Self-Care Tips

student sits in guerry center studying with laptop and water bottle

Self-Care for the college student looking to stay healthy while at UTC.

Some students here at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will find staying healthy in college is a little harder to do—whether you’re living at home, in your first apartment or on campus.

Feel Well

Make sleep a priority.

Sleep lets our bodies heal themselves. When you don’t get enough, it affects every aspect of your life. With sleep deprivation, eventually your metabolism will slow down, this can then lead to weight gain, which can lead to diabetes … and high blood pressure … which is not good considering college students are working towards starting their new life.

Sleep is also essential for the human brain.  Not getting enough can contribute to depression, stress and anxiety.  As a college student, sleeping can be very difficult to do with late night studying, procrastination, social responsibilities and peer pressure. 

Try these tips to improve your sleep:

  • Try to stop using technology 30 min before bed.  This includes cell phone, laptop and tablet. The light created by technology blocks melatonin which can help you fall asleep.
  • No caffeine after 3 PM.  Caffeine can have a disruptive effect on your sleep. The most obvious effect of the stimulant is that it can make it hard for you to fall asleep. One study also found that caffeine can delay the timing of your body clock.
  • Sleep only an hour longer during the weekend than your latest weekday wake-up time.  Waking at the same time every day will actually help you to sleep better at night. A fixed wake time helps to build a strong desire for sleep throughout wakefulness. This sleep drive gradually builds, and shortening it by sleeping in will make it harder to fall asleep the next night
  • Incorporate as much time of each day as possible to be outside in daylight.  When you expose your body to the sun it helps alert the brain and keeps you in motion, and it also helps you sleep later on by influencing the chemistry of the brain, keeping us in sync with the ebb and flow of the day.

Sleep is the most important and the most underrated, good thing you can do for your body.  If you feel like your sleep habits are suffering, consider making an appointment with University Health Services or the UTC Counseling Center

Procrastinating does more harm than you realize.

Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute and a whopping 80% to 95% of college students procrastinate on a regular basis, particularly when it comes to completing assignments and coursework.  The reality is most students are waiting until they are in the right frame of mind to do certain tasks (especially undesirable ones).  Unfortunately, the right time often never comes along and the task never gets completed.  There are a number of different things you can do to fight procrastination and start getting things done on time. 

  • Make a to-do list to help keep you on track and consider place a due date next to each item.
  • Take baby steps and break down the items on your list into small, manageable steps so that your tasks don’t seem so overwhelming.
  • Recognize the warning signs and attention to any thoughts of procrastination and do your best to resist the urge. If you begin to think about procrastinating, force yourself to spend a few minutes working on your task.
  • Eliminate distraction by asking yourself what pulls your attention away the most.  Is it social media, recreational distractions, relationship obligations?  Think about using an alarm to set a time for tough tasks.  Talk to friends and family; ask them to keep you in check and turn off social media.
  • When you finish an item on your to-do list on time, congratulate yourself and reward yourself by indulging in something you find fun. 

Don’t beat yourself up about not getting everything perfect. Focus on what needs to be accomplished versus what can be avoided. Most importantly, realize that achieving goals and changing habits takes time and effort, but in the end your actions will be rewarded.   

Build connections. 

Socialization is a significant element in campus life and can help relieve the stresses of the new daily norm. Connecting with other people is especially important for incoming students as they adjust to the realities of new living arrangements and relationships.  Socialization can be a powerful tool, and it opens tremendous opportunities for students. However, it’s important to manage it, to ensure maximum success and happiness. Making socialization a priority over academics, can create a crisis, so maximize the benefits of your campus social life but keep in mind good time management skills. 

Consider the following tips to kick-start your social networking: 

  • Participate in an extracurricular activity to connect with other like-minded individuals. It’s good to meet unique and diverse individuals, no matter what your passion is. UTC is rich in organizations centered on religion, activities, politics, ethnicity, and special talents.
  • Make academics the priority. Earning a degree is the top goal of being in college.  Plan for activities to participate in, but make sure not to overload yourself. Know what time works best to attend classes and what time works for studying. Leftover time can be used to spend with friends and socializing.  This ensures balance and won’t create a strain on academic goals or create mental health struggles.
  • Form deep and lasting relationships with new friends. Even if some of the connections are shorter term, they can support you in different ways. With a foundation of caring and concern, students are bound to find fulfilling interdependent relationships with others. It’s unlikely that students without interdependent relationships will experience these kinds of benefits.

Keep in mind the many benefits of socializing in college. It’s possible to have a healthy social life that’s balanced with other responsibilities.  Keep track of great social opportunities and events for students by checking in with the Center for Student Wellbeing on a regular basis.