As another school year approaches, there’s an overwhelming amount of stress looming over college students. You might be dreading the future months of juggling all the elements of a new semester, like classes, extracurriculars, part-time jobs, internships, social lives, exercise — the list goes on forever.
A common way to cope with all this stress is by taking time for self-care, a term that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. You might imagine a self-care session as a bubble bath and face mask, a pizza to yourself, or just a midday nap. The problem with a lot of these, though, is that they are quick fixes to stress; they don’t have long-term effects on your overall mental health or well-being.
So this semester, try to replace these quick-fix “treat-yo-self” habits with more constructive, effective self-care sessions. Here are just a few ways you can implement this idea to make this semester your happiest one yet.
Instead of: spending your night out drinking …
Try: going out to dinner with your friends.
I know it’s tempting to drain your week’s worth of stress and sorrows in cheap alcohol and sweaty parties, but think about how that’ll feel in the morning. It’s not healthy to constantly count on drinks to numb your problems — especially if you’re doing it every weekend.
But this doesn’t mean you have to stay home on a Friday night! Plan an occasional dinner out with your friends, where you can talk about your stresses of the week in a comfortable space, treat yourself to a yummy meal and get a good night’s sleep without the worry of an impending hangover.
Instead of: going on an online shopping spree …
Try: spending your money on something that will benefit your mental health.
I’ve always been one to take part in “retail therapy,” whether that means wasting an entire day at the mall spending money or making impulse buys online. Of course it feels good to treat yourself after a long week of work by buying a cute new outfit or eyeshadow palette. But again — these aren’t things that will help aid your stress problem.
When you’re in the mood to treat yourself by buying something that’ll make you happy, think about what will benefit your well-being in the long run. Buy a yoga class membership, a meditation app or something for your favorite hobby. Spend your money on something that will make you happy for longer than the second you first try it on.
Instead of: spending a free afternoon binge-watching …
Try: clearing out your mind.
I know — the only thing you want to do after class or when you finish a paper is sit in front of your favorite show and let it entertain you. But every once in a while, you should use these tiny bits of free time to do something your brain will later thank you for.
Even just a 10-minute meditation or a half-hour walk around campus to clear your head will do a lot of good for your headspace. Doing something like this regularly will put your stressful thoughts into perspective and bring a new sense of calm to your everyday life. And you can always watch that episode right after!
Instead of: procrastinating …
Try: setting schedules for work and break times.
Sometimes a long to-do list seems too overwhelming to tackle. You don’t know where to start, so you start scrolling through Instagram or taking a nap just to get away from the stress. When you’re suffering from too much anxiety to start getting things done, the only thing that you feel like you can do is procrastinate.
This might be one of the most common problems college students face. One of the best ways to combat a procrastination addiction is to organize your time. Make a concrete schedule for when you’re going to do each assignment or errand, including allotted times for breaks. That way you can stay on track and still look forward to break times.
Of course, there’s also plenty of room for partying and shopping and eating dessert every once in a while, but don’t consider these to be the only forms of self-care you provide for yourself. Keep your mental health in mind this semester, whenever you get any time to yourself amidst the college chaos.