College is, without a doubt, extremely stressful. As college students, we face myriad stressors. Not only do we grapple with academic demands but also social, emotional and financial stress. Balancing academics while managing finances and maintaining an active social life is not an easy task. While most college students can overcome these barriers, others are unsure of how to navigate the stress and thus suffer from exacerbated symptoms of anxiety and depression. Although many factors can contribute to these issues, stress tends to be one of the leading causes. Stress-induced anxiety and depression take both a mental and physical toll on an individual, but forming good self-care habits can greatly alleviate such symptoms.
These days, it is unfortunately way too easy to get caught up in the demands of college life and neglect your emotional and physical health in the process. You must, however, ensure that you make self-care a priority, no matter how busy your schedule may be. You would be surprised at how the slightest adjustment to your routine can result in a huge positive change in your life. I have compiled a short list of low-budget, easy self-care activities for college students. These three simple yet effective self-care activities are practically guaranteed to lessen the effects of stress and result in a happier you.
1. Working Out
The first self-care activity that I would recommend is exercise. I found that engaging in weekly exercise greatly lowers my stress and anxiety levels. I also found that my overall motivation increased. I would recommend checking out your local gym and giving it try. Not only will it help you maintain a positive mindset, but it is also a good way to meet new people. If going to the gym is not your thing, however, there are other ways to achieve the same effect.
Going for walks at the park is another feasible option. Personally, being outside in nature has had a significant positive impact on my mood. While on these walks, it is important to make sure that you are completely present by ridding yourself of all distractions; for example, put your cellphone on silent. When I go for walks, I like to observe what is going on around me. I mentally make note of all the sounds that I hear and the scents that I smell, and grounding techniques like this can result in lower stress levels.
If you are feeling lonely and would prefer to be surrounded by other people, then you could enroll in a group fitness or yoga class at your school. My school offers many of these, several times per week.
Regardless of the kind of exercise you choose to engage in, your stress will surely melt away.
Another form of self-care that can alleviate stress is journaling. By this, I mean recording your thoughts and emotions in a daily physical journal. I keep my journal on my nightstand and write in it twice a day: once when I wake up in the morning and once before I go to bed at night.
I found that writing my intentions, frustrations and feelings down on paper has been a good emotional release because it allows me to come to terms with my thoughts in a healthy way. You can prevent yourself from bottling everything up, which is bound to backfire on you in the end.
Even if you feel that nothing is wrong in your life and you are happier than you’ve ever been, you could still benefit from expressing your thoughts in a journal. I recommend that you take time in the morning to write down your intentions for the day. You should make sure to include any goals you plan to accomplish that day, and it is important that you take note of how you are going to accomplish the goals you wrote down. You should also write down a couple of potential solutions to any worries you may have. You should come up with ways that you can calm these fears or, at least, temporarily appease them.
In the evening, you should reflect on the events that happened during the day: Make sure to include the good, the bad and everything in between. Although you should not neglect the negative aspects of your day, I recommend focusing most of your attention on all of the positive things that happened. This active self-reflection can result in a more positive mindset and even increased levels of self-awareness.
Another effective form of self-care is one that is not talked about as often as it should be: therapy. Although seeking therapy has recently become more normalized in contemporary society, it is still highly stigmatized. Many college students are afraid to seek support for fear of being judged by their peers. I am here to tell you that you need not worry; whether it be in a group or one-on-one, there is nothing wrong with seeking outside support. I am aware that there is a misleading stereotype circulating that therapy is only for “crazy” people. This highly toxic view is false and very damaging. It is important to know that therapy is there for anyone who needs support.
Therapy can yield many benefits. In addition to improving chronic stress, therapy can teach you coping skills that will alleviate your symptoms in both the present moment and in the long run. Effective therapy sessions can have a significant positive impact on your mind and have been proven to increase productivity. Therapy can help you to better manage your stress by allowing you to understand your most prominent stressors, confront your emotions and identify suitable coping mechanisms. Therapy also provides you with a safe and non-judgmental space to release your emotions.
Therapy, in my opinion, is the ultimate form of self-care. By engaging in this highly empowering practice, you are setting aside time to get a handle on the issues that are bothering you the most. You are recognizing that you are struggling, but rather than allowing the stress to consume you, you are doing something about it.
In the end, however, your therapy experience is what you make it. If you don’t put effort into improving your current state of mind, you might not get very far. You need to be open to leaving your restrictive bubble of comfort and receiving feedback on how you can alleviate the stressors you experience. Once you start taking steps to relieve your stress, you might even start to see an improvement in your depression and anxiety symptoms.