In the land of undergraduate (and postgraduate study), a cold chill has fallen across the kingdom. Assignment titles have been released, all are behind on the reading lists, and even the strongest of students have succumbed to the flu. Stress levels are peaking, and people are forgetting what normal sleeping hours are.
Two years on from full-time study, and I ain’t here for that. As a student, it’s all I knew, but as a (kind of) adult still in education, I know I could have saved my younger self a lot of pain and worry. Want to know how? By having this in my life – Real. Self. Care. And that’s not lighting candles and have bubbly baths (because you are lucky if you are a student with a bathtub!) I’ve already written a post about Real Self-Care, but this is different. The full-time study life is a different beast to adult life; there are different requirements and priorities.
This post is for the library late nighters, the society leaders, the job balancers, and all the students in between. Let me talk to you about real self-care, and how it can make your student experience that much better.
You are at university to get an education, or at least, that’s why you are “officially” there to do.
Along the way there’s lectures, seminars, societies, sports teams, friendships, nights outs, nights in, living on your own, working out who you are, and studying. For me, although I spent a lot of time doing other things, I was a study-aholic. I lived in the library study rooms, always carried around heavy books, and made notes for fun (fight me, I love learning). What I’d recommend to anyone sitting down to study, and something I wish I started doing sooner, is simply have a break.
Oh goodness, it sounds so easy doesn’t it! But it’s so hard to do when you are in the flow of work, or completely baffled by work! However, by the third year, I realised how much better I felt after giving my brain some space after an hour or so of attacking it with knowledge. And giving yourself a break shouldn’t be drastic. It can be walking to the cafe to grab yourself a coffee; having a phone call with friends; shaking those shoulders about a bit. Heck, some of my friends just used to lie down on the floor of the study room and spring back up after five minutes. Just move your attention away from the computer and sitting and writing for five minutes, give your brain a little rest, and then get back at it.
There’s a fine line between doing everything and over-doing it; oh, and I have walked that line many times.
During my final year at University, I was studying full time, working three jobs, running a society, writing a dissertation, making a show, occasionally blogging, working on a theatre company, and was running for a role at my Student Union. Alongside that, I wanted to have fun with my friends, and make memories! It’s safe to say I burnt out an awful lot. I’d power through for days and weeks at a time, only stopping to sleep, and then I would crumple like a heap at the end, when I didn’t even have time to stop, and ended up punishing my physical and mental health.
My advice? Even though you may not have time to have a big slab of time off, like a weekend or even a day, grab some time off when you can. Your morning lecture gets cancelled and you don’t have to be on campus until 2pm? Take the morning off. You’ve been invited on a night out that you really aren’t really interested in? Don’t go. Feeling beyond stressed out and your anxiety means you can’t get out of bed? Listen to your body and rest. Notice when you need a rest, and take it. But, it’s important to notice the difference between needing a rest and needing help; they are both beyond important and won’t happen unless you do it yourself.
Make sure to eat, and eat well.
Before I begin this point, let me just say, I am not playing into the stereotype that students can’t cook, because that’s just ridiculous. Just like every other type of human in this world, some students can cook well, some terribly, some amazingly, and some haven’t even turned on a hob. When I talk about ‘making sure to eat’, I mean making sure to eat well. It’s so easy to rush out of the door whilst grabbing a slice of toast, devouring a sandwich from the shop before a lecture, and chucking food in the oven whilst you get ready for a society or team or night in the library.
You’re bound to feel better after a home cooked meal, so why don’t you set aside an hour a week to prep meals? Get a pot going with chilli, one with bolognese, and one making a potato hash. Cook them, put them in tupperware, and shove them in the fridge or freezer. Then, all you have to do is reheat it in the microwave, maybe with a bag of microwave rice, and you’ve got a tasty, healthy, nutritious meal that will fill you up for anything you’ve got planned (ah, I sound like my mother – I like it).
Finally, got a bit of a hangover?
Drink a pint of water (hydration), eat a banana (potassium), and have a fizzy drink (sugar). That should settle you right up and get you ready for the day! Eaaaasy. (Unless you went too hard and are fully hungover; you’re on your own there buddy).
Those are my (tried and tested) top tips for students on how to grab some real self-care whilst you are out learning, working, surviving, and making yourself and the world a better place. To any graduates out there, what do you wish you did to give yourself a bit of rest? Hindsight is a great thing after all!