It’s that time of year when you have to say goodbye to your pets and enter the world of noisy neighbors and tough trials testing your patience. Seasonal depression begins to nip at the edges of your mind, cold tickling your ears as you struggle to pick up each foot to walk to your 9:00 a.m. class.
Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, overexcited or just over-the-top emotional that you don’t even know how you are, self-care is one of the most important things you can invest your non-existent free time in. After all, how can you get through this term if you don’t take care of the one thing that makes all of it possible: yourself.
Take me for example. Once the beginning of my first year started, saying life hit me like a truck is an understatement. I felt like I was hit by a truck who then backed over me and then decided to drag me around the block a few times just for the kick of it. Yes, much worse things are going on in the world, but I really felt like I was being dragged around the block at the time. Not only was that month my first time living away from home, but my seasonal depression and anxiety skyrocketed as I struggled to find my place in a new town. With all the welcome activities and rush week and roommate issues and scorching heat with no air conditioning on the fifth floor of Poling Hall, I struggled to sleep because the sound of some guy singing in the men’s bathroom across the hall from me echoed off of every surface it could touch. So not only was I an exhausted mess already, but the lack of sleep made it even more impossible for me to function normally.
I was completely falling apart, crying to my mom on the phone every single day because my mental health was deteriorating faster than the fastest blinker in the world can blink. It was a low point in my life.
Things got bad enough that I couldn’t keep living like that, so I decided to make some changes. I moved into a new dorm with new roommates. I stopped letting myself be a doormat for others to walk on. I started going to bed earlier and making sleep my top priority. I started doing things that made me happy, like playing the piano despite being terrified that the sound echoed throughout Sackett Hall and that, God forbid, people would actually hear me. And what do all of these things have in common?
It was me taking care of myself.
My life took a ski lift up a mountain, saving me from the avalanches below because I decided to treat myself with the amount of respect I treat my friends with.
I cannot stress that enough. Treating yourself with the same respect you treat your best friends is so important. Learning to be your own biggest supporter is tough, but it’s so worth it. I learned how to do this through self-care.
I’m sure you can relate to my mental state from last year in some way or another. Now that story time is over and you don’t have to listen to me ranting about how life is hard sometimes, I’m going to give all of you people reading this some mental health advice so you can take care of yourself too.
First off, take a visit to the Counseling and Psychological Services on the fifth floor of Snell Hall, also known as CAPS. There’s the obvious options such as group therapy or individual therapy, but one thing many students don’t know about is that they have an entire branch of support dedicated to self-care.
So many options and so little time, yet it’s so worth it to take a bit of your day and spend it with DAM Good Self-Care at CAPS. There’s mindfulness meditation and the Mind Spa where you can “soothe your mind, body, and spirit” according to Oregon State University’s website. There’s a relaxation station, weekly art sessions at the OSU Craft Center (located in the basement of the Student Experience Center. You should definitely check that out too), wellness coaching, and more. I would highly recommend checking this out. Putting my mental energy into something other than my thoughts, such as art, meditation, and so much more has made a huge difference in my ability to step outside of my mental situation and clear my mind.
Keeping your emotional and mental health is great, and so is taking care of yourself physically, but the two actually go hand-in-hand.
Visit the Dixon Recreation Center. Take a fitness class, try out a new sport, run on the treadmill with a friend. I was never an athletic person before college, but once I started to work on my physical health, my mental health improved as well.
Maybe you feel too insecure to visit the gym crawling with guys whose biceps are as big as my dogs. That’s okay too! There are other ways to take care of your physical health.
Listen to what your body is telling you. If you’re tired, then take a nap or go to bed early. Throw on a face mask beforehand while you’re at it.
Don’t want to go out with your friends tonight? That’s okay! Stay in and watch your favorite feel-good movie. If you want to rest, then rest. How others react to your actions is their problem, not yours.
Make a habit of eating healthy. Put to use your knowledge from that one health class we all had to take in our first year here at OSU. Ever since I started eating a more balanced diet instead of just carbs, I’ve been feeling better physically. And, if that wasn’t already good enough, knowing that I’m taking care of myself physically has actually helped me mentally as well!
Read some self-help books. I tried this for the first time this past summer and it has drastically changed my mindset for the better. Mark Manson, in his New York Times bestseller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, states, “The trick with negative emotions is to 1) express them in a socially acceptable and healthy manner and 2) express them in a way that aligns with your values. Simple example: a value of mine is nonviolence. Therefore, when I get mad at somebody, I express that anger, but I also make a point of not punching them in the face. Radical idea, I know. But the anger is not the problem. Anger is natural” (Manson 85). Not only do I highly recommend this entire book, but I also recommend feeling your negative feelings. The trick to being happy is, oddly enough, to not always be happy. Work through your anger, sadness, anxiety, or whatever it is. The good part is that CAPS can help you with that too.
If you’re not happy with your life, then something about it needs to change. The key is to find out what it is that you need to change. Cutting out the toxic parts of life is such a tough thing to do, but once you get it over with, you can finally feel the freedom to truly thrive.
And let me tell you: it is so worth it. I still have a long way to go myself because life will never, ever, ever be perfect. And that’s okay. Learn to be your own biggest supporter because you will always be there for yourself. Plus, you might as well be your own best friend considering you’re stuck with yourself for the rest of your life. I drive myself crazy but I’m also the funniest person I’ve ever met.
To put it simply, the key to self-care is treating yourself like you treat your best friend.
Respect yourself like you do your best friend.
Love yourself like you do your best friend.
Give yourself the advice you would give someone else in your situation.
That’s the single most important thing I’ve learned in my first year at Oregon State. I’ve learned many valuable things in all of my classes, but learning to treat myself with that same level of respect I show my friends has completely changed the way I treat myself and others, leading me to a happier and healthier life.
Of course, I’m no expert. I’m not some award-winning psychologist who has written award-winning novels on self-help and who has award-winning advice. I’m a student who could easily be in one of your classes and who is passionate about sharing my life experiences in hopes that someone else could benefit from my words.
So, if you’re at all interested in investing time to take care of yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically, try one of the things I mentioned in this article. It only takes a little bit of time and energy. You don’t have to commit to becoming a self-help Instagram influencer. You can just invest five minutes in your day to evaluate what your mind and body needs in that moment. It’s all up to you.
Here’s to staying sane through the seasons without the sun. Take care of yourself.