For some, practicing self-care may seem like a selfish priority, but many people believe it’s a crucial practice.
Because the pandemic acts as a stressor in students’ daily lives, an individual’s focus on their physical and mental health deserves more attention, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Business management freshman Abbey Beeck defines self-care as taking a mental break.
This break can take on many forms, whether it’s watching a couple episodes of a TV show, having a spa night, treating oneself to a hot shower or putting on a face mask, Beeck said.
“Sometimes just taking a step back and looking at it all helps me realize, like ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be this stressed out, like, it’s not that much,’” Beeck said.
Latoya Oduniyi, Health Services assistant director, said the main components of self-care include stress relief, nutrition, sleep, healthy connections, physical activity and spirituality.
Having a healthy diet, addressing lifestyle behavior, working out and balancing mental health is important for one’s well-being because self-care plays a major role in treating physical and mental health disorders.
Small diet changes matter and can influence a person’s mood, registered dietician Stacie Ellis said.
“So I always tell people to start with MyPlate,” Ellis said. “I think it is the simplest way to get an idea of how you should be balancing out your meals.”
MyPlate is a U.S. Department of Agriculture food guidance system. Having a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein is important, according to MyPlate.
It’s best to establish these eating habits while students are young to reduce the risk of getting chronic diseases later in life, Ellis said. Family history is not always the cause of chronic diseases because they are linked more to lifestyle and environment.
Taking time out to exercise, even going for a walk makes a difference not only physically, but mentally too, Ellis said.
“The only way that you’ll be able to really achieve health is if you make it a priority and you actually make the time out for it,” said Ellis.
Oduniyi said managing your sleep is one of the most important components of self-care but is also one that many people take for granted.
“[We think], ‘Oh we’ll catch up on sleep later.’ That’s not a thing,” she said. “You can sleep longer, but once you lose that time and that opportunity to reset and relax, you don’t get that back.”
By staying up super late, doing all nighters or packing a day full of stuff to do, people push their bodies to the limit.
Oduniyi said it’s important to know your sleep setting, patterns and struggles in order to maximize rest.
Another part of self-care is understanding and knowing the connections that we need with other things and other people. Being aware of the connections that make us happy and keep us positive, energized and accountable allows us to minimize stress.
Maintaining spirituality is also important. Oduniyi said spirituality is not exclusive to religion but includes meditating and giving thought to your place, passions and purpose.
Lastly, Oduniyi said people must actively allow themselves to take a step back and know what they need as individuals to destress in healthy ways.
“[Be] able to know when your cup is empty, or [know] when you need to recharge,” she said. “When something is draining you, it’s good to know, ‘Okay, what do I normally do for stress relief?’ And do that.”
Though some people assume that self-care is time spent alone, it encompasses social time like calling a friend when you’re feeling down, Beeck said.
Students should recognize that self-care doesn’t have to be a big thing, Beeck said. It can be as inexpensive as sitting outside or listening to guided meditations on Youtube.
“Sometimes it’s just okay to like, be by yourself and just like, look out for yourself,” Beeck said.