Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
January 24, 2021

How to practice self care in these stressful times

By GABI SWISTARA | November 14, 2019

Lots of people talk about self-care — “time for a self-care night” or “you should spend time on self-care” — but people tend to not always know what it is or to not think it’s that important. So this is a) a bit of advice about how to do self-care well and b) a reminder to go take care of yourself. 

This time of year is stressful for us Blue Jays; midterms two and three are coming around, and final papers are approaching their deadlines. So here are some frequent concerns about self-care and, hopefully, a place for you to start: 

How do I do self-care right?

The simple answer is that it looks different to everybody. But what is most important is to listen to your body and set boundaries. Knowing when you need a night off, or when you just can’t make an event, or when you just need some time alone, is super important, so listening to those needs is important, too.

Furthermore, giving yourself the time and space to recover is essential for your future functioning. If you just applied to four graduate schools in one night, for example, and can’t focus on applying to more tonight, that’s okay.

Taking time for yourself to not think is equally important as the time you take working because you’ll be more focused and efficient when you’re ready to start working again. Trust yourself that one or two nights off is not the end of the world and that you will get everything done. 

What are some ideas for self-care that I could try?

Some people love crafts. I will say that I usually hate crafts, but once it gets cold out, I’ll cut out paper snowflakes and chain-links and hang them all over the apartment for the holidays (just ask my roommates!). This was a great de-stressor for me, and my roommates got into it too. Sophomore year we had a competition to see which side of our Commons suite could make more snowflakes by Christmas (my side of the suite won). 

Some people love to work out; popular cathartic and self-care-ish workouts include boxing, running and spinning (I love to workout to Cody Rigsby on Peloton, for example, since he always reaffirms that “I am that bitch”). 

Some people need to socialize; and whether that’s just watching a movie with your friends or going to talk to someone about more serious issues is also subjective. Sometimes I just need a good laugh. Other times I find that it’s essential to talk to someone about serious stuff. In that case, I go to the Counseling Center, A Place to Talk, call a hotline, or sometimes just call a close friend or family member. 

Some people like to go outside. The old wives tale of “needing a little air” rings true: Going for a walk in the fresh air can be great for the mind. I also find this tends to relieve migraines if I’ve been on a screen too long. 

Taking a hot shower or taking care of your physical/aesthetic body can be wonderful, too. Like painting your nails, for example. It helps me to feel better the next day when I feel more put together. 

Consistent sleep. Adjusting your sleep schedule so you’re not sleeping too much or too little is great. I admit I’m guilty of a flexible sleep schedule but getting enough rest is always critical to my functioning (I’ve never pulled an all-nighter, for example, because I know that my body would just give up). 

Cooking food or consuming large quantities of it. Overall, if your body craves something then it’s important to feed your body that. Especially at this time of year when Hopkins life is getting tougher, it’s important to eat enough fat because your brain can’t function without fats (I learned that the hard way). 

Social media: the modern self-care nightmare. Unfollow people that make you unhappy (I used to think, “Oh, but I want their follow still because I need a lot of followers,” until I came to realize how good it felt to not see certain people pop up on my feed anymore).

Blocking nasty people can be super helpful in caring for yourself. And, alternatively but in the same vain, do follow people that do make you happy. For example, my favorite Instagram page is @mytherapistsays because they always make me laugh. The @jhusaru Instagram also has great posts about self-care. 

This is true of real life too; block people IRL. If someone is saying unsupportive things or bringing you down, maybe don’t spend so much time with them. They’re not worth it. 

Finally, saying no is critical to self-care. Like I said above, boundaries are critical, so knowing when you don’t want to do something and having enough respect for yourself to honor those wishes is impactful. Remember that saying no to others is not selfish if you’re doing that to take care of yourself: You cannot commit yourself to others if you’re not in a good place to do so.

This time of year is rough, but you’ll get through it, and taking breaks can help too. 

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