“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”
~Oprah Winfrey

Junior year was full of many expectations about the wonderful life I would be living as a senior. While my life is wonderful, it certainly has not gotten any easier, which was a major part of the dream. 

I spent my fall semester working my butt off, managing Zoom classes, balancing work and work study, and wrapping up my final officer positions with a neatly tied bow. 

I even earned straight As 一 defying the expectation that it would be the worst semester of my academic career 一 and made the Dean’s List! Still, taking care of my physical and mental health took a backseat. 

I spent all of winter break recovering from the fall and looked forward to finally relaxing in the spring. It’s now spring 2021, and in a few months I will graduate from Coe.

Midterms have past, and I’ve taken some time to reflect on my accomplishments as of today. One of which is finally, after all these years, practicing self-care. 

I want to pass on some knowledge that I’ve gained about the importance of self-care and some tips on how to take better care of yourself. 

Trust me, you do not want to wait until you’re 22.

Understanding Stress

I don’t mean to brag, but I am unapologetically proud of myself and am grateful for the time, effort, and stress I experienced to get to where I am today. 

I also realize that despite the changes to my schedule and workload I am still physically, mentally, and emotionally overwhelmed. 

With the temperature below zero for weeks at a time, and traveling to and from work by foot, I was drained of my naturally high energy.

The accumulated stress from the past four years plus the new stress of a new job and lifestyle changes quickly took their toll as well. 

For those of you who are not aware, stress can be both good and bad.

Chronic stress, or prolonged stress, is the bad type of stress and doesn’t allow enough time for you to recover. 

For example, if you’re not financially secure or you are food insecure you are facing constant stressors that take a lot of time and resources to work through. 

Without time to rest, individuals with chronic stress tend to become ill more easily and more often, and suffer from burnout and exhaustion. 

Acute stress, or short periods of stress, is considered to be the good type of stress, because it allows time for you to recover.

Having an extracurricular (sport, club, service) that you participate in can be stressful, but it takes you away from your usual, not so fun routine, and allows you to stay engaged throughout the day.  

Fun events can still be stressful, and with negative events that also create stress the two add up and can eventually lead to burnout. 

Wow, that’s a lot of stress! I know, but once you notice just how stressed you really are, you can take steps to remedy. Here are some to get you started:

1.Let in the Light

It doesn’t matter whether you have one large window or one smaller than a trash can, let in the light. 

Natural light boosts your mood, helps you wake up (and stay awake), and makes your space feel more open. When I’m feeling ill, I keep the blinds closed to reduce migraines; however, a majority of the time letting in the light makes me happier. 

You can see more clearly, and the strain of computer light is lessened. Natural light can help keep you focused on your work and motivated to reach your daily goals. 

2.Sweet Scents

Another way to practice self-care is by making your environment more welcoming. We spend a lot of time indoors, so changing that space to make us comfortable will do wonders for your mental health. 

I prefer to use an essential oil diffuser, to spread sweet tangerine and lemongrass throughout my apartment. 

You could also open a window to let in fresh air, or use an air freshener. If you don’t like too many smells (allergies) you could focus on cleaning your space to keep everything fresh-smelling, for example, wiping surfaces to clear away dust. 

3.Keep It Clean

Proper, good hygiene is often a game changer for many and most don’t even realize it. Take a shower (or a bubble bath), brush your hair, massage your skin, and/or wash your face.

When we’re stressed we often push our physical health to the side, when we should really prioritize it; especially once you feel better. 

Do your laundry, clear away trash, and/or catch up on your usual cleaning routine. This can help you feel productive and set other self-care activities in motion.

4.Take in the Sights

The weather has improved substantially. Yes, it keeps snowing, but it’ll be 50 degrees again soon. Take a stroll during the day, or walk slower on your way to and from classes. 

The Alumni Garden is open every day now, a little bit of nature does wonders for your health. Watching hummingbirds fly by, or hopping from stone to stone can help you feel more engaged with your body. 

This is most beneficial for people who struggle to feel grounded in the present moment. 

5.Sit Down and Write

Once a day where you can afford to take it easy, sit down in a comfortable spot and write. Write about your hopes and dreams, your plans for the week, or even your monthly budget. 

Writing can help you remain present instead of worrying about everything else you have to worry about. 

I enjoy writing and find that when I make time to write I feel much more relaxed and prepared to complete other tasks. 

If writing isn’t your style, you can always sing your favorite songs, crochet, or anything else that allows you to effortlessly focus on one moment. 

Fun fact, on Tuesday, March 23 we have our second “academic break day” of the term. This could be the day you start your new self-care journey! 

Below are some helpful sources and COVID resources as you should keep COVID guidelines in mind when planning your activities.

Helpful Sources
Understanding Good Stress vs Bad Stress

Prevent Burnout

Natural Light Increases Productivity

Covid Resources
Things to Know about COVID-19

CDC Tips on How to Care for Yourself During the Pandemic

State of Iowa Agency Guidance

City of Cedar Rapids, IA COVID-19 Information

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