The Importance of Self Care and Managing College Stress

Self-care has become a mental health buzzword in recent years, and for good reason: Healthcare professionals must learn to put on their own oxygen masks before assisting others. However, self-care is more than pedicures and cupcakes; it’s a deliberate, long-term practice to both help you feel better in the moment and have a better day tomorrow. We’ve curated some guidelines that can help you learn to care for yourself during nursing school and beyond.

  1. Live a healthy lifestyle.

It’s the key to keeping stress under control and avoiding burnout.

  • Sleep: When you’re stressed you might think of rest as optional, however rest and sleep are the most important ways to help your body and mind. Your body is going to find a way to get the rest it needs, either by you prioritizing regular sleep or by your body crashing under the strain of your exhaustion.
  • Exercise: Resting your body is important, and moving it is important, too. However, finding time for exercise can be difficult. Can you walk to classes instead of driving? Ride your bike to meet friends instead of taking a rideshare? Lift weights while listening to virtual lectures? These strategies will remain helpful once you’re working in the nursing field.
  • Healthy diet: Eating a variety of nutritious foods is crucial to overall health. Treats are fine, but if you notice yourself relying on less nutrient-dense foods, take-out, or even skipping meals, stop and think about how to prepare healthy meals ahead of time. Band together with friends to do a meal swap—have each person make an entree, then divide it among the group so everyone gets a portion of each dish. It’s a great way to share the labor and try some new foods!
  1. Find activities that ground you.

When you feel like your thoughts are going a thousand miles an hour, it’s important to know which activities help ground you. Brainstorm quick activities you can do daily and bigger undertakings that you might do once a month. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Journaling is a great way to reflect on your thoughts and emotions. Consider which type of journaling feels most helpful, whether it’s using an app on your phone, a small paper journal that you keep with you, or a fancier journal that provides a sense of ritual when you write.
  • Many students have heard of mindfulness, yet they mistakenly think that knowing about it yields the same benefits as practicing it. Lots of apps are available to help you start small, such as with a two-minute mindfulness session, and then build from there.
  • Physical activity provides a great way to stay connected socially and get some exercise. Intramural sports leagues allow you to meet new people and practice working as a team.
  1. Take breaks.

Be intentional about carving out time for yourself; mental rest can be as important as physical rest. After a break you’ll be refreshed and ready to take on a new challenge.

  1. Learn good time-management and organization skills.

This might not seem like self-care, but it absolutely is because of the impact on your stress level and anxiety. While sorting through a backlog of emails will take longer today, after you’ve done it you’ll save yourself time and decrease the risk of losing a message or missing an important deadline. Ask yourself, “What can I do today that will make tomorrow 15% easier for me?” Then do it!

Be good to yourself!