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7 Self-Care and Stress Management Tips Every University Student Needs

The student life is not an easy one. Granted, you and I aren’t single-mothers living on welfare, just barely getting by. We’re not homeless. We’ve got roofs over our heads, food in the fridge and a nice warm bed to sleep in. But every now and again, things pile up and it can feel like you’re teetering on the edge, dangerously close to falling off. That’s why practicing self-care is important. You owe it to yourself to take a step back, take a deep breath, and de-stress. Now, some people might think that self-care is a bunch of new age mumbo-jumbo that shows that kids these days have been too coddled and don’t know how to just get on with it. If anything, the fact that a phrase like self-care exists within our generation’s vernacular signifies that we’re a tad more in touch with ourselves than our parent’s generation ever were. It’s nothing to roll your eyes at. You go to the gym to take care of your physical health; it’s okay to practice self-care to take care of your mental health.

And since mid-term season is right around the corner, and I can already feel the anxiety attacks creeping up on me, now is the perfect time to practice a little self-care. It’s always around this time of the year that you start to get the sense that your profs must have gotten together sometime in the summer and conspired to assign papers and tests all around the same time, so before you go off the rails and completely bonkers, here’s a list of self-care tips that might keep you from completely losing your mind!

1. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew…You Might Choke
You’re young, hip, educated and determined to stand out and capitalize on all the opportunities that come your way. So you join a couple clubs, do a little volunteering on the side to beef up that Master’s application, all while working part-time and going to school full-time. There’s nothing wrong with a little ambition. There’s nothing wrong with drive. Girl, go ahead. Spread your wings, reach for the stars and fly. But don’t bury yourself under a heap of deadlines and commitments. If you’re tired all the time, your quality of life won’t be that great and it will weigh you down. Pace yourself. You’ve got your entire life to get ahead. 

2. Treat Yo Self
Every now and again, you gotta look at the woman in your mirror and tell her, “YOU’RE WORTH IT.” Go get your hair done, get your nails done, get your eyebrows done, get waxed, get a pedicure, and if you’re feeling a little crazy, maybe do all five. Take the time to do something nice for yourself. Even if it feels like everything is falling apart and you’re drowning under a sea of papers, as long as those eyebrows are on fleek, you’re still the boss.

3. Cheap Night At the Theatres
If I love anything in this world, it’s eating Nutella out of the jar with a spoon and going to the movies by myself. I love, love, love movies and sometimes it’s nice to sit all by your lonesome in a dark movie theatre and veg out in front of a screen for a couple of hours with your favourite snacks in hand. Also, there’s no one to bother you for a solid two hours. Luckily for us sad/broke university students, every Tuesday of the month, movie tickets are half price and if you have a Scene card, you get 10% off at the concession stands! You could also just sneak in some cheap dollar store snacks like I do…

4. Work It Out or Walk It Out
Lace up your sneakers, get up on that machine, and take it out on the treadmill. You can also check out some of the classes provided by uOttawa! Kickboxing, cycling, aquatics, maybe even go to the sauna to de-stress. I’ve tried yoga before but since I don’t feel very zen when I’m stressed, I find that running on the treadmill at a furious pace does the trick for me. If you’re not a runner and you don’t feel like working out your emotions in front of a bunch of strangers at a kickboxing class, find a walking trail near your home and go on a walk!

5. Talk to Someone
I feel like this is the most important one. Just this past year, on three different occasions, I’ve had friends open up to me about suffering from depression. The scary thing is, I honestly would never have guessed if they hadn’t told me. They hid it so well and put up such a great front. If you truly feel like you don’t have a friend you can talk to, you still have options. Seeing a counsellor still has a lot of stigma attached to it and it’s all done in a very hush-hush manner, but if you feel like you need it, then go. Another incentive? uOttawa offers counselling and guidance services for free.

Fellow university students will probably roll their eyes as they’re reading this, but whenever possible, try to get 8 hours of sleep every night. I can literally feel you rolling your eyes right now, but a daily diet of five cups of coffee so you can stay awake through your classes is not only hurting your bank account, but your body. Getting enough sleep and exercise helps regulate your mood and energy levels. 

7. Change Your Surroundings
Whenever I feel overwhelmed with all that I have on my plate, I look up airplane tickets to see how much money I would need to drop to leave the city in 24 hours. While I’ve overcome the urge in the past, mainly because my bank account is like, “Lol, calm down you don’t have $3000 laying around for a last minute ticket to Venice,” I’ve had friends who’ve gone on trips to de-stress and figure things out.

I have a friend who went through a bad breakup, then took a year off from school. That seems like a scary thing to do because it’s engrained in our minds that school is the only path available to us, and deviating from that path will ruin our lives forever and ever and ever and ever and then we’ll end up homeless. But she took a year off and during that year she took a two-week trip to Europe with her sister. Stepping out of the bubble she lived in helped her heal and put things into perspective. Then a couple of months after she came back, she flew all the way to London by herself to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet. Sometimes you gotta do stuff like that. Even when things get overwhelming, remember, you are merely one 15-hour plane ride away from Sherlock.

Another one of my friends, took the year off to travel with her boyfriend. Here’s what she had to say about travel as a self-care method:

“I left for the year because why not? There was nothing here in Ottawa for me, so maybe there was something elsewhere for me. I had to go check. I wouldn’t say that stress was the reason I left, but definitely helped solve a lot of stress I didn’t know I had. I mean I ran away from all responsibilities. What is there left to be stressed about?

If, like me, you’re strapped for cash and jumping on a plane to another country seems exciting but a tad irresponsible, you can still take a day trip to Montreal or a weekend trip to Toronto!  Stepping outside the bubble you live in puts everything into perspective. It’s okay to put everything on hold every now and then to take a little day trip away from your problems.

Self-care is not selfish and we need to take care of ourselves not only so we can do things effectively in the future, but because we all deserve it. So, as mid-term season comes upon us remember, ya’ll make sure to take it easy on yourselves and practice a little self-care!


Sources: 1, 2,


Student. 22. Canadian/Eritrean. Short?
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