How to Take Care of Yourself in College

Ginger Abbot

May 15, 2020
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When first-year students begin their college experience, there’s a lot to look forward to. Maybe you’re excited to attend Friday night football games, participate in lively discussions in lecture halls, join a sorority or fraternity, or connect with students who share your interests — and you only get more involved as your college years go on. With everything on your mind and your plate, you might forget that health, wellness and self-care in college should also be a priority.

Whether you’re looking forward to your freshman fall semester or starting your senior year, it’s time to learn how to take care of yourself in college. Sometimes you put yourself on the back burner because college can be busy and stressful — but once you make these tips part of your routine, your mental health, physical health, social life and academic achievements will all be part of a balanced experience.

Here’s how to take care of yourself in college:

1. Take One Day at a Time

College clubs, groups and professors will hand out schedules for the coming semester or year so everyone can plan for what’s coming down the road. It’s great to have a heads-up about exams and activities, but it also creates an environment where everyone’s mindset is weeks or months in the future.

Part of a college student’s well-being relies on taking things one day at a time. Fill out your calendar or personal planner and then try to focus on the individual steps that will get you through the academic year. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and more prepared for whatever is next on your schedule.

2. Prioritize Your Nutrition

Most college students have heard of the “Freshman 15” — a stereotype about new students gaining 15 pounds or more because they have more access to junk food, buffet lines and late-night snacks with no guidance. While it’s fun to treat yourself to comfort options like pizza and ice cream sometimes, learning how to prioritize good nutrition will help you way more than eating an entire bag of potato chips for dinner.

The next time you feel tempted to spend another night out drinking with friends, read about student nutrition instead and learn how to restructure your diet. Eat more greens, choose lean meats and consume less processed foods to start feeling better and having more energy to tackle your classes.

3. Find a New Exercise

Learning how to take care of yourself physically is another way to have a healthier and happier college experience. Students can get discounted memberships to on-campus gyms or work out at home in their dorm room or apartment. Working on your physical health through exercise improves your mental processes for listening to, understanding and memorizing your course content.

how to take care of yourself physically in college exercise

Try different exercises to find some that you enjoy. A quick HIIT workout, an outdoor jog or regular yoga sessions will help you let go of stress and improve your grades at the same time. Exercise is a form of self-care that can do wonders for both your body and mind.

4. Remember Your Friends

When you’re not in class or studying at the library, you should remember to keep a healthy social life. Figuring out how to improve your social health depends on your lifestyle, schedule and what works with your friends. Text people to check up on them regularly and hang out when you have free time during the week.

You can also balance your schoolwork and free time with fun activities. Get your friends to join a student life group on campus or volunteer in the community. Intern or work at the same businesses they do. You don’t have to choose between having good grades and seeing your friends when it comes to your college years.

5. Learn to Identify Burnout

Burnout is an essential factor when it comes to mental health in college students. It’s a specific kind of stress where you feel like you can’t handle college anymore on every mental, emotional and physical level. Every student should learn to avoid burnout so they can care for their mental health as needed.

Avoid symptoms like self-isolation, bouts of depression and extreme anxiety or stress with creative outlets, rest and proper nutrition. Be kind to yourself as you deal with college pressure and give yourself grace if you feel burnout at any point during the semester.

6. Improve Your Finances

Many college students struggle with personal finances because it’s the first time they’re paying bills and taking out loans. Use your final academic years to hone your financial habits, which is a critical aspect of taking care of yourself. Consider starting great strategies early, such as:

  • Saving more
  • Spending less 
  • Building credit by paying your bills on time

You can also figure out a monthly budget and avoid credit card debt so you don’t carry financial burdens across the graduation stage.

7. Establish a Support System

The stress that comes with full-time classes, jobs and internships is inevitable, so establish a support system with your family and friends. Make sure you know who to call when you need to vent or relieve anxiety with a casual conversation. If you don’t have close relationships like that, join campus organizations and clubs to meet new people outside of class.

learning how to improve your social health in college

8. Discover Relaxation Techniques

Sometimes you won’t be able to call a friend or family member because they’re busy. When you’re anxious and alone, try simple relaxation techniques to tune into self-care in college. Turn off your notifications and set your schoolwork aside. When you’ve settled into your chair or bed, practice meditative breathing and thoughts to calm your heart and mind.

Depending on what works for you, you might also brew calming tea, listen to relaxing music or stretch with an at-home yoga routine.

self care in college

9. Make Time for Self-Care

You may discover self-care in college because it’s a time to learn coping strategies for rigorous coursework or schedules. It’s a flexible concept that will help you balance your work-life requirements even as they get more challenging every year.

Self-care in college can be anything that helps you relax and rejuvenate. Check in with yourself regularly to evaluate your physical and mental states. You may need more exercise, healthy food or stress-relief activities. Self-care can also include activities like slowed breathing, studying outside in the sunshine for vitamin D, taking the time to enjoy a good book, or engaging your senses with a hot shower. Implement your favorite self-care techniques regularly so you have more energy and patience to get good grades and graduate on time.

10. Beat Your Procrastination

Whether it’s due to stress, lack of sleep or a lack of interest in a class you’re taking, many college students deal with procrastination. You may put off your study sessions or even meals if they stress you out or you don’t have motivation. Every student can beat their procrastination struggles with a few easy tips.

Break down why you don’t want to do something. Figure out how to separate that task into multiple steps so it’s easier to conquer. Most importantly, keep in mind that you don’t need to make something perfect. Meet the assignment’s rubric requirements and learn from the process as you go. It also helps to set aside specific blocks of time to work on specific tasks, find a designated study or work space and minimize any distractions while you work.

Take Note of How to Take Care of Yourself in College

As you learn to take care of yourself in college, observe what works for you and what doesn’t. Reflect on your progress to refine your strategies in the future. Whether you rethink your finances, learn self-care habits or prioritize your nutrition, you can succeed in college without sacrificing your health and wellness.

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