Back-to-School Self-Care

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Self-care is a pretty vague term, but one we regularly hear in today’s society. Our lifestyles have significantly changed over the last several decades and have changed drastically over these previous six months. Self-care is meant to be a way of relaxing your body and mind. To help a person manage the stress in their lives.

What Is Stress?

Self-care can help students at school

Stress is a normal reaction our bodies experience when changes occur. Stress affects us mentally, physically and emotionally. A stressor is a chemical or biological agent, environmental condition, external stimulus or an event causing stress. Psychologically speaking, a stressor can be events or environments that individuals might consider demanding, challenging, or threatening individual safety.

Even positive life changes such as a promotion, a mortgage, or a child’s birth produce stress. The human body is designed to experience stress. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. However, stress becomes negative when we face continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between stressors. As a result, we become overworked and tension builds-up. The body’s autonomic nervous system has a built-in stress response that causes physiological responses to allow the body to combat stressful situations. This stress response, also known as the “fight or flight response,” is activated in an emergency. However, this response can become chronically activated during prolonged periods of stress. This prolonged activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body, both physically and emotionally.

Stress that continues without relief can lead to distress – an adverse stress reaction. Distress can disturb the body’s internal balance or equilibrium, leading to a wide range of physical symptoms such as headaches, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, sexual dysfunction, and problems sleeping. Emotional issues can also result from distress. These problems include depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen specific symptoms or diseases. Stress is linked to 6 of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

Taking Care of Yourself

Self-care is any activity we do deliberately to take care of our emotional, physical or mental health. So, what does this mean? Well, think about anything you like to do for fun. What do those activities include? What kind of activities do you do to relax?

Self-care isn't selfish

Self-care can include a wide range of activities, and when I say “activities,” I don’t just mean physical exercise. Watching a favourite or guilty pleasure movie or TV show, taking a bath with candles and bubble bath or bath bombs (or just having a hot shower/bath), doing an art project, making a meal, baking, going for a walk, using a meditation app, having a nap–you get the point. It doesn’t matter what specific activity you do, as long as you enjoy it, and it does not add stress to your life.
It is true that eating a healthy diet, getting adequate exercise and getting enough sleep are all things we should be doing regularly to help combat stress. Proper sleep, exercise and nutrition all play vital roles in our physical, emotional and mental health. Research has proven that these lifestyle changes do reduce stress.

As students, you have made a conscious decision to add stress to your life. You have started a new career and have to learn a whole new set of skills and possibly even a new language; how do you reduce that stress?

First, you need to ensure you are taking time for yourself. Adding time or maintaining your current routines of self-care is very important.

Next, you must find a quiet place and dedicated study times to focus strictly on classwork. This can be very challenging, especially with families, to take care of.

Lastly, be aware of when your brain has had enough for the day. If or when you find yourself re-reading pages of a textbook or your notes, or finding you have to back a video up because your mind was wandering, this is your brain’s way of saying it’s taken in the maximum amount of information it can at that time.

Step away for all schoolwork and take time for self-care. If it’s early in the day, then take a break. If you re-approach the schoolwork and find you’re still having trouble focusing, then that’s all the schoolwork you should be doing for the day. This is the best and easiest way to maintain mental health while in school. You may find that you have to give yourself small study sessions multiple times throughout the day. Still, start this habit early in your program. You will find it easier to maintain your study habits and still have time for self-care and family.


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