Anna Schultz-Looking Out Window Road Trip

3 lessons I learned after my first semester in college

Mental health often feels like a tightrope of emotions constantly hanging in the balance. In college, it can be even harder to maintain when responsibilities pile up constantly, leaving what seems like no time for self-care. My first semester in college proved to be a challenge as I struggled to organize my life in a way where I could stay on top of my classes as well as my well-being. Although I started the semester with high hopes, that dwindled into a lackluster finals week leaving me exhausted and wondering where things went wrong. My plans of exercising and forming better habits throughout the semester fell flat, but I was determined to figure out why and how I could improve for this Spring. These were the most important lessons I walked away with:

Self-reflection is key in accepting you’re not okay While keeping a positive mindset can go a long way in pushing you forward, it can also have its setbacksif there’s no reflection of what’s wearing you down. I tried to suppress any stress I felt by constantly telling myself I was fine. That line of thinking can become a burden when your own reflection in the mirror knows that’s not the truth. What started a change in my mind was having an honest conversation with myself. I was no longer prohibiting myself from feeling any stress, disappointment, confusion but instead allowing myself the freedom to feel.

Exercising can strengthen the relationship between your mind and body While my half-hearted efforts of exercising three times a week failed last semester, I’ve slowly started to incorporate exercise into my week. I’ve added it to my Google Calendar to officially finalize my commitment to it and I’ve noticed that on busy days, exercising might be one of the few times I don’t have to think about assignments or tests. I can just press play on my Spotify playlist and feel the stress leave my body. Finding the right gym membership or equipment can feel daunting, but luckily, we get access to the CRC whenever we want. If you’re not up for going to the gym, the 30 Days Challenge app is a dream for at-home workouts, and it’s free! There are also ankle/wrist weights on Amazon (Amazon Student has a 6-month free trial) for less than $30.

Taking care of yourself is multifaceted With everyone’s schedules being wildly different, it’s difficult to pinpoint a generally applicable way to practice self-care. Some people can go all out and get the bath bombs out with the sheet mask and call it a night, but others barely have time to eat and get work done. For me, sometimes it is focusing on skincare and making sure I feel good about myself to get me through the day. An affordable skincare favorite is the Koji San Soap for less than $11 improved my skin’s hyperpigmentation and boosted my confidence in my skin. Other times, self-care looks like sitting down with a close friend and having conversations about what we’re going through, bearing our worries and fears to each other. Self-care doesn’t come in a pretty package with a bow on it. It’s messy and flawed, but ultimately, it can blossom into a lifeline.