What’s with college students and stress these days? In 2014, a Pennsylvania State University study found that anxiety has become the leading mental health issue facing college students. With these numbers rising, college faculty can’t hire enough therapists to facilitate the number of students in need of some talk time. Though treating yourself like you treat others sounds great, many students resort to throwing money at emotional issues by binge eating and drinking. These temporary fixes won’t help you, so clearly it’s time for a more viable solution. Ever heard of self-care?
Self-care can help prevent burnout, whether it’s in our personal lives or our academic lives. “Everyone should practice self-care, it’s important to give yourself some love to make it through the day. Self-care is hard but small steps can lead to great results,” said Champlain College junior Emily Kueppers. Don’t think about it as a reward, but instead something that everyone needs to do. Better yet, it doesn’t need to cost a cent.
1. GO OUTSIDE
A lack of sunlight can result in a drop in serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood. By going outside, you stimulate your brain to make more serotonin. “For me, a healthy mind is more important than a healthy body, even though they are often correlated,” said American University sophomore Albert Fuji. Walking (you don’t have to run if you don’t want to) and other forms of exercise like hula-hooping increase the levels of endorphins in your body. As Elle Woods said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”
2. SPEND A DAY TECH-FREE
As the first generation who grew up with technology in our houses, we’re addicted to the Internet and social media. However, constantly using technology puts you at ahigher risk for mental health problems, sleep issues and stress. We easily feel jealous of other people’s posts on social media, and we focus way too much on taking our next Insta-worthy selfie instead of enjoying a lovely day. By taking a day (or even an hour) away from technology, we can connect more with those around us. Everyone needs personal connections, yet all the FaceTiming or Facebook stalking in the world can’t provide enough of it.
3. SLEEP LIKE YOU MEAN IT
Sleep lets our bodies to heal themselves, and when you don’t get enough, it affects every aspect of your life. Not sleeping enough can kill your sex drive, contribute to symptoms of depression, age your skin and make you gain weight. College students worry about enough without dealing with aging, weight gain (besides the freshman 15) and a low libido. Try not to set an alarm one day a week. Alarms are jarring and stressful, and you should be doing everything you can to decrease the stress in your life. Pro tip: If you always wake up to your alarm, that means you need more sleep.
4. SING ALONG TO YOUR FAVORITE ALBUM
Like walking, singing is a form of exercise that releases endorphins (which make you happy). This aerobic activity increases the oxygen in your blood, which can improve your mood. If you’re dancing and singing around your room, then you’re giving your brain a break from all your stress. You’re likely breathing more deeply if you’re singing, and that’s a typical anxiety reducing technique.
5. DRINK MORE WATER
Did you know that even slight dehydration could negatively impact your mood? I know that when I don’t drink enough water, I tend to get a migraine, which definitely makes me feel worse. Water improves your skin, keeps you energized and makes you more alert. Drinking more water can only help you and make your day easier and better. Keep in mind that coffee doesn’t count, so step away from the Starbucks.
6. WRITE OUT YOUR THOUGHTS
We tend to keep our thoughts and feelings bottled up and locked away instead of releasing them. This can result in a buildup of feelings that leads to an episode. If you write out your thoughts (especially the negative ones) for even just 10 minutes, that helps you release some of your stress and allows you to focus on other things. “I think everyone should participate in self-care because it can help you figure out the best ways to express how you feel. While life can move quickly, self-care lets you stop and reflect,” said AU sophomore Emily Hall. Letting things go feels difficult when you’re always on the move, so taking a quick break to write the thoughts out has a dual purpose of forcing you to slow down and allowing you to release negative thoughts.
7. WATCH A FUNNY YOUTUBE VIDEO
The phrase “laughter is the best medicine” is no lie. When you watch a funny YouTube video, you boost your heart rate and increase your body’s oxygen flow. Like exercising, laughter releases immense amounts of stress. Watching cute videos can also help because cute things trigger a release of dopamine to our brain’s pleasure center. My favorite thing to do when feeling down includes watching videos of Ellen with children or look at photos of President Obama with babies.
8. GIVE YOURSELF A PAT ON THE BACK