Self care, when it is the last thing you have time to get done.
Photo by: Valgerdur Lilja Björnsdottir
Taking care of yourself when life gets busy
By: Valgerdur Lilja Björnsdottir
Published 26 May 2021
I would like to argue that our health and well-being is the most important thing we have. May is a busy and exhausting month for students. We have endless assignments, usually the biggest ones of the year, exams and at the same time we have no patience left as we look forward to summer and the sense of freedom it brings.
During hectic times like the last weeks of school we tend to forget to take care of ourselves which can lead to us feeling exhausted when summer finally comes. To make sure that I start my summer excited and energised I will be following these steps:
Create a study routine and stick to it
I’ve always been a procrastinator who starts assignments way too late and works on them the entire day, from when I wake up until I fall asleep. It might work, but it’s a terrible way to get things done and it leaves me exhausted. In order to be productive and turn in assignments that I’m happy with I’ve created a realistic routine that I can keep. By doing this I am also giving myself some time to rest and it makes me sleep better. My routine can look like this:
8:00 – Wake up, do my morning routine and have breakfast
9:30 – Study
12:00/12:30 – Lunch, give your brain some rest and watch something or take a walk
13:30/14:00 – Study
17:00 – Studying ends, time for all the other things I want to do during the day
This schedule can be adjusted to fit your own day to day schedule and the hours when you are the most productive. As an example: I’m more productive in the afternoon and that’s why I’ve scheduled more study hours after lunch than in the morning. Just make sure that you allow yourself to let go of the school work once your study hours end. Letting go is something I struggle with and thoughts about school work would keep me up at night which led to me being tired and less productive the next day.
I know that it’s a cliché but I recently realised that exercise really does the trick for me. It doesn’t have to be a two hour gym session every day but just getting some movement in your body after sitting down for a long time with your head stuck in a book or eyes fixed on the screen does wonders. I like to take walks between and after my study sessions but if I’m not in the mood for walks or the weather is bad then I also like to find some ten minute stretching or yoga sessions on Youtube. You can find pretty much any exercise you are interested in on Youtube and usually you can find short sessions to just get your heart pumping.
I’m a huge believer in taking some time for self care! I personally love doing face and hair masks and taking care of my body while watching classic romcoms from the 90s, but that is not all there is to it. Self care in it’s simplest form is really just taking the time to do something that you find relaxing and enjoy. For me it’s skin care, for others it’s video games, watching movies or reading. So figure out that you enjoy doing that relaxes you and allow yourself to really enjoy it once or twice a week.
Call yourself out
Another form of self care is the less fun and relaxing part of it where you do things that you might not enjoy for your own good. I tend to call it “calling yourself out on your bullshit” and it’s not very enjoyable, but it is necessary. I have a tendency to use my depression as a shield when I start getting overwhelmed with tasks and it leads to me not pushing myself when I could. When I get overwhelmed I start spending a lot of energy and focus on avoiding a depressive episode when I was in fact not close to a depressive episode. I suppose it’s a self preserving method I’ve developed through the years but it’s honestly giving me more issues than doing me any favors.
My example is why it’s important to check in on yourself and see if you are doing the best work that you can do at the moment or if you could do better. If you could do better than you are currently doing: call yourself out. (NOTE: This of course does not apply if you are struggling and are already doing your best but you feel like it isn’t up to your wanted standard, your health and well-being should always come before grades and work!)
Our health and well-being are really some of the most important things that we need to take care of throughout our lives and even if it feels amazing to ace an exam the good feeling disappears soon enough if you’ve exhausted yourself working. I think that university might actually be a great time to figure out your work balance and setting boundaries so you feel prepared to do your best always once you graduate and step into the worklife.