An alternative guide to self-care

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We’re all familiar with the drill: self-care, time off, and looking after yourself, should all be our top priorities, especially with exams on the horizon. But whilst this is all well and good, the truth is that those creatures who have enough time to spend hours relaxing in their himalayan salt baths, or doing countless amounts of extra exercise, are rather mythical. Instead, most of us (at least I like to think it’s most of us and not just myself) struggle to get out of bed in the morning, and spend a lot of the day doing what we feel like we should be doing rather than what we want to be doing. Normally, this is where self-care should come in to put some peace and enjoyment back into things, but when time feels short and you’re that bit more stressed or lower on confidence than usual, (looking at your exams), self-care can often be bumped down the list of priorities or knocked off it all together.

But here’s the thing, self-care isn’t a one time deal. You don’t always need hours for it. Rather, it’s the collection and repetition of tiny habits, which together soothe you and ensure that you’re at your best - emotionally, physically, and mentally. Self-care is about habit, it’s about feasible things you can fit into your day. Sometimes it’s about spending hours doing a different activity or taking an afternoon or a day off, but only sometimes. Mostly it’s about the little things that you can actually fit into your day, such as the ones below.

1. Eat well and stay hydrated

Yes, this one is obvious and on every self-care list, but with good reason.  Eating well and drinking water makes you feel good, and it’s inexcusably easy since you already eat and drink anyway. Have veg with every meal, have fruit in to snack on, take a water bottle to the library, have popcorn instead of biscuits etc. Whatever works for you, your mind and body will thank you for it. And most importantly eat enough.

2.  Get natural light

Work near a window, go for a quick walk, see the sun and feel some fresh air on your face. You’ll sleep better and you’ll work better too. Sunlight also helps with depression, especially Seasonal Affective Disorder, and we all need some more vitamin D.

3.  Pay compliments

It sounds cheesy but paying compliments to yourself and to others helps you feel positive and confident. Wake up and find 2 things to compliment yourself on, say something nice to the first person you see. If you start the day feeling positive, you’re much more likely to have a better day.

4. Engage all your senses

When I get really stressed, a really soothing thing is to do something that engages as many of my senses as possible. Sometimes it’s something simple like cleaning my room with music (sight, smell, hearing), cooking (touch, smell, sight, hearing), or having a shower. They’re little everyday things but it gives me a mental break.

5. Set aside specific time to spend with friends

Last year, it got to revision and my friends and I were struggling to make proper time to see each other. We decided to set aside a specific time every week when we would all make the effort to meet up. Thus “tea @ 10” was born. One night a week, we’d all meet up at 10pm for tea, chocolate and a chat. It was late enough that we could still revise a bit and early enough to still get to bed before midnight if we wanted. Most importantly, it was our time, and we knew we’d always have seven friendly faces waiting for us.

6. Read something unrelated to your course

Whether it’s reading a chapter of a book, checking the news, or browsing a blog, reading something that’s not related to your course helps your brain switch off slowly and properly. Ten minutes a day can make all the difference.

7. Exercise

I was hesitant to put this on the list because I only wanted to include things that required a low time commitment, but it’s too important not to put down. Exercise releases endorphins, makes you feel good, works your body and relaxes your mind. If you don’t normally do regular exercise things like cycling to town instead of walking, starting Couch25k, taking the stairs to the top of Sidge lecture block (yes this counts as a workout)...anything that raises your heartbeat.

8. Escape

Self-care is about balance. If you need a break, give yourself a break. Go to the botanic gardens, go shopping, go to London or the beach for the day (it’s not that far). A break from routine can be the best thing you can do for yourself. Treat yourself after all.

Self-care isn’t one size fits all, but something that everyone can fit into their day. It’s an important part of having a happy and healthy lifestyle. It’s all about the little things that become part of your routine, the feasible things that give you a boost and soothe you. Self-care isn’t something that’s impossible or something that you should feel guilty about doing, self-care is for everyone and something that you should feel guilty not doing.



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