Baby Steps to Self-Care

Edited by Olivia Spahn-Vieira  

It's the end of the semester; due dates are piling up, stress is building, and it's all too easy to burn out, letting self-care slip to the wayside. Although it's definitely important to take the end of the semester one day at a time, and to acknowledge that you might miss a few steps in your daily routine, certain aspects of self-care can be worse to ignore than others, potentially even leading to issues later on in life – not brushing your hair for a few days might make you feel like a slob but it's not the end of the world, while not brushing your teeth can lead to more lasting consequences, like cavities. When you're already drained, it's important to prioritize certain aspects of self-care. Even if your daily routine isn't perfect, small switches can make a big difference in the long run. Disclaimer: even though a lot of these tips have helped me in the past, I'm not a doctor, so please don't take anything I say as medical advice.

Water

Although it's one of the easiest things to ignore (especially if you're living on cold brew), drinking water can lead to better exam scores and decreased anxiety, making it a priority for exam season. If you're struggling to drink enough water, why not try:

  • Keeping a glass of water or water bottle by your computer
  • Setting consumption goals (such as finishing an 8oz glass of water by 11 am)
  • Limiting other drinks until you have a certain amount of water

Nutrition

Another important self-care component that can be easy to ignore, eating healthy, can be daunting when junk food tastes so good. It can be hard enough to stick to a healthy diet normally; when you add the stress of exam season, it seems downright impossible. If you're personally struggling with eating healthy, try these tips:

  • Before reaching for a snack, have fruit or veggies, then re-evaluate whether or not you still want the original snack, a few minutes later. If you do, that's 100% okay – you'll still have consumed vitamins you might not have have otherwise
  • If you cook, make food in large batches and freeze any extras. When you want your next meal, you'll have an easy alternative to Uber Eats that won't take up too much extra energy
  • Instead of going for super-healthy, raw vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, etc. options, opt for healthier swaps. When you go far enough down the rabbit hole, there's a lot of disagreements about which foods are actually healthy, and it can be overwhelming to decide which foods to eat. Instead of obsessing over finding the healthiest foods, look for simple swaps. Always reaching for cookies? Why not get the sugar from a glass of juice. Craving chips? Try low-sodium varieties or hummus and crackers. Any improvement, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction

Dental

Even though it can be easy to fall asleep without going through your nightly routine, neglecting your oral care can be one of the worst options long-term. Cavities will stay with you for life, leading to costly bills and potential headaches (or tooth-aches). If you have even a tiny bit of energy at night, brushing your teeth should be a priority, but if you're still struggling to get up and brush your teeth at the end of the night, why not try:

  • Brushing your teeth after dinner or a late-night snack, even if you know that you might eat something later on – there'll still be less on your teeth than if you haven't brushed your teeth since the morning, leading to less decay
  • Having a glass of water right before bed and swooshing it around your mouth. This is more of a I'm-too-exhausted-to-do-anything-else approach, it won't actually clean your teeth, it'll just dislodge any food stuck in between them. Still, if you're absolutely exhausted, it's better than nothing

Skincare

This isn't great to skip, but it's not the end of the world if you miss a night or two of your skincare routine. For those days when you're really drained, try to:

  • Use a cleanser to wash your makeup off. Even if you're too tired to do a full skincare routine, a cleanser and a moisturizer can work wonders without taking too much energy
  • If you're too drained to get up and use a cleanser, a makeup wipe can help to take off some of your makeup, but it won't get everything off. While your skin may not look as radiant the next morning, makeup wipes can still keep your pillow case free from foundation or mascara stains

Exercise

If you've been out of shape since March 2020 (or earlier), you're not alone. Still, exercise is really important. If you're trying to reincorporate movement in your daily routine, why not try:

  • At-home excercise videos, especially the free workout videos on Youtube. Lots of Youtubers are running monthly challenges as well, which can help keep you accountable and on track
  • Going for walks (even if they're short). Just over a year ago, you may have had to run from Vic to Daniel's in ten minutes to get to your next class. While they don't have to be as stressful, mini walks in between classes can help you reincorporate movement in your daily routine, while longer walks in your neighbourhood can give you an excuse to get out of the house. Live near a convenience store? Why not take a mid-afternoon break by walking over and grabbing a snack to enjoy in the evening – you'll get some excercise and a reward for later!
  • If these still feel like too much work, I 100% sympathize, but you still need to try incorporating some movement into your daiy routine. Can you get up from your desk a few times a day and walk around your home? Jog on the spot for a minute before each class? These might not be the most exciting options, but movement is essential. Even if you're only taking baby steps (which is perfectly okay!), working exercise into your daily routine is extremely imporant

Hair

Haircare definitely isn't as important as brushing your teeth or excercise, but it can still feel like one more frustrating task when you're running low on energy. If you're struggling to juggle everything, and your hair is on the longer side, try putting it into a bun or a braid – it'll be less likely to tangle, and out of your face, so you can focus on your to-do list.

Little Luxuries

Like hair care, luxuries aren't super high on the priority list, but they can be a great way to destress when school is too much to handle. If you feel like you need a break but don't have the time, try incorporating the little luxuries into your daily routine. For example, if you're finishing up a reading for a class and you're about to take a shower, you can put on a face mask and wash it off when you're showering so that there's a minimal time commitment, but you still get the skincare benefits. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the shower bombs from Lush – they're a great alternative to bath bombs and feel just as fancy, but since you use them in the shower, they don't require a huge time commitment. By incorporating smaller luxuries into your daily routine, you can relax without taking too much time away from schoolwork.