this category. Going for a run or a spin class where your heart rate is up is a marvelous form of self-care. The goal here is to get your body moving and to have a good time.
5// Stimulate Your Brain
Taking care of your mental health is an important part of self-care and one big way take care of your mental health is to stimulate your brain.
Once in a while, learn something new. Pick up a new hobby that seems interesting to you or even try a new exercise.
Another way to really stimulate your brain is by doing Sudoku puzzles or other brain teasers. Or to brush your teeth or comb your hair with your other hand. The reason for this is that it’s getting your brain to think through problems and to come up with solutions. A stimulated brain will always be a happier brain.
I got the opportunity to go to a discussion-based lecture held on campus and it was essentially all about labels. But what stood out to me was her statement that humans are social creatures and the worst thing we can do to a person – aside from killing them – is to isolate them. This is evident in the fact that solitary confinement is the worst way we can treat our prisoners (at least here in the US).
I say all of that to say this: Even the most introverted of people need to spend some time talking with other people. So every week pick a time to sit and chat with your friends. If you have access to one of the dining halls on campus, go for dinner with your friends. Or even grab a late breakfast on the weekend.
Spend some time with your friends face to face. Put your phone down and just chat with them. Get to know what’s been going on in their lives and tell them about yours. Be present in the moment, it’s easily one of the most important parts of self-care.
I’m not going to lie, life is hard. It will be difficult and you will struggle. But life is also amazing. And in order to feel like you’re struggling, you must also have felt the other end of the spectrum, aka happiness. Remind yourself of the positives of life.
Make a list of all the good things that have happened to you in the past day or week or even month. Take note of the little things like the sun and even the rain fall. Every little thing is worth being happy about. And on those days when you’re struggling to be happy, take a look at that list and remind yourself of the happiness. Then add something to that list.
Another option is to create a Gratitude Log, where you write two things that you’re thankful for. Reminding yourself to be thankful for things is a great way to remember the good things that have happened in the day. Then at the end of the month, go through and have a good smile about things.
Something else you should do is surround yourself with positive people. If you are counting down the number of hours you must spend with a friend or if you dread the idea of spending time with a person, that person is probably not worth your time. Cut them out of your life, don’t accommodate them in your schedule. Your time is valuable; you should be spending it doing things that either make you happy in the moment or will make you happy in the future.
Alongside cutting out people who aren’t making you happy, cut out the social media that doesn’t make you happy. Prime example of this was a few days after the election, I stopped looking at Facebook. The things I was seeing were making me angry and sad and the only solution was just not to look at it. If I can’t see it, I can’t be stressed by it. Unplug from social media just one day a week and I guarantee you’ll feel a little better.
The less stressed you are feel, the happier you’ll feel, and the more you’ll be practicing self-care.
Well that’s all I’ve got for you. I hope some of these tips are helpful to you.
How do you practice self-care?