10 Self Care Habits I Need You To Start ASAP

I’m done with the BS of people being shamed, labeled, and disregarded for having mental health problems. I don’t care if you’ve been diagnosed with something, if your mental health is constantly disturbed, or only sometimes, or never. As someone who has struggled with depression, OCD, and many other things, there is no better way for me to say this: you are the most important person in your life, and it is time you acted like it. Whether the stress of classes, the burden of not being home, too much work, not enough sleep, or just life, are things that may cause you to feel off and distant, I need you to understand that you can get better. If you’ve been depressed your whole life, or only when you’re alone, or you have anxiety, or not at all, everyone can benefit from taking care of themselves.

1. Get Enough Sleep

I understand that as college students, a perfect sleep schedule isn’t feasible. But there’s ways to work around it. For our age group, it’s recommended to have 8-10 hours of sleep every night. If you find yourself going to bed late to do work, and waking up early for classes, separate time in your day when you’re not busy to take naps. Naps of 30-90 minutes are ideal, so you’re tired enough to fall asleep the next night, but you get the rest you need. If you find yourself having a lack of sleep because you’re never tired, always eat a full, balanced meal right before you go to sleep, and about two hours prior take a walk, or go to the gym, and tired your body out so it’ll be easier to rest. If you’re sleeping too much, and finding it hard to get out of bed, schedule your day ahead of time so you have plans to do that will make you get out of bed at a reasonable time.

2. Spend Time Outside

I’m not trying to sound like your mom who’s telling you to get off your phone and go outside, but being outdoors has big benefits. It’s starting to slowly warm up as we near February, so instead of studying in your dorm or the library, sit in the dell, in the middle of the academic quad, or the gazebo by the lake. Bring friends with you, and you can walk into town together, or just sit somewhere and relax. The sun provides you with vitamins, you get fresh air, you move around which can improve sleep and appetite, and loosen up sore muscles and joint problems.

3. Be Open About Your Struggle

If you ever feel like your life is falling apart, don’t worry because everyone around you probably feels the same. Things like anxiety, depression, dysphoria, and stress are not avoidable, so if you need someone to talk to, talk to them. Pull a friend aside and explain how you feel and how you need help. If they don’t understand, go to your RA because they definitely will. Dealing with mental illness alone is a million times more difficult than without the support you have right in front of you.

4. Go to Counseling

I know it might sound scary at first, telling all your feelings to a stranger who is decades older than you, but hear me out. The counseling services on campus are confidential, free, and they work. Individual appointments are made with people who are professionals in their field, don’t have any bias against anything you’ve done or don’t want to talk about, and they know how to help. If you’re too nervous to go to the office in the BSC, bring a friend with you to help, especially if they’ve been to counseling before. If you’d prefer to call to make an appointment, there’s a number to do so. If you are in severe need of help and services are closed, there is an on-call counselor that you can get by calling Campus Security or talking to your RA. Remember, if you need help, get help. Your parents won’t be notified, and you won’t be in trouble for anything.

5. Keep a Journal

I’ve found that just writing down your feelings at the end of the day on a blank page can actually help you focus on your bad thoughts and depression, so look into premade journals. Some are sold, and some are apps online, and they’re designed with questions to help you focus on the positive. Questions like “how did you feel today?” are replaced with “name three things that made you happy today.” A quick Google search can help you find a journal you can buy and keep in your backpack, or something to track on your phone.

6. Eat Right

I’m not your doctor telling you to eat fruit and vegetables, I’m someone who understands that mental health always affects your appetite. If you don’t have the appetite to eat big meals, break up your food. Don’t have three meals a day, have five snacks a day. Get plenty of protein and carbs in your system. If you find that you’re eating too much, try the opposite schedule. Break up big meals into small snacks throughout the day. Certain foods decrease your appetite, like yogurt, cinnamon, pistachios, hummus, almond butter, and more. Don’t stop eating a lot all at once, change your diet slowly to allow your body to adjust. At the point where you’re comfortable, switch foods like pasta, bread, red meat, and sugary drinks and candies, out for healthier options. Don’t change your diet if you’re not comfortable, because your mental health is always more important than your physical health.

7. Do More of What You Love

It could be a hobby, like painting, or hanging out with friends, going on walks, or watching vine compilations on YouTube. Surround yourself with things that bring you joy, and don’t exclude yourself to do them, but rather engage with others and focus on the positive impact of doing what makes you happy. If you think it would work, implement a rewards system, where every time you get through something stressful, like an exam, a sleepless night, or a breakdown, do something you love doing. Eat your favorite meal, go splurging at your favorite store, anything that’s healthy and feasible.   

8. Encourage Yourself

If you want to write down encouraging quotes or resources in your dorm, or write them down, put them somewhere where you’ll see them often. If you don’t believe that some Disney quotes will fix your state of mind, it’s found in research that looking at positive messages, people smiling, and other uplifting things on a daily basis, especially every hour, can help you feel more positive. Tape it on your walls, make it the background on your phone, write things down until you memorize them on your notes and in your homework. Pick quotes that mean something to you, and continue to do this until you can believe what they say.

9. Stay in a Positive Environment

It’s hard to tell sometimes what you should consider a positive environment, not until you decide where the bad ones are. Maybe being around family makes you anxious because they’re loud, maybe being around friends makes you depressed because they’re all in relationships, or maybe being alone makes you feel both. Listen to yourself when you don’t feel right, and validate your feelings. You might need some alone time every now and then, friends who want to include you more, or maybe you should sit around people to not be alone.

10. Support others

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times, you are not alone. Even if you haven’t left your room all day, or if you haven’t spoken to anyone in person for hours, you are absolutely never alone. Tons of people are going through a struggle, it’s just a part of being human. Seek out others who are struggling, anyone who can’t handle class stress, who is having family issues, who missed their counseling appointment, or who just needs a hug. We are all capable of helping one another, and you need to help yourself in order to help others.

Remember, don’t feel like your feelings aren’t validated because things aren’t going wrong. You don’t need severe trauma in your life to develop mental health issues, and having them doesn’t make you any less than perfect. You are human, you are normal, you are so very important. Please take care of yourself. As young adults, we have big responsibilities, big choices to make, and a tough life ahead of us. You only have one brain and one body, so take care of both, because you aren’t garbage, and you shouldn’t act like you are.