5 Bitchin' Self-Care Habits to Kick This Exam Season's Ass

A friend of mine recently shared this article about the realities of self-care on Facebook. It’s worth a full read, but if you’re busy I’ll summarize: self-care is not bubble baths, Netflix binges and ordering pizza late at night to #TreatYoSelf. Self-care is forcing yourself to get out of bed, consuming something other than coffee and fast food, and doing the dishes. It isn’t taking a day to do nothing, but instead, actively engaging in chores and tasks day-to-day that help contribute to a better you, thereby improving your mental wellbeing.

This exam season has hit me hard; I’ve skipped more classes than I would have liked, missed too many gym dates just to get a few extra hours of sleep, and bombarded my bank account with fast food purchases. But I have been trying to be better at self-care, to make the hard choice to wash my face, put on some makeup, and go to class instead of watching yet another episode of something at home in bed.

While there is no right or wrong way to self-care, the following habits are the ones that I am trying to adopt this exam season. If they resonate with you, give them a try, and let’s kill the self-care game together!

1. Organize Your Shit

Whenever I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of work looming over my shoulder I always find it helpful to sit down and organize. Make lists, tidy your living space, whatever you need to do to get your head in the right space to problem solve and tackle the work that needs to be done. This is hard. I know this is so, so hard when you’re exhausted and you just want to curl up on the couch and do nothing. But I promise this will make you feel better. Give it 30 minutes of attention and then let yourself take a mental break.

2. Move Your Damn Body

I know, I know, this is pretty cliche. But it has been scientifically proven (1, 2,) time and time again that exercise helps reduce stress and improves brain power. I’m not saying you have to become a CrossFit pro overnight or run a half-marathon before your next exam, but find ways to incorporate movement into your life. Walk to class if you can, take a study break and have a dance party or do some jumping jacks, go for a walk with your friend/parent/S.O./dog/snake, and just breathe in the fresh air. Appreciate the ability of your body to exist. Your brain will thank you for the endorphins and your body will thank you for the wake up call!

3. Make Yourself Look Nice as Hell

I mean, like, you always look nice as hell. But rolling out of bed and heading to class in the same sweatpants you slept in and a hat covering your dirty hair is going to weigh on you. Sometimes it seems like that’s all you can muster, and that’s okay. But if you want to care for yourself, even just taking a shower, putting on clean clothes, washing your face, and putting on mascara can make a huge difference in improving your mindset and your self-confidence. For me, at least, this is revolutionary.

4. Meal Prep Like a Badass

Cooking food sucks. Cooking food sucks even more when you’ve just finished a six hour library grind and it’s 11pm and you have to be up at 7am tomorrow to go to class and all you have in your fridge is beer, a rotten cucumber, and cheese. This is why meal prepping is your friend. Pick a day of the week and set aside a few hours to grocery shop and cook for the week. I can confirm it is 100% worth it to be able to come home, pop food in the microwave and have a delicious (and healthy!) dinner ready in 3 minutes. Plus, you’re a lot less likely to spend money on food you don’t need on campus if you know you have something yummy waiting for you at home.

5. Bitch to Your Best Friend

And by bitch, of course, I mean have an open and honest conversation about how overwhelmed you are feeling that leaves you feeling supported and validated. Alternatively, don’t talk about your feelings if you don’t want to. Just talk about something. Talk about your favourite Her Campus article or the newest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Laugh about that dude in your class who tried to hit you up out of nowhere, or about your family’s stupid jokes. Human connection heals the soul, and can be an amazing stress reliever.

You’re not going to become the perfect, mentally stable human being overnight. In fact, I’m convinced I will never be a perfect, mentally stable, has-her-shit-together human. I am probably destined to be a mess of a stress ball for the rest of my life. But doing these five things makes me feel like less of a mess of a stress ball, at least for a few hours. Maybe these habits will work for you, and maybe they won’t. Either way, make sure you find out what does work for you and stick to it, even if it’s hard. Kick yourself in the butt every once in awhile so that you can enjoy all that life has to offer.

And most importantly, keep your head up. You’ve fucking got this.

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