Self-care: A University Survival Guide

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Going into uni can be a daunting experience, regardless of which year you’re moving into. It’s highly possible that the stress of the situation will catch up with you – in the beginning of the year, around exams, or in general. Often you might feel like you can’t talk to people about how you feel.

Lancaster University offers a great range of services that can provide help, whether through counselling or just someone with whom you can talk, but it’s also possible to do certain things to help yourself feel better.

Self-care can be an elusive concept, mainly because it greatly differs from person to person, and what qualifies as self-care for some may just be too much for others. However, it is important to take care of yourself and be in tune with your own mental health, as this will hopefully help you cope better with the university experience, if not through de-stressing completely, then at least feeling somewhat better.

Taking care of yourself can take many forms. Sometimes, there may be days when you can barely pull yourself out of bed, and everything can feel heavy and exhausting. On days like this, just taking a shower might feel like it takes too much effort. And that’s okay. You aren’t obligated to go out; you are allowed to cancel pre-made plans and take time for yourself. It’s alright to need a break and to rest from social responsibilities. There is a lot you can do even on those hard days to make them a little easier. Changing your bedding before you crawl back into bed, drawing your curtains open to let some sunlight in or opening a window for a bit of fresh air is definitely not a cure-all, but it may help with making you feel better if you find yourself in a slump.

Sometimes just cleaning your room, or at least putting a few things in their rightful place, might make you feel productive and give you an energy boost – a space that isn’t cluttered with things will look a lot less daunting when you’re thinking of getting some work done. Even if it’s just moving a pile of clothes from your chair into the bottom of the wardrobe, you will still be able to free up your room, make it look more organised, and have a sense of accomplishment.

Some days, it’s all about the small things you can do for yourself. Treat yourself to an extra-long shower to feel refreshed. Try out products with different scents, and let yourself enjoy feeling pampered. Make your favourite hot drink. Mark out things in your calendar, and create lists of the most menial tasks. Sometimes all you need to do in a day is wake up and have breakfast. Sometimes going out of your room may be the bravest thing you’ve done. Reward yourself for these accomplishments, however ordinary they might seem to other people. Allow yourself to feel good about doing the things that other people seem to breeze through. You are your own benchmark of success.

Going outside is one of the most common pieces of advice given when you’re struggling or finding yourself in a dark place, and it does work – stepping out, even if it’s just for a few minutes, can give you that necessary jolt to keep moving forward. Taking a walk will make you feel energized energised, as exercise releases endorphins into your system, which is your body’s way of chemically inducing happiness. Ultimately, however, there is no set list of rules and guidelines about how to deal with yourself. You need to do what works best for you, even if that means not leaving your bed for a day or staying in while everyone is going out, drinking a certain type of tea, or rereading the same passage in a book over and over again because you can’t make yourself process anything else. In the end, what matters most is you and how you feel. Don’t push yourself to achieve other people’s standards, and be aware of your own limits. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends or to reach out to any of the services offered by the university if you feel like you might need additional help. There are people who are always ready to be there for you, and you should be ready to be there for yourself as well.

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