8 ways to practise self-care

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’, you’re probably someone who needs these tips the most.

Self-care shouldn’t just be a way to treat yourself after the work is done. Looking after yourself is the key to doing your best.

By taking time to care for your mental and physical wellbeing, you’ll stay focused, rejuvenated and stress-free. Importantly, it also helps stave off the dreaded burn-out.

Below are eight easy ways to practise self-care.

Take time out to have regular study breaks.

1. Keep a sustainable study schedule

You may get away with the occasional bursts of 12-hour study days, but it’s important to balance these long days with time off. Scheduling realistic working patterns is more efficient than trying to cram a lot into a short period. Remember: study is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself.

2. Learn the fine art of saying ‘no’

Your friend asks you to help them move, your mum wants you to fix her computer, you’re asked to take on an extra shift at work. We all want to help out as much as we can, but if it impinges on your much-needed ‘me time’ and ends up stressing you out, you need to learn to say: no. Understand your boundaries, and what is humanly possible to do in a week while staying balanced and sane. Then, stick to it – and explain your situation politely. Friends and family will understand.

While it’s tempting to sloth out, exercise can lift your spirits and help you to sleep better.

3. Exercise regularly

Exercise reduces stress, builds the immune system, releases endorphins and, ultimately, is one of the best ways to improve our physical and mental health. If you’re exercise-adverse, think of a form of physical activity you’ll actually enjoy: hip-hop yoga; Beyoncé dance classes; No Lights, No Lycra; bouldering; hiking; going for a wander through the park, walking the neighbour’s dog… exercise doesn’t have to mean a visit to the gym. Organise to go with a friend, which will help motivate you to actually rock up. La Trobe Sport has plenty of options to help you get active, from social competitions through to bigger commitments.

4. Schedule in down time

Block out time in your week to do very little. Watch your favourite TV show, read a book, have a bath, have a nap! It’s easy to fill our waking hours with things we should do like ‘study, work, going out’ but actually we also must schedule in down time. Which brings us to the next point…

Yes, you heard that right, block out some time for a Netflix binge.

5. Unplug

Social media can be great for students. But if not used wisely it can encourage procrastination that makes us stressed-out and anxious. Why not get your social fix IRL? Turn off your phone, log-out of your email, step away from the computer and go outside and be present. Mindfulness is an excellent way to unwind and recharge and stepping away from the neon blue screen can play a big part in helping us do that.

6. Get plenty of sleep

Some may be able to get by on a few hours sleep, but in the end the recommendation is eight. Sleep helps the brain function properly – without it, you may have trouble making decisions and solving problems. To get a better night sleep, it’ll help if you go easy on the caffeine and alcohol.

If you do find yourself drifting off in the library and need a power nap to get you through to your next lecture, there’s a few unofficial places on campus you can catch a few Z’s (but you don’t hear this from us!) Find a quiet spot in The Learning Commons (TLC), Thomas Cherry building, Student Hub or snag a beanbag in the Donald Whitehead building, slip on your novelty eye glasses and pretend to be alert.

7. Eat well

Eating well is one of the best forms of self-care. Your mind and body need a wide range of nutritious fuel to keep it going. Plus, many find baking and cooking a relaxing way to unwind. Bonus! If you’re stuck for ideas, you could try our Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos’s hearty Briami Vegetable Bake.

8. Reach out to your support network

Your friends and family are an excellent support network, but it’s also beneficial to connect with fellow students going through the same thing as you. Get to know your classmates in tutorials and grab a coffee after. Join a club or society and find some like-minded people to catch up with regularly. If you’re struggling and need support, access our counselling services – it’s free for all domestic and international students.