Seana Speaks: self-care and self-reflection after winter

We’ve made it through winter! Stop, take a deep breath and enjoy some sun. Then, get ready for the big push of the semester. If you’re like most people I’ve talked to lately, you probably have more commitments and deadlines than you can manage. You may be feeling stressed-out and overwhelmed. Balancing grades, extracurricular activities, friends and social obligations plus finding time for ourselves: that’s hard work!

No matter how busy we get though, it’s important we take time to allow balance in our lives. Our mental health is as important as our physical health and we need both to be at our best. I asked some of the students around campus what tools they have in place for staying balanced.

Angelina Beckett is thriving off the return of the sun. “I’m someone who definitely runs off the sun, so when it’s out I try and get as much done as I can.” Productivity may not sound like obvious self-care, but learning when you’re at your best is key to reducing anxiety and allowing yourself the freedom to have a bad day. Beckett agrees. “I’m not as productive and [am] more prone to down days when it’s less sunny. I try and be more relaxed with myself and take it easy.” Getting the most out of productive days is a favorite self-care practice of mine, too. It really gives me the freedom to relax and enjoy the day of hibernation I know is somewhere down the road.

Cassie Piper likes to take a walk outside and get some sun, but she also likes to relax. “Take some deep breaths,” says Piper. “Just take a break from the homework. Coloring in adult coloring books. Jamming to music.” Taking a break from homework is an essential part of letting your mind rest.

Jessica Malskis also enjoys listening to music when it’s time to relax, but she’s added a clever psychology trick to her tunes. “I have a playlist that I only listen to when I’m relaxing. It helps me to associate these specific songs with times I am relaxed.” Malskis also really knows how to do a spa night. “I’ll make a bubble bath with my favorite scent, add some bath salts, and relax. I’ll use my favorite lotion, and use a face mask afterward. Do a hair mask, and paint my nails. It’s a great way to feel refreshed!”

Renata Flanigan, also a face mask enthusiast, urges, “Stretching! Stretching your body helps release tension and is oh so good for you.” Moving your body to unwind is a popular idea. Megan Roberts, Haley Frechette, and Amy Nicewicz all have going for a walk or heading to the gym tucked away in their toolkit. Frechette says she gets moving, “When my brain can’t focus anymore, or…to get some motivation.”

Frechette uses essential oils to help her relax and to focus as well. “Essential oils are always great for me. I have a necklace I can put them in. I use the same scent when I’m studying as when I’m taking the exam.” Essential oils made the list for Amy Nicewicz as well. “Essential oils and mindfulness breathing help bring me back to the present moment and can help reduce a little bit of panic,” she says. Nicewicz has developed other tools to help with her symptoms of anxiety. “My hands hold a lot of tension so it’s helpful for me to hold a pen, fidget [toy], or slime to keep me from being too anxious.”

Mindfulness and anxiety reduction can hardly be mentioned without bringing up meditation. Says K.C. Czermeryz, who is no nonsense when it comes to their main mental health survival tool, “I meditate a shit ton. Headspace (the meditation app) is literally one of the only things that keeps me sane.”

Movies and TV, creating art, hanging out with friends, family and pets, yoga and hiking, long naps, the reality is there are endless possibilities when it comes to indulging in a little down time. If you haven’t found a great hobby yet, ask your friends what they enjoy doing or check out some of the awesome student clubs and activities on campus. There’s lots of self-care tips and tools to be found at the Wellness Center. SHAPE offers group classes and activities in addition to the gym and pool. It may feel like taking a break is the last thing you have time for, but in the end it will make you a better student, a better friend and help you to be the best version of yourself. So head back outside, take a deep breath, and enjoy the sun.