In this article about self-care, the header is a picture of a female-appearing figure, from the shoulders down, holding a red mug of tea. Photo credit to Alisa Anton
cambridge,  lifestyle,  mental health,  studying

MENTAL HEALTH | A guide to ‘boring’ self-care

Self-care does not have to be – and in fact should not be limited to – extravagant treats and pampering trips out. It is also not just for when you’re feeling sad and things are already too much. Self-care, as shown in Instagram user makedaisychainscolourful page which celebrates some of the smaller, basic achievements in everyday adult life, is sometimes a little ‘boring’.

It is all too easy to get caught up in the Cambridge bubble, both a blessing and a curse. I love keeping busy, and when the holidays finally roll around and I feel like I’ve just run a very library-intensive marathon, it’s quite exhilarating (in an “i-want-to-sleep-for-16-hours-straight” kind of way). In the midst of deadlines and pressures to be working lots, socialising lots and having ‘the best time of your life’ (which is a terrible assumption to begin with), the small things can slip by forgotten. Yet these parts of life are important, and keeping on top of ‘boring self-care’ can make bigger things a lot less stressful.

  1. SELF-CARE IS EATING WELL

If you’re busy or feeling down, you might not fancy a trip to Sainsbury’s for ingredients followed by a three-course cooking session. But…

  • Eat breakfast if you can. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant, but it kick-starts your metabolism and has been linked to better overall health.
  • Try not to keep falling back on ready-meals, sugary snacks or worse, nothing at all. Treats are fine and good, but part of boring self-care is choosing something which is delicious and nutritious, for all three meals a day. Most college butteries are reasonably priced and offer vegetables as sides to get your 5-a-day, but if they don’t cater to your needs or you’re trying to save money, try to pick a few things which are simple to make in your kitchen: pasta in a tomato sauce with a sprinkle of cheese/mushroom/olives to make it more exciting, or couscous (literally just add water), or toss whatever vegetables you have lying around into a wok and make a stir fry!
  • If you’re too busy during the day to find a place for lunch, don’t skip it – grab some bread and your favourite fillings and a snack, and take a packed lunch. It’s infinitely cheaper than the cafés at Sidgwick…
  • Schedule eating into your day, and eat mindfully – no more picking at a sandwich while you finish an essay! You always have time to eat; you can’t work without something to fuel your body and mind.
  • HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE – slipping a water bottle into your backpack to take with you during the day makes you more likely to keep drinking, and you can easily top-up for free whenever you’re near a water cooler in lecture blocks or classrooms. Great for health, energy, and your skin, among other things!

 

  1. DON’T FORGET TO SLEEP

This is admittedly one of the harder ones for a lot of people, myself included. But sleep is important! Give yourself an early night whenever possible; turn off your laptop, resist the urge to scroll social media for an extra hour, mute notifications, and give yourself permission to disconnect. For more ‘boring self care’ points, remember the little routine things before bed – brush your teeth, take off the day’s makeup, maybe even do something calming before you settle like making a warm drink, listening to music or meditating.

 

  1. DO SOME LIFE ADMIN

Sometimes, self-care isn’t just about making yourself feel good in that moment. It’s also about tackling things before they build up, and facing up to the scary/dull things right now to make life a little easier for our future selves.

  • Write things down – deadlines, meetings with tutors, social plans, that book someone mentioned that you want to read in the holidays… put it all somewhere. In your phone, in a special planner, on a calendar on your noticeboard: whatever works for you. It will certainly make things easier when you know exactly what you’ve got on and when, so you’re not trying to finish a last-minute essay and attend your friend’s party on the same night, and you’re also not distracted while your brain tries to process everything at once.
  • Do your washing – if you can see the pile building up, don’t wait until you’re trying to get dressed for a day of lectures and you’ve nothing to wear. Plan ahead.
  • Tick off a lingering task on your to-do list: that email you’ve been meaning to send for a week? A non-urgent chore you’re putting off? Bedsheets that have needed changing for longer than you’d like to admit? They’re dull tasks, but they’re also an awesome way to give yourself a boost and feel like you’ve achieved something!

 

  1. GET SOME EXERCISE

Getting out into the fresh air doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming. Start small, and try:

  • Meeting with a friend for a walk, run or cycle ride – you can hold each other to the commitment!
  • Walk somewhere new – personally, I love visiting the duck pond in West Cambridge, or the Botanical Gardens which are completely free for students
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift, or walk instead of getting the bus.
  • Join a casual exercise class, or try yoga/exercise classes on YouTube.

 

  1. CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES

When you’re feeling down or stressed, even the most basic of things can and should be cause for celebration. Remember to be kind to yourself, and acknowledge achievements of the small things:

  • Showering and getting dressed
  • Brushing your teeth in the morning and before bed
  • Putting on moisturiser / sun cream
  • Remembering to take any medication or vitamins you may have
  • Making an appointment, registering with a GP, etc
  • Taking time to do a food shop

‘Boring self care’ is about doing small things to help the big things go more smoothly, and about prioritising the dull things even when you don’t feel like it. Take care – and make sure the bubble doesn’t isolate you from the basics.

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