Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of blogs targeted to the prospective KWU student. This chapter is constructed to acknowledge the previously unknown stressors and challenges faced by many throughout the past 13 months, and the difficulties that returning to traditional scheduling may cause.
Part Two: Choosing a Major, March 5, 2021
Part One: Why Salina?, Feb. 12, 2021
Most college students have had their daily routines defined by rigid schedules for their whole lives. In college, much of that structure falls away, and you might be tempted to throw all caution to the wind and forget the importance of a schedule and its benefits.
While the topics I’m going to discuss aren’t instant mental health and stress fixes, they do help when it comes to discovering your personal self-care routine. Having a daily routine, one that you decide upon, can be the difference between trudging through each day and having the energy to accomplish tasks as they arise.
The first part of your routine that you should solidify is your sleep schedule. I know, you just got away from home. You probably escaped the clutches of a bedtime dictated by your parents, and now you want to stay up late binge-watching Netflix without fear of getting scolded. I get it, but I promise no one’s asking you to throw in the towel before midnight.
I’m what I assume is a rare breed of college student; I’m in bed before 11 p.m. each night, and I’m awake by 6:30 each morning. What’s important about my schedule, though, is not the early sleep and wake time, it’s the consistency. If you want to sleep from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m., just in time to make your 10 a.m. class, go for it! As long as you’re getting the sleep you need, and you’re not putting your body through constantly changing sleep cycles, you’re setting yourself up for a healthier lifestyle. (That said, consider looking into the potential benefits of sleeping and waking up early, along with how to discover your “peak” waking and working times.)
The next two suggestions go hand-in-hand: healthy eating and staying active. I’ll be the first to admit that, after sitting through classes all day, a convenient frozen meal I can pop into the microwave is tempting. This is coming from someone who lives in a house with a kitchen, not a shared dormitory, too. Basically, each meal doesn’t have to be perfectly rounded, but do your body a favor and attempt to get all proper nutrients, particularly those that come from protein-based foods, fruits and vegetables. Personally, I also take vitamin supplements like Vitamins C and D to keep my immune system in proper order, especially in these times of COVID-19.
On top of that, keep your soda intake low — I know, caffeine is key to those late-night cram sessions, but it won’t help your sleep schedule or your stress — and focus on drinking plenty of water. You can even forget the eight cups a day rule. Though the recommended water intake varies, often you can consume an adequate amount simply by taking your weight, halving it, and drinking that many ounces of water. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, you would need to consume 75 ounces of water. This is the tactic I’ve been using for a few years now, and it’s helped me stay mindful about my hydration levels.
Major disclaimer: your body’s needs are going to vary from mine and everyone else’s, and I’m not a doctor. The above are merely suggestions, and ones that you should consult a medical professional about if you’re uncertain how to start a healthy diet, what supplements you should take, or how much water you should be consuming.
As for exercise, I think we all know the benefits of working out and keeping our bodies active; it can vastly improve physical and mental wellbeing. Many students might not have time to implement a daily workout routine, especially if it involves going to the gym. Activities as simple as walking to and from class, taking a lap around campus or, in KWU’s case, taking the stairs in Pioneer Hall can prove just as effective for getting your body moving.
Personally, I find keeping active to have enormous benefits on my stress levels and muscle tension. Most days I do at home yoga, guided by Adriene Mishler, whose YouTube channel is a godsend for anyone interested in yoga, meditation or gentle exercise. I also supplement or replace yoga with bike rides and walking my dog, when the weather’s nice. This activity, after spending most of my day at a desk, helps keep headaches and muscle pain at bay.
I also encourage you to realize the importance of rest — not sleep, rest. One thing I’ve learned since the beginning of the pandemic is that we are all always rushing around. Some of us never take the time to stop and assess our wellbeing. We power through bad days and ignore when our body pleas for proper care. In my opinion, there is no better way to send your mental health careening into a downward spiral.
Sometimes, it’s okay to take a day for yourself, to lay in bed for that extra 15 minutes in the morning or to admit that you’re not having a good day, rather than slapping on a smile and forcing positivity. This might be in direct opposition to the “just keep going” sentiments we’ve heard all our lives, but I promise you, in the long run, choosing to listen to your mind and body when it needs rest will serve you well.
I realize that much of what I’ve just told you can simply be read online anywhere. I only reiterate this information because I’ve found all of these tactics very important to my college journey. When I let my established basic routine fall through the cracks, I’m left exhausted, in pain and sluggish. Simply being mindful about my sleep schedule, food intake, exercise and mental state puts me on the path to a better, healthier life. Consider this routine the foundation of your self-care journey, a baseline to help you discover what you need to make sure you’re taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing.
Written by Skylar Nelson