University can easily become overwhelming, so it is important to take a step back and learn how to practice practical self-care. When we think of self-care we often think of think of luxurious bubble baths or treating yourself to expensive meals, but at its core self-care is so much more that. It is an important aspect of maintaining good mental health while at university, especially when deadlines are on the horizon and you are trying to balance your part-time job, society obligations, friendships, relationships and university work. There are ways to embrace self-care while on a student budget.
A good diet has been connected to better mental health.
Good food – It can seem difficult at first to cook yourself a wholesome meal on a student budget, but a good diet has been connected to a whole wealth of health benefits including contributing to better mental health. It is easy to buy fresh and cheap when you know how. Most supermarkets will have a reduced section for fresh fruit and veg where you can get decent quality food for a fraction of the price. Remember to balance your meals, pack in lots of protein and carbs for energy as well as plenty of fruit and veg for necessary nutrients.
Exercise and getting outside – As tempting as it can be to stay in, curled up in your comfiest clothes, it’s important to get fresh air and exercise daily. Whether it is running, walking or cycling – Portsmouth has some amazing trails, depending on what you like. Southsea Promenade is a great chance to get some fresh sea air on a run or visit Victoria Park for a gentle stroll with a coffee. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you are taking the time to get out of your headspace and take in some fresh air.
Define your space – To ensure a good night’s sleep, relaxation and productive work, it is important that you separate and define your spaces for work and relaxation. It is tempting on a dreary autumn evening to do your work tucked up in bed but this could be hindering a good night’s sleep. If you find it impossible to get work done in your room try keeping your room for just relaxation and taking advantage of the study areas around campus. This way you’ll be more focused when you’re working whilst also being able to relax fully when back at home.
Knowing when to stay in – Sometimes we can feel pressured by our friends and flatmates to go out clubbing with them, and while this can be a great way to unwind, it is important to know when it would be better for you to stay in and spend some quiet time with yourself or your friends, having a pizza and movie night.
Setting your alarm to get yourself out of bed is difficult, but can lead to a stress free morning.
Get up a little earlier – In the colder months it is easy to get into the habit of waking up way too late for a lecture because you wanted a few extra minutes in bed. You end up having a speed shower, pulling on whatever you can find to make yourself look half decent before you run to your lecture filled with dread as everyone turns to look at you as you barge in late, sweaty and out of breath. Setting your alarm to get yourself out of bed is difficult, but can lead to a stress free morning. Promising yourself a coffee and a pastry for breakfast is good way to motivate yourself out of bed on cold mornings. Another good way to avoid the morning stress is to plan ahead; take the time the night before to pick out something you’ll like to wear and pack your bag. The less stress first thing in the morning, the better your day will be.
Sometimes you have to make yourself do it – You are never going to feel like doing all the reading or research you have to do that week. It is better to sit yourself down and force yourself to do it, perhaps with rewards for every milestone you reach, rather than feeling overwhelmed and doing nothing.
The little things mean a lot – Some days it feels like everything mentioned so far is impossible, and that’s okay. Never underestimate the benefit of taking time out of your day to indulge in the little things that make you happy and can give you a breather from the day; cups of tea, calling a friend, even a long shower are all great ways to squeeze in some self-care when you just don’t feel like you can’t do anything else, or even just can’t fit it into a busy day.
The most important person that you should be looking out for is yourself, everything else comes second.
Sleep – Sleep deprivation is a feeling that no student is a stranger too. The days where you feel like your head is full of cotton wool and you have to force feed yourself coffee just to stay standing. One of the best acts of self-care while at university is to make sure that you get a good night’s sleep. It’s easy to slip into the routine late starts and even later night but sleep is essential to good mental health. Planning nights out around when you can sleep in the next day, aiming for an average of eight hours sleep a night and having a routine to switch off from the cares of the day are great ways to ensure you sleep well while at university.
There are so many things we can forget about whilst being a student at university but self-care shouldn’t be one of them. The most important person that you should be looking out for is yourself, everything else comes second.