Self Care as a College Student
If you’re a college student, this time of year can be extremely stressful. Having papers due, exams to study for, presentations to prepare… How hectic! Additionally some of how we may cope with stressful seasons of life may end up being not as helpful as we hope, such as skimping on sleep, skipping meals to get in more study time, and isolating. Especially for individuals in recovery for an eating disorder (ED) or disordered eating, seasons of life that add in additional stress can be really tricky to navigate. Instead of doing things that may actually exacerbate stress or jeopardize your recovery journey, here are some tips that can help you navigate finals season as positively as possible.
Work to get adequate sleep - create a sleep hygiene plan to help foster good sleep habits. Trying to go to bed and wake up around similar times each day can make falling and staying asleep easier. It can also be helpful to limit screen time for about 60 minutes before going to bed. If you struggle with limiting screen time, try to read a physical book instead, practice yoga/stretching, or listen to a podcast or audiobook in a dimly lit room.
Prioritize nutrition - Make sure to eat (at least) 3 meals a day and snacks as needed or follow your prescribed meal plan. The temptation may be present to skip going to the dining hall or use time to make a meal in an effort to spend more time studying, but skipping eating experiences only increases the likelihood of decreasing your productivity, focus, energy and immune function! Also remember, if you’re someone who feels anxiety and stress in your gut, you may be experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, changes to bowel movements, and a lack of hunger cues. These experiences can certainly make it more challenging to consume adequate nutrition, but try to work on managing your anxiety and stress with coping skills instead of defaulting to inadequate nutrition.
Manage stress and anxiety with positive coping mechanisms - Following up to tip #2 might raise the question “well, what are my positive coping strategies?”. Taking time to figure this out and ensure you’re not unconsciously using maladaptive coping skills (especially with the help of a professional you’re working with such as a therapist or Registered Dietitian) can be really helpful. Some examples could include: calling/ Facetiming a loved one, going for a walk, listening to music, brewing a cup of tea, taking a shower or journaling.
Identify your support(s) - Surrounding yourself with individuals who are supportive and understanding of why a stressful time may be even more stressful for someone in ED recovery is imperative. For some, identifying and increasing support at this time may mean increasing the frequency of appointments with your treatment team to ensure you are receiving adequate support during a stressful time; also remember to be honest with your recovery team. Support and assistance can only be provided when and if a provider is aware of what’s truly going on!
Create/stick to a routine - In an effort to try to fit in all of the above tips, it is highly recommended to try to make a schedule for your days. Creating and/or sticking to a schedule can be crucial during a stressful time. Classes may be ending, which can create a lack of structure that was previously had. When planning a schedule, do not focus just on scheduling study time; please also plan to incorporate other self-care items such as adequate sleep, time for meals/snacks, breaks from studying, and time to connect/socialize with others.