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Body Week: How To Be Kinder to Your Body

Spring break is coming up, but if you guys are anything like me, it can’t come soon enough. Not only is the prospect of finally escaping Boston’s icy landscape unfathomably tempting, but also my body just needs a break. A break from late nights (studying or otherwise), not washing off my makeup, living on caffeine, sitting for hours in fluorescently-lit libraries, and cramming in quick (and frankly unhealthy because nothing boosts your mood like warm carbs!) meals before rushing off to endless meetings and review sessions. This semester, I’m taking five classes in addition to doing internship prep for the summer, and I’ve begun to realize that I’m running my body ragged. Even though spring break is close, I decided addressing the problem couldn’t wait another minute.

Of course, the easiest ways to be kind to your body are to drink lots of water, exercise regularly, and get eight+ hours of sleep a night. We all know that. But, busy college students frankly don’t always have the time or the energy to commit to these seemingly easy fixes. So, here are some more manageable ways to take good care of yourself. I know we’re all stressed with midterms, and it would be easy to put off these suggestions until after break when you “have less to do” but honestly, you’re always going to have a lot to do. Treating your body well should be a top priority, so start today. You can do it!

Only wear foundation every other day. This was the hardest thing for me to start doing. There’s a terrible cycle of breaking out from wearing too much face makeup and then needing to mask your break outs with more face makeup. I know the struggle. But last week, I decided I had had enough. For one week, I stopped wearing foundation. If you already wear very little or no face makeup, I applaud you. But for me, this was a big deal. No foundation, no concealer, no holy-grail Laura Mercier finishing powder. The first day was awful. My skin looked red and blotchy and I felt like everyone could tell. But then, as the week progressed, I started to realize that no one cared. I also started looking at girls who weren’t wearing foundation either and admiring their freckles, lines, and imperfections. Their faces looked like faces, while mine had started to look like a mask. When you get into the habit of wearing foundation, you may start to devalue your real appearance. Makeup should be fun, but it shouldn’t condition you to dislike what you see in the mirror any time you’re not wearing it. So, start taking a break, not only for the sake of letting your poor skin breathe, but also for the sake of your self-perception.

 

Lower your caffeine intake. In an ideal world, we’d all be sleeping eight hours a night and have glowing, radiant skin from drinking nothing but lots of water every day. However, in college especially, this just isn’t always possible. You all know that water is good for you. It is. I can always tell the difference when I purposely up my water intake. That being said, it’s way too easy to replace more and more of your cups of water with coffee, tea, Diet Coke, etc. I’m not going to tell you to stop drinking caffeine and switch only to water, especially during midterms, because I know it’s just not going to happen (don’t worry, I wouldn’t listen to me either). That being said, do try to approach your caffeine intake with moderation. You can do things like replacing your Diet Coke (so many chemicals!) with coffee (pro tip: Oggi in the Square is mega-underrated – their iced coffee is strong, delicious, and only costs $2 for a large!!), or replacing your coffee with a lower-caffeine tea every now and again. But, the best way to work on your caffeine intake is to just alternate every caffeinated beverage with water. Whether it’s a big glass of cold water or a couple sips from your DAPA camelbak, anything helps. Don’t underestimate what a difference these small steps can make towards improving your skin, calming your system, and preventing stress headaches.

 

Move! Even just a little! I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m stressed one of the first things to go is my gym time. It’s cold, I’m busy, the MAC isn’t thaaat far from Mather, but I’m kind of a wimp. If you’re one of those goddesses who can maintain their workouts even in the midst of winter and midterms, you go, girl. But I am not one of them. For those who fall more into my camp, do what I do and try to move at least a little bit every day. Last week, I got into the habit of taking the shuttle everywhere, always taking the elevator, and scheduling meals with friends in either Mather or somewhere else nearby. That kind of immobility can really start to take a toll on you. So, even if you don’t have time for the gym, make a series of small, healthy choices about the way you move throughout the day. After a while, it’ll start to feel like second nature and you’ll honestly feel way more alert. Walk to class, take the stairs, go to the Quad/River for dinner (whichever is further for you), even just leave the library for a five-minute walk around the block. Stretching your legs and getting fresh air (especially as it’s starting to get a little warmer… *knock on wood*) can make a world of difference.

 

Take five minutes. Whether it’s in the morning before you get up, in between afternoon classes, or before you fall asleep at night, take five minutes for yourself. That’s not that much, I promise! No matter how busy or stressed you are, never forget that you can take five minutes for you. It won’t cause you to fail your midterm or hand in an essay late, but it will help you feel like everything is a bit more manageable. Turn off your phone and your laptop and find a moment of peace to breathe, read a couple pages of a book, or jot down some thoughts. If you don’t carve out space to reflect, no one will do it for you and it will only get easier to be overwhelmed. Ground yourself.

 

Please, for the sake of your minds and bodies, devote a little time to yourself this midterm season, and for the rest of the semester. It’s easy to let school and meetings and your social life take precedence, but all of those things will eventually suffer if you push yourself to a breaking point. You don’t need to make it to the gym every single day, set aside ten hours to sleep every night, or commit to a five-step morning-and-night skincare regime. But you do need to look after yourself. Be kind to yourself, and you’ll feel everything else start to improve, even just a little bit. 

Zoë is a senior at Harvard studying English, French, and Classics. She is an active member of the theatre community as one of the few specialized stage makeup designers and artists on campus. When not in the dressing rooms and at the makeup tables of the various stages available at Harvard, she is reading anything she can get her hands on, drinking endless cups of tea, and exploring new restaurants in the Boston area.
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