How to Show Up for Yourself When Life Gets Stressful

It’s already the middle of the semester, and if you’re like me, it often feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day to get all the things done that I have to do and stay on top of everything. With a heavy workload and finals already on the horizon, if you too are feeling stressed out and hectic from time to time, here are five ways show up for and reconnect with yourself. (And because self care should be for everyone, none of them involve buying anything.)

  1. 1. Take care of your basic needs

    Sometimes the little things can be the hardest, but most often, they’re the most important things you can do to practice self care in stressful times. Staying hydrated, getting enough sleep on most days, eating healthily and plentifully, and engaging in some type of physical activity that’s both enjoyable and a little challenging - those are the fundamentals you should never compromise on, ever.

  2. 2. Commit to habits that are good for your well-being, even if you don’t want to

    After a long day of class or work, there used to be nothing less appealing to me than getting groceries and cooking a healthy meal, and I can’t count the number of times that I ditched the workouts I so enthusiastically scheduled a few days prior in favor of some good old junk food and Netflix. And I’m not saying there is no merit in those last two things! But at the end of the day, they should be exceptions, not the rule. Healthy habits take time to develop - usually between 18 days and 2 months - but they’ll be more satisfying in the long run. Speaking from experience as a (semi-)reformed lazy person, I can say that once I got over my desire for instant gratification, following a healthy daily routine actually started being enjoyable.

  3. 3. Give yourself permission to rest

    Taking breaks and getting some down time might seem counterproductive when you’re dealing with a heavy workload. However, studies show that when doing work that requires a lot of concentration, such as studying for an exam or writing a paper, taking a break every now and then actually increases productivity. Allowing your brain a moment of rest can not only lower your stress levels, it can also help you make decisions, consolidate learned knowledge and restore motivation for your long-term goals. Try taking a coffee/snack break or a short walk outside every couple of hours to improve the quality of your work afterwards.

     

  4. 4. Spend quality time with yourself

    With class, homework, exams, extra-curriculars, sports, work, and social events, it often seems like there aren’t enough hours in a day. Nevertheless, in moments when you find yourself able to take some down time, use those to read, create, explore, and really get to know who you are underneath who you think you should be.

  5. 5. Practice self-forgiveness

    Allowing yourself to be imperfect can be super difficult in a cultural and academic environment that constantly tells you that you could do more, do better and do it faster. We are made to believe that not feeling positive and inspired every single day, taking off-days or simply not giving it your all, all of the time, is a personal shortcoming when in fact those things are just a natural part of life for every single person on earth. Allow yourself to take a break when you need one, to feel a multitude of feelings, to not know it all, and to fall off track every now and again. Those are all super important skills that take courage and emotional intelligence to develop, especially when your environment pushes the false idea that perfection is attainable. I thoroughly believe that knowing you don’t always have to give 100 percent in every area of your life is the hardest but also the single biggest thing you can do for your overall happiness.