11 simple ways to practice self-care

19 November 2020

As a student, looking after your mental health and wellbeing is important. So this self-care week, we've put together a list of simple ways to look after yourself and your wellbeing.

a park in autumn with fallen leaves on the ground

What is self-care and why is it important? 

Self-care is any activity you do to take care of your mental, emotional and physical health, and this will look different for each person. So, contrary to what Instagram might tell you, it's not all bubble baths and social media detoxes. 

Self-care is essential as it helps us to refuel and consider our own needs, and taking space away needing to feel 'productive'. It can help to uplift your mood, manage anxiety and maintain good relationships with yourself and others. Making time in your day for small acts of self-care can have a significant positive impact on different parts of your life, including feeling more secure, less anxious or more confident – which will benefit your university life and studies.  

By building up actions that help you look after yourself, you are building up a toolbox of sorts, of ways to help yourself and develop your resilience. Adopting some of these now can help you build healthy habits and coping mechanisms.

11 ways to practice self-care 

Go for a walk  

During lockdown, walking is one of the few activities we can do freely. Why not head out for a walk to your nearest park or around your neighbourhood? Spend time observing what is happening around you: at this time in the year, leaves are falling and crunch underfoot and the air is cold and crisp. What else can you see, smell, hear, feel and taste? 

You could also use this time to listen to music if you’d prefer, or catch up with a friend as you’re doing some exercise. If you need an incentive to get out and about, why not plan your route to a new coffee shop, to go dogspotting in your local park, or listen to a podcast as you walk

Watch your favourite film

Taking time to go back to watch your favourite film can be a great way to decompress and take some time out.  

Arrange your space

Having a clean, tidy and organised space can help you de-clutter your mind, too. You can do this in small bursts to tackle one space or task at a time if it feels overwhelming. Why not start by changing your sheets so you can get into a lovely clean bed tonight? 

Cook yourself nutritious and balanced meals

The act of cooking can bring joy and a sense of focus too. You get instant gratification for your efforts, and fuel your body. Find a recipe for something you’re really craving, make an effort to cook with lots of fresh vegetables and balance your plate between food groups. If you live with others, see if they’d like to join in and you could even do a recipe swap, or cook for each other now and then.  

Reach out to friends and family  

It is a little harder to stay connected with your loved ones when you can’t see them in person, but they are always on the other end of the phone. You don’t always have to catch up – you could do an activity ‘together’, watch a TV show or film - there are plenty of ways to spend time together even if you can't see each other in person. 

Listen to a podcast  

From comedy to activism, politics to literature, it feels like there is a podcast covering every topic now. Do some research on the top recommended podcasts in whatever genre you’re most interested in and get listening. Podcasts are a great way to focus on something else, learn something new and just listen in on a story or conversation between others, without needing as much concentration as reading might do.  

Read a chapter of your book 

It can be hard to get into the headspace of reading as a student when you have so much to read for your course. So, try and find something that grips you, whether fiction or non-fiction – and try to make sure it’s something not too closely related to your studies so you give yourself (and your brain) a break. 

Breathe properly

You breathe over 25,000 times a day, so make sure you’re making the most of it. Proper breathing follows five simple principles: breathing through the nose, breathing with the diaphragm, breathing when you’re relaxed, in a rhythm, and breathing silently. Learn more on this website, and try out some breathing techniques suggested by the NHS

Do some exercise

Exercise has benefits beyond moving your body. There is a strong positive link between keeping yourself physically healthy and looking after your mental health. Take some time to figure out what type(s) of exercise you find most beneficial for you. This will have plenty of positive impacts, including giving you more energy, helping you sleep better, and keeping you in good health.  

Sleep well

One of the best things to do for yourself is to try and get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Try to establish a good night-time routine for yourself, and put down your pesky phone well before heading to sleep – that blue light isn’t doing you any favours. 

Drink water 

Last of all, and perhaps easiest of all, drink water! Dehydration has plenty of adverse health effects which can be avoided by drinking two litres of water a day. Make a habit of having a big glass or bottle of water on your desk and sip regularly. This will help you stay healthy, support your organs and give you lots of energy. 

Read more self-care tips from UCL students. 

Looking after yourself

Whatever way you choose to look after your mental and physical health, whether you follow all or none of these suggestions, you are investing in yourself, your capabilities and resilience. This will help you in many ways, not least feeling refreshed and more able to study effectively. Looking after yourself might feel like an indulgence, but remember this is a valid use of your time, and you will derive many benefits from it. 

If you are struggling, Student Support and Wellbeing are here to help.