Hi! Hello! Welcome! I’m going to assume that you’re reading this article because you want to learn some secret, foolproof way to look after yourself now that your everyday life isn't following the same monotonous schedule of school, homework, dinner and bed.
That’s fine, because I am going to give you some tips, but the first thing you need to know is that you will mess up. You’re going to have ice cream for lunch three days in a row, spend an all-nighter working on an assignment then go straight to a 9 a.m. class, forget that vegetables exist, tell yourself that you’ll go to the gym then conveniently realize all your gym clothes are in the laundry... you get the point.
But in my experience, if there really is one secret, foolproof way to look after yourself, it’s to give yourself grace. Take a breath and forgive yourself. Be more gentle with yourself than you think you need to be. It’s cliché, but the first semester is difficult, and you might not realize that until later, so don’t beat yourself up.
So, now let’s tackle the tips that everyone talks about: sleep, water, nutrition and exercise.
Starting with sleep, I know you’ve been told that you shouldn’t pull all-nighters. While that may be true, let me loosen this rule a little. Don’t pull all-nighters unless you’re a night person! Me, I’m a morning person, so I go to bed around 11 p.m. and my first class is usually at 9 a.m. But if I was a night person and my first class was at 1pm, then who’s to say that I can’t stay up all night, sleep from 5 a.m. – 12 p.m. and then go to class? Tailor your schedule to you. Disclaimer: I’m not saying stay up for 24 hours — please don’t.
I’m going to lump water and exercise together. My biggest tip here is to explore and find something you enjoy! Don’t like plain water? Try sparkling water, coconut water or adding some fruit. If nothing else, start a competition with yourself! Can you drink more today than yesterday? The same idea goes for exercise. The most important thing is to move your body and silence your mind. Try a walk around Guilford, a cycling class at the Rec Center or an acrobatics club. Just keep in mind: the way you exercise your body at home might not be the same way you exercise your body now. Your life has changed and what you have time for and what you enjoy might too. And that’s okay.
Nutrition is a tricky one, especially as a freshman on a dining plan. I’ll just say it here again: give yourself grace. Do your best, and if your best looks different after two exams and a paper, have fun with it! To add, Levering Kitchens has some of the best food on campus!
And now for mental health. Dun dun dunnn! Everyone is different, so I’m just going to tell you what works for me. I love my friends, but I still need my alone time. The biggest thing I did last year to protect my mental health was taking the last hour of the day for me. I didn’t do any work during this time, and I didn’t respond to any messages. This is the time for you to connect with yourself, so read, play a video game, practice your hobby, sit, miss home and cry if you want; literally do whatever you need to do at that moment. A university student’s life is chaotic at the best of times and finding time to be yourself is the best tip that I can give.