Stress is everywhere. From the second you wake up and open your Twitter feed until your head hits your pillow at night- you will be exposed to stressors. Lightning-fast internet connection and social media sites have done more than provide us with access to information, it has also provided an ever-constant source of stress. While it is admirable to be informed about the state of the world around you, sometimes it is important to unplug from the news and top trending hashtags. Academic environments come with its own set of stressors. Juggling college courses, work, social events, and financial aid can leave you feeling exhausted and unable to give your schoolwork the attention it requires. The simplest way to avoid burning out during exams is to prioritize self-care.
The term “self-care” has risen to popularity in the past few years, so much so that it has nearly lost all meaning entirely. Most recently the term has been ironically used to excuse laziness and lack of motivation; however, what I mean by “self-care” is a conscious effort to care for your emotional and physical needs.
Over the course of your academic career you may find that the demands of college courses and personal obligations have resulted in you neglecting to take care of your physical or emotional needs. For me, this looks like forgetting to take the time to eat meals during the day or allowing myself to get to little sleep. While I tend to neglect my physical needs during high-stress situations, some neglect their emotional needs instead. This can look like refusing to dedicate time to relaxing or isolating oneself instead of engaging with others. Figuring out where your self-care routine is lacking can allow you to come up with a plan to address these issues.
Take the time to do a personal health inventory. Are you meeting all your physical needs? Do you drink enough water and eat healthfully throughout the day? Do you regularly go without sleep? Do you spend time with your friends and family? Are you spending too much or too little time relaxing? Asking yourself these questions can help you pinpoint which areas of your life in which you can improve your self-care.
Now, don’t think you can master self-care all at once. Though caring for yourself a simple task it is not an easy task. Replacing old habits with new ones takes practice. Instead of completely rearranging your schedule and attempting to simultaneously abandon and replace bad habits, consider addressing one habit at a time. Making small, incremental changes over time is the best way to improve your life in a lasting way. For example, if one of your goals is to incorporate more social activities into your schedule, start by studying in a group setting. If your goal is to take better care of your physical health, start by making sure you drink enough water each day.
Finally, make sure your self-care schedule is centered around your school schedule, not the other way around. Your academic success should be one of your highest priorities, so try to implement new habits that will have direct effect on your schooling. If you struggle to spend time with friends, try studying in a group setting. If you struggle to eat enough during the days you are on campus, try making snacks an essential component of your study sessions. Find which areas of your life are the most stressful and take the time to meet your needs. It may take time to see the results, but caring for yourself is the most effective way to manage academic stress.