Taking Care of Yourself for the First Time

Attending college may be the first time you are living away from caregivers and family members who helped take care of your health. Developing self-awareness of your physical and emotional well-being and learning proactive self-care practices are important to your success at school and beyond. There are many things to consider when it comes to taking care of yourself while at school.

Knowing What Your Body Needs to Feel Your Best

Think about a recent experience you had where you felt your best. What conditions facilitated that moment? 

  • Were you well rested? If so, how much sleep did you get the night prior? 
  • Were you well fueled? If so, what do you recall eating that day? 
  • Did you feel energized[link to other content][ by a specific activity? If so, what was it and why was it so engaging for you? 

Knowing these answers can help you to find balance and build a routine that supports your needs and optimal health. Equally as important is knowing the signs of being run down and how your body feels when you get to that point. Similarly, think about an experience you had where you didn’t feel so great. Maybe you had a cold or other illness, or maybe you felt physically exhausted. What was going on in that moment or the days or weeks before? What circumstances were different compared to when you felt your best? 

Knowing When You Aren’t Feeling Your Best

The following are commonly reported by people who are feeling run down. Can you relate to any of these experiences? 

  • Feeling like you are disorganized, unable to complete tasks, or overwhelmed by where to start
  • Constantly feeling physically and mentally tired 
  • Increased difficulty completing regular exercise routines
  • More frequent illnesses like colds or persistent illnesses that you can’t seem to recover from
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Headaches and other areas of tension
  • Unusual or intense cravings for salty or sweet foods
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Moodiness and agitation
  • Dehydration

While everyone has a unique response to being run down, it is important to seek care if you experience several of these symptoms, if they worsen, or if they persist after you take steps to feel better. This may be a sign there is some other underlying physical or mental health concern. While making an appointment with a campus health or mental health provider may seem scary or like one more thing to do, waiting too long to seek care can compound your symptoms and make you feel worse. It is better to be preventative and seek care early on. 

Knowing How to Take Care of Yourself

There are several things you can do to prevent illness and burnout. Prioritizing and getting adequate sleep, managing time, exercising, and having a practice to reduce stress are protective factors for both physical illness and feeling run down. Illness can also be prevented by regularly washing your hands or using hand sanitizer, avoiding people who are ill, covering your coughs and sneezes, and limiting the sharing of cups and utensils, food, lip balms, and smoking or vaping materials. 

That being said, if you do get sick or feel run down, having a “Self-Care Survival Kit” of over-the-counter medications, soothing items, and a stress management practice accessible to you can help alleviate and improve your symptoms.