Prioritizing Self-Care This Semester

It’s easy for students to get so caught up in their schoolwork that they forget to take care of themselves. We are at the point in the semester where work is starting to pile on, leaving us with less and less free time for self-care. While it may feel like school should take precedent over everything else, you should never put yourself on the back burner.

Lauren Bevacqua, junior creative writing and English secondary education student, commented, “I forget to practice self-care all the time. Unfortunately, with my busy course load and other co-curricular activities, I forget to leave time for myself.”

Regrettably, this is an all too familiar reality for many college students. According to the American Psychological Association, “more than 60 percent of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem” during the 2020-2021 school year.

While there are a variety of factors that contribute to the onset of mental illnesses in college students, it’s no surprise that they experience such a high rate of mental health issues with overwhelming workloads and little time for breaks.

Christina Rodriguez, a junior creative writing student, said, “Sometimes my friends have to force me to take a break when I’m too caught up with my schoolwork.”

If you find yourself in a similar situation, a great place to start is to begin planning your days. Mapping out your day helps you not only stay organized, but it allows you to see where you have free time in your schedule and plan accordingly.

Try to convert your free time into opportunities to practice self-care. Even if you only have an hour to yourself throughout the day, use that time and schedule activities that you enjoy, such as playing a video game, reading a book, or playing with your pets. Taking time for yourself during the day will help you recharge your brain and have you feeling more mentally prepared for whatever the day may hold.

To get through your seemingly ever-growing workload, reward yourself after completing a task or assignment. This doesn’t necessarily mean buying expensive gifts for yourself or taking the rest of the day off; don’t confuse a reward system with procrastination. Instead, treat yourself to small things that will motivate you to keep moving forward.

Pick rewards that will help boost your productivity but don’t distract from the things you need to accomplish. I am partial to a quick Dunkin’ run as it gets me out of the house and satisfies my coffee fix.

You could also try rewarding yourself with some TV time after an intense study session and watch an episode of your favorite show. However, be careful if you decide to reward yourself with technology; it can easily lead to distractions.

It’s also important to prioritize your sleep schedule by setting a bedtime. Getting enough good-quality sleep is one of the best ways to take care of yourself. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, it negatively affects your mood and immune system.

“My productivity level is affected by my sleep. If I sleep less than six hours, my day feels longer,” said Bevacqua.

Sleeping an average of six to eight hours per night can help reduce stress as a lack of sleep makes people more irritable and sensitive to external stressors. When you experience heightened stress levels, your brain has trouble focusing and retaining information.

This is important when you are trying to attend lectures and you walk out not remembering a thing your professor said. Instead of staying up all night studying, try to get your studying done earlier in the day, allowing yourself to unwind at night and get a good night’s rest. Remember, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors if you need an extension!

With all that being said, the best form of self-care is arguably to talk to a professional therapist or someone you can trust. Monmouth offers free counseling for students right on campus. If you become too stressed and feel yourself shutting down, take advantage of this free service.

Although it’s scary to take that step and talk to someone, especially a stranger, talking to people will often help you feel better rather than bottling everything up inside. In many situations, it may be better to talk to a professional since they can offer an outside perspective and give you qualified advice. However, if you feel more comfortable with friends or family, don’t be afraid to lean on them for support.

Despite hearing over and over again how important self-care is, it’s hard for students to put the advice into practice. Know that self-care doesn’t have to include devoting a whole day to bubble baths, facials, and inspirational quotes.

While these things are nice, self-care looks different for everybody. Even just taking some deep breaths and drinking water throughout the day are great forms of personal care. Even with a busy schedule, try to incorporate little things into your day that sustain your well-being.