By Mallory Allen, Mara Allen, and Lindsey Gloede
It’s not the most wonderful time of the year! Final exams are rapidly approaching. As the Wisconsin weather gets nicer, no one wants to be stuck inside studying and doing homework. 12 weeks into the spring semester, burnout is hitting hard. Most students just want to be done with school.
UW-Green Bay Wellness Center counselor Michelle Gauger understands how difficult being a college student can be. “For some, it may be their first time living away from home, which can be stressful, and for others, it’s the stress related to balancing family, work, academics, and a social life,” Gauger said. “For any student, learning more about mental health will allow them to address changes sooner to avoid things from feeling out of control.”
Here is a list of five simple and cheap ways for UWGB students to practice self-care. Check them out and try them for yourself.
- Attend a sunrise or relaxation yoga class.
For many people, yoga is seen as a relaxation activity. Yet on a daily basis, not many students can be found partaking in yoga classes, even when they are offered for free on campus.
Sunrise yoga instructor Victoria Stock says yoga promotes self-care by “allowing you to take time to clear your mind and focus on something that benefits you.” She has been teaching yoga and barre classes at UW-Green Bay since January of 2022. Stock personally likes to participate in yoga classes because it gives her a designated time to focus on something other than school and classes.
Stock’s classes are structured for all skill levels, and all required materials (mats, weights, etc.) are provided by the University Recreation Center. Whether it is a student’s first class or 100th, Stock works hard to provide poses and accommodations that allow everyone to participate at whatever level they are comfortable with.
- Go for a walk on the Arboretum trails.
Home to a 4.7-mile loop trail, the UWGB Arboretum is the perfect place to go for a walk and clear students’ minds while they become immersed in nature. Right on campus, the Arboretum offers a great avenue to take a walk close to home.
According to WebMD, “Walking provides the best of both worlds. It offers the physical benefits of exercise while also boosting your emotional well-being. In fact, walking regularly can help ease symptoms related to chronic mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.”
So, grab some walking shoes, a water bottle, and a friend and head out to the Arboretum for a relaxing walk.
We might just see you on the trails!
- Read a book – but for fun!
Most students are probably thinking: I’m in college; all I do is read – textbooks, scholarly articles, novels assigned for class. Why on Earth would I want to spend MORE time reading?
First and foremost, there’s a huge difference between being forced to read for school and choosing to pick up a book to read for fun. But more importantly, reading for pleasure offers a variety of both physical and mental rewards.
According to the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP), “Reading has been shown to put our brains into a state similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress and anxiety levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.”
There’s even a therapeutic framework called bibliotherapy, which employs books and other forms of literature to treat psychological disorders and support good mental health. Although the term bibliotherapy was coined in the 20th century, the concept dates back to ancient Greek and Egyptian societies that believed libraries were sacred spaces with special healing powers.
“When immersing yourself in a good book, you can be swept away to a world that is separate from yours, thus separating yourself from the dilemmas or stresses you may have,” writes Jennifer Van Pelt of Words Alive.
Dilemmas and stresses are plentiful for college students. Reading for pleasure is an excellent form of escapism. It can help take a break from worrying about whatever is bothersome – upcoming final exams, finding a summer internship, post-graduation plans, etc. People are able to lose themselves in a faraway world and the lives of make-believe characters, thus forgetting about the real world and their own lives for a while.
To put it simply, reading can be fun… and it’s really good for people! So, next time you’re in the library or running errands at Target, find a book that catches your eye and set aside time to read it, even if it’s only a chapter or two each day. Your brain will thank you!
- Try a “no-tech” hour at least once each day.
In today’s world, people’s lives basically revolve around screens. The vast majority of humans spend a ridiculous amount of time each day staring at their cell phones, laptops, tablets, and TVs.
Sure, some of that is unavoidable – after all, you can’t be a college student in 2022 without using technology – but most students would be astonished by their daily and weekly screen time statistics. Not only is this excessive screen time bad for people physically, but mentally too.
According to the Newport Institute, “A study of 4,000 young people aged 20–24 showed that young adults who make particularly heavy use of mobile phones and computers run a greater risk of stress symptoms.” Additionally, WebMD states that time spent on social media has been proven to decrease self-esteem and life satisfaction levels and increase depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
That’s where the idea of a digital detox comes in. Challenge yourself to unplug from all of your devices for at least one hour every day. That means no texting, no checking emails, no homework assignments, no watching Netflix. Instead, spend that hour doing one of the other self-care activities listed in this article, like going for a walk or reading a book. Maybe try meditating or spend some quality time with a friend.
You could even attempt a 24-hour digital detox where you don’t use any devices for an entire day. It’d certainly be challenging, but imagine how refreshing it would feel!
Sometimes, students just need to disconnect from technology and reconnect with the world – and, in doing so, reconnect with themselves.
- Enjoy some animal therapy!
Let’s face it, college is TOUGH. Imagine moving to a new place, adjusting to a new schedule, and making new friends. Arguably the worst of all is leaving behind the furry friends you grew up with.
While many on-campus living situations will not allow students to bring their furry pals along with them to school, there are many options to hang out with friends of a non-human variety while at college.
Events like Pause for Paws bring therapy animals on-campus in an effort to de-stress students. This event has become a recent monthly hit with the Phoenix community.
Mental Health America describes the mutually beneficial relationship between animals and humans as the “pet effect.” This phenomenon is due to a reduction of fear and anxiety-inducing psychological stress and an increase in oxytocin levels.
As the Pause for Paws events on campus come to a close, other options to interact with animals in the area include visiting a cat cafe or volunteering at a local humane society.
You Can Do It!
So, as we wrap up this article – and this semester! – consider giving these suggestions a shot. These five simple ways to practice self-care during the stressful time of finals can help students finish the school year strong.
Wellness Center counselor John Cheslock says it’s important for college students to engage in self-care and prioritize taking care of their mental health because:
“You deserve it! Investing in your mental and physical health is the BEST investment you will ever make. It can save your life!”