For so many years I scoffed at the ‘yoga-loving, Bali-travelling, self-love preachers’ all over Instagram. However, my first two years at University have taught me that self-care is something you have to build. It comes in all shapes and sizes and doesn’t actually have to cost any money.
Initially, when taking on the new academic responsibilities, on top of having to get to know a bunch of new faces and places, it all became a bit overwhelming. I was guilty of shoving self-care to the bottom of my to-do list, hibernating in my room mindlessly scrolling through social media. In fact, it should have been one of my top priorities.
So I’ve brought a few healthy changes into 2019, that are already going a long way in boosting my concentration, mental wellbeing and productivity. With repetition and consistency they will hopefully become lifelong habits.
These are 4 CHANGES that I’ve found most beneficial:
1. GET A GOOD SLEEP
It has been proven that getting sufficient sleep can improve memory, attention and overall productivity during the day.
I always underestimated the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time going out and staying up late in First Year, but as it became my routine, it took its toll fairly quickly. Exams rolled around and I found myself unable to get to sleep, living off coffee and leaving the ASS early out of frustration at my inability to concentrate.
I ended up trying every remedy under the sun until I found what worked for me. I now manage 7-9 hours of sleep a night. I still use a few: listening to a podcast or sleep hypnosis, and taking time away from screens in the late hours.
2. DAILY GRATEFUL LIST
Studies have shown that, of the intentional daily activities we can do to boost our happiness, expressing gratitude is instrumental.
Some days it’s harder to think positively than others, but I’ve come to appreciate that there are always things to be grateful for. In the past I often got bogged down in negative self-talk. I have made it my mission to train my mindset to see the glass as half full.
The most constructive way I’ve done this is through a daily reminder prompting me to write down three things I’m grateful for. It forces me to consider life’s positives, especially when I’m feeling low. My list includes anything from ‘a roof over my head’ and ‘sunshine’, to ‘the smell of fresh toast’!
3. SET ACHIEVABLE GOALS
It can be overwhelming to look to all the things you need to do, but attainable short-term goals can provide motivation, focus and a successful mindset.
I’ve come to realise that I work so much more productively if I set myself lots of small goals and deadlines, rather than viewing upcoming tasks as a whole. If I have an essay to write, it is more realistic to envisage completing a couple of paragraphs a day, then it is to contemplate producing the whole thing by next month.
I now jot down what I hope to achieve daily and weekly with deadlines (if these need to be adjusted, that’s ok too!). I don’t know about you, but I find it so satisfying to cross things off a list. Seeing my list grow and shrink as I complete old, and set new objectives provides a real sense of achievement.
4. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
I think it’s easy to feel like we have to be consistently social at Uni, but we shouldn’t be afraid to set aside an hour a day just for ourselves.
I began to notice that I felt like there wasn’t enough hours in the day to do some things I really enjoy. This was actually a situation I was putting myself in. By mentally setting aside an hour or so a day, just for me, a massive strain was psychologically lifted.
Even extroverts need their down time to focus on their own wellbeing. I tend to do this in the evening; painting my nails, watching something on Netflix or reading a book.
Not all of these will work for everyone and I had to test a few to see what worked. Likewise, I definitely don’t manage all of these every day. However, self-care is not a given, it is a learned skill. By committing myself to make these small changes, I have learnt about what makes me happy and my mindset is slowly transforming into a being more positive and self-accepting.
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