Today, self-care has become somewhat of a buzzword, associated with face masks once a week or sleeping and eating well. There are 7.8 million images tagged #selfcare on Instagram and a few million more on Twitter and Tumblr, most of them posted in the past year. One such image I saw this morning was posted by a model, a photo of her bathing in an Icelandic hot spring. Another image, typical of the #selfcare feed, featured a group of friends lounging poolside. Yet another displayed a blonde woman rubbing a charcoal mask on her skin, the caption extolling the virtues of all-natural skincare.
“Self-care is a revolutionary act. Everybody’s self-care is different, and in order for me to feel like the time I set aside for self-care was well spent, it was important that I spend my time on the right things. As college students who’ve made it through their first year, we can say that if you work on making time for your own self-care, it does get better.”
Yet, these images are far from the reality of learning to properly take care of yourself, day-in and day-out. In reality, self-care is a difficult, time-consuming, and at-times unglamorous process. After our last finals of freshman year, my friend Maria and I reflected on our first year at Columbia University over a cup of coffee. Our conversation ranged from laughing about our late nights in the city to accounting all those sleep deprived nights where we saw the sun rise from the Butler Library. Our main takeaway? How often we felt exhausted and drained—because we failed to properly practice self-care.
As we talked to more friends, family, and professional mentors about self-care, we realized that everyone around us struggled with this exact problem. In the midst of all of our hectic, stressful lives, we all seemed to be struggling on how we practiced consistent, effective self-care. Thus, Maria and I co-founded Foliage, a subscription box and digital publication focused on helping young people practice radical, intentional self-care.
Self-care is a revolutionary act. Everybody’s self-care is different, and in order for me to feel like the time I set aside for self-care was well spent, it was important that I spend my time on the right things. As college students who’ve made it through their first year, we can say that if you work on making time for your own self-care, it does get better. Below are our five favorite self-care strategies.
- Make an honest list of when you feel happiest and healthiest and keep it within reach.
Last spring, I make a list in my journal and the Notes app on my laptop—the two places that I knew I would see and reference it regularly. Even though it seemed like a waste of time at first, I did it because I knew it would guide better decision-making and ultimately, a happier, healthier way of life.
Be honest with yourself about your needs, then be intentional with the actions you take to meet those needs. Maybe you feel your best when you go for a run. Or when you watch an episode of your favorite show and go to bed early. Or when you set aside an hour to blast music and dance in your room. Or when you do the most luscious face mask. Whatever makes you feel happy and healthy—it’s valid, important, and deserves to take up space in your calendar.
- Spend your next Friday night in. No, your friends won’t hate you.
Freshman year, I constantly found myself saying “yes” to a night out, even when I want to say “no.” Later, during the week, I would find myself wishing I had listened to my gut and said no to going out—whether it was because I had a paper to write or I just wanted a day to myself. FOMO is real, but so is the exhaustion, unsettled feeling, and general unhappiness that comes from being pulled in a million different directions. Research shows that learning to spend time with yourself is crucial to increasing your creativity, productivity, and resilience. And the icing on top of the cake is that surprisingly, studies show that alone time actually increases your empathy towards others, not the opposite way around. If you’ve got the party of the decade this Friday that you just can’t miss—fine. Just as long as you take Saturday for yourself. Deal?
- Journal—daily, weekly, twice a week, whatever works for you.
I keep a calendar or a planner where you write down your top three priorities for each day, then make sure you get those things done. Understanding your priorities is absolutely key to practicing intentional, effective self-care.
For me, journaling helps me find purpose and feel productive. I used to have trouble journaling and seeing the value in journaling until I realized that journaling didn’t necessarily mean recapping my. day hour by hour. In my journal, I reflect on things I learned, ideas I had throughout the day, interactions with different people—anything that crosses my mind. Journaling can help you stay in constant dialogue with yourself, make meaning out of confusing feelings, and learn lessons from even the most mundane things.
- Take yourself on a “date”.
Single or not, we wholeheartedly believe that self-dates are a fantastic way to show yourself some love! Every week, I make sure to set aside time to do something just for me—some of my best mornings in New York have consisted of getting off campus, going to a coffee shop, and treating myself to my favorite latte.
Treat yourself to a fancy dinner, see a movie, go shopping. Get dressed up—for yourself. Or dress down… Nobody’s telling you what to do! The cliche but true fact of the matter is that the longest relationship you’ll ever have is the one with yourself. Looking for ideas? Here are 24 dates to take yourself on. Who said chivalry was dead?
We pour a lot of ourselves and our energy into successes in our life, the communities, and the people around us, and we need to remember that self-care isn’t selfish. In fact, self-care helps us be a better friend, family member, and community member—because how can we properly be there for others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves? This school year, challenge yourself to be better at self-care—your body, mind, and community will thank you!