The Importance of Self-Care as a University Student
Make sure you're taking care of yourself during school with these tips!
This article was written by Keisha, an Ontario Tech University student.
We tend to sacrifice our bodies and minds when at school to get good grades and have a social life, but is this really healthy? Given the competitive nature of education, it’s easy to forget to put yourself first. Taking care of yourself should be one of your top priorities as it ultimately helps you succeed in school.
So, let's talk about the importance of incorporating self-care into your life as a university student.
1. Your health is important and necessary for learning
It’s hard to do anything if you are sick, much less take on the course load of your university classes, your social life, and maybe even a job.
Not taking the time to sleep, eat and hydrate properly increases your susceptibility to germs that cause illnesses, such as the common cold and the flu. During these times, self-care is increasingly important to help support both your mental and physical health.
Mental illnesses such as anxiety can manifest physically in things such as headaches, nausea, and rapid heart rate. This could impact your ability to do your schoolwork and result in increased stress and anxiety, and become a vicious cycle; thankfully, we can help prevent that cycle by taking the time to take care of ourselves.
2. Not taking care of yourself is costly
In case you weren't already aware, university is expensive. Not taking care of yourself by not getting enough rest or nutrients needed to study might mean not getting your desired grade in a course or two. This not only impacts your academic career, but not getting our desired grades can place additional pressure on us to do better, resulting in additional stress and anxiety.
In my experience, refusing to take care of myself resulted in the learning of several unhealthy anxiety coping mechanisms, such as avoidance, procrastination and self-deprecation.
Fast forward five years, and I pay a lot of money for antidepressants, yoga classes, mindfulness apps and professional counselling to unlearn these behaviours! So, it pays to take care of yourself.
3. Think of the big picture
Perspective is everything. One "bad" grade isn't going to be the cause of your demise, but one "good" grade isn't going to fix everything, either.
Ask yourself a few questions: in five years, how much will the score on this exam mean to me? In five years, will it matter that I got a 60 per cent? If yes, then what needs to be done to ensure that I get my desired grade? Do I need to go to my professor's office hours? Do I need to attend a workshop? Act on those! And if you feel this grade won't matter in five years, ask yourself, how can I direct my energy to something more productive in my life?
I also acknowledge that in some cases, even the most meticulous self-care regimen might not be enough to curb anxiety or prevent a failing grade. However, I learned that valuing yourself is part of what it means to be successful in anything you do.
4. Self-care can look like anything
Thankfully, self-care is not always a complex act and oftentimes, it's the consistent practice of smaller self-care activities that have the largest impact. Here are some examples of simple self-care that I do often, if not daily, to make sure that I am always putting my physical and mental health first.
- Take a 10-20-minute nap
- Listen to an episode of your favourite podcast while eating your lunch and/or dinner.
- Brush your teeth. Twice a day. Floss and Listerine, too!
- Take the scenic route to class
- Spend five minutes outdoors
- Watch funny cat videos (or other animal videos) on YouTube
- Keep your room tidy
- Call or text a friend
Two important lessons I have learned are that something is better than nothing most of the time and if something is worth doing, it's worth doing poorly. Meaning, it's ok if you cannot bring yourself to shower, you can change your clothes instead. It's ok if you can't floss or brush for two minutes because 30 seconds is better than nothing. So, if you are struggling to implement self-care activities to their fullest, remember that if something is worth doing, it's worth doing poorly, because something is better than nothing.
4. Self-care won't always be easy
Self-care is not always easy. Sometimes it's calling yourself out on some of your not-so-glamorous or excessive behaviours. This includes letting your scheduled nap turn into a full-out sleep or letting a few videos on YouTube turn into a six-hour binge when you know that you have lab reports to write.
Just because it's called self-care, that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Sometimes self-care is the recognition that the skills you possess are not enough in that moment, and that professional help is needed.
If it comes to that, know that it's perfectly normal to feel that way. You are not alone! There are a number of resources available on campus, professional and otherwise, that you can access to help you on this journey.
Never forget that you are in school to grow! So, take care of yourself and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You are so worth it!
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