Making time for self-care is often one of the first things students stop doing when they’re busy, says Lauren Boddy, a fourth-year graduate student in the clinical psychology Ph.D program and graduate student therapist at the KU Psychological Clinic.
And sometimes students have to deliberately schedule time for self-care, which can be difficult to implement.
“Being in college doesn’t mean you don’t have a life outside of being a college student,” Boddy says. “So trying to manage that can mean that your self-care goes out the window.”
Christian Vargas, outreach coordinator at Counseling and Psychological Services, says it’s important to stay present during stressful times and to remember that they only last for a period of time.
“It might be, ‘These are a couple of stressful days, and this is the plan I have to get through it,’” Vargas says. “‘And after that, this is the plan I have to reward myself or take care of myself or relax for having dealt with that.’”
Self-care means something different for everyone. We rounded up some tips from experts around campus on practicing it, and managing stress as finals week approaches.
Getting back to basics
One of the main ways that you can take care of yourself is by “getting back to the basics,” says Maureen Cole, health educator at Watkins Health Services.
And if you’re going to prioritize one aspect of self-care, Cole says to make it sleep.
“If there’s one thing that anybody does, getting seven to nine hours of sleep consistently has a pretty huge impact,” Cole says. “Because we know a lack of sleep can influence our mood, our ability to concentrate, our ability to retain information and to remember it.”
Eating enough nutritious food is also important, Cole says.
“I know sometimes people have classes back-to-back, so try to really have a nutritious snack or something with you that you can have in between classes,” Cole says.
“Because we need to have that fuel our bodies and our brains as well.”
Take time for yourself
Along with meeting your basic needs, Cole says taking time for yourself is also beneficial.
“It’s great to take some time every day to yourself, and use that to recharge in whatever way is best for you,” Cole says.
Vargas also says it’s important to take time for what’s important to you outside of school.
“That could be your social life, that could be some sort of spirituality or religion or service to others, hobbies, [or] anything that feels important in terms of other parts of your identity and parts of your values,” Vargas says.
Mindfulness and meditation
Another way to manage stress during the end-of-semester chaos is through mindfulness — a process that helps you stay present.
Mike Thibodeau, co-president of the KU Mindfulness and Meditation Club, says one of the goals of mindfulness is to ignore labels.
“Drop good, bad, boring, exciting, things like that, and just try and see things for what they are,” says Thibodeau, a fourth-year student from Fairway. “And really try and pull yourself back into the world, and back into your breath.”
Thibodeau says you can practice mindfulness through meditation or by focusing on breathing.
“Meditation is a great way to practice getting you into that headspace and trying to increase that headspace over time,” he says. “But even just when you’re having a moment where you’re kind of stressed out, taking a few deep breaths and really just focusing on your breaths.”
Regina Casner, fitness and wellness coordinator at the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center, says mindfulness is something you have to learn. It’s easy to be distracted by technology or to use technology as a way to cover up your feelings, she says.
“[Mindfulness] takes some effort, but it can help us just be more efficient with our time because we’re aware of what we’re feeling,” Casner says. “And then it can allow you just to let go of what you don’t need to be carrying in your head throughout the day.”
You can also take care of yourself just be getting some fresh air and sunlight, Casner says, and exercising if you can.
Casner encourages students to go to the Rec Center and workout in some way, whether it’s by doing yoga, cardio or weights.
“Sometimes the best thing to do is do the opposite of what you typically would do,” she says. “So if you always push hard, back off a little bit. So still move, but just move in a different way.”
And if you’re someone who’s usually calm, Casner recommends going to a workout class or doing a workout that pushes you more. Classes at the Rec Center will be free during finals week. Otherwise, you can purchase a KU Fit Pass, which ranges in price from $3 for a single-use pass to $50 for a semester pass.
Cole says if you don’t have time to go to the gym, you can meet your need for physical activity by working 10-minute blocks of exercise into your day.
“It doesn’t have to be getting to the gym. It doesn’t have to be going on a 30-minute run or whatever,” Cole says. “It can even just be like taking the stairs if you’re able [or] hitting one of the hills on campus which, you know, we don’t have a shortage of.”
Resources for you
Vargas says she thinks trying not to do everything alone is one of the most important parts about coping with stress and taking care of your mental health in general. It’s important to have a support system of people who you can talk to and trust, she says.
“Think about who you can talk to [or] who you can go to to say, ‘I need help’ or ‘this isn’t going well,’” Vargas says. “I just think people function better with that type of support in general, and especially during stressful times.”
Boddy says it’s not uncommon to be stressed and to forget to make time for self-care. But there are a number of resources at the University that can help you out.
“If a student finds that they’re really overwhelmed or they’re feeling negatively about what’s going on in their life or school or both domains, that it’s very common for that to happen and that they have help available on campus,” Boddy says.
Resources available to students include:
Cardio Resistance Training Orientation at the Rec Center: a free workout with a specialist who will take you through a workout and will help you come up with a workout plan.
Daily Life Program: an individualized program through Watkins Health Center that helps students identify stressors and develop skills to cope with them. Email Maureen Cole for information: email@example.com
Hope @ CAPS Peer Listening hours
“Keep Ya Head Up” Hip-Hop Group Therapy: visit CAPS for information on joining.
KU Mindfulness and Meditation club: meets once a week from 6-7 p.m. in the Crossroads room of the Kansas Union. Meetings alternate between Wednesday and Thursday weekly. For more information, find the group on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Massage therapy: available through Watkins Health Services
Therapy through Counseling and Psychological Services
Therapy through the KU Psychological Clinic