There is no doubt that college is fun, but you may be surprised at how stressful it can be. Practicing self-care is essential to your success. Even if you are on a shoestring budget, there are many affordable self-care strategies that you can use to help maintain focus and productivity. Don’t wait until you feel overwhelmed to look for a solution. You can practice self-care on a budget by infusing wellness practices into your daily routine. Take a look at some creative ideas that are accessible to every college student.
1. Get Physically Active
It is important to be physically active every day while in college. Access to college facilities makes exercising a cheap self-care idea. Exercise reduces stress levels, frees the mind and releases endorphins into the body. Most colleges provide the free use of a swimming pool, weight room and indoor track. You can even play your favorite sport by joining an intramural club.
2. Unplug from the World
You might be surprised how screen time taxes your mind. Try turning off your phone or computer to unplug from the outside world. Self-care on a budget requires creativity and you can unburden yourself from media distractions for free just by staying away from your electronic devices. You might be surprised by how easy it is to relax when you aren’t trying to answer texts and respond to social media posts.
3. Sleep is a Cheap Self-Care Idea
Don’t underestimate the power of eight hours of sleep. Your mind and your body need time to rejuvenate, and sleep is an affordable self-care option. It may be tempting to stay up late with your friends, but you are at risk of falling asleep in class the next day. Schedule eight hours of sleep into your daily schedule and you will be surprised at the energy and focus that will sweep over your mind and body.
4. Make Healthy Food Choices
Have you heard of the “Freshman 15?" It is common for college students to gain weight during their first year in school. High calorie food choices in the cafeteria and the option to chip in on a late-night pizza order are contributing factors. Making nutritious food choices in the cafeteria and avoiding unhealthy snacks is truly self-care on a budget.
5. Keep a Personal Journal
As you explore newly found independence and ponder your next steps in life, you may encounter stress and anxiety. Try keeping a personal journal to help you sort through your thoughts and feelings. You don’t even have to go out and buy a fancy journal. Put some paper in a three-ring binder for a cheap self-care item that will help you stay grounded and track your personal growth.
6. Maintain Your Sense of Humor
All work and no play limits happiness and emotional wellness. Be sure to laugh every day. Gather some friends together to watch a comedian online or hold your own amateur comedy hour in the floor lounge. Most campuses provide free or low-cost events that will help you participate in affordable self-care activities.
7. Get Involved on Campus
Don’t forget to get involved on campus to round out your collegiate experience. Most clubs and organizations are eager for new members and the reward is an opportunity to build your resume and meet new friends. Socializing and gaining leadership experience is a cheap self-care idea that is re-energizing and will connect you to the campus community.
8. Host a Game Night on Your Floor
If you're dreading a weekend that's dedicated to studying, plan to take a break with a fun activity. After all, you aren’t alone. Gather your floor mates together and host a game night in the lounge for a cheap self-care idea. Most dorms even have games that you can check out, but a deck of cards will do the trick. A study break will help you feel rejuvenated and provide a necessary social outlet.
9. Practice Meditation and Spirituality
Schedule some time each week to practice meditation or spirituality. Many campuses offer Yoga classes, or if you are religious, you may find a religious service on campus or in the community. Even if you just take 15 minutes each day to practice mindfulness, you will be more centered and ready to tackle the next task.
10. Visit the Counseling Center
It's common for students to seek the help of a counselor, at some point, during their college career. Most college campuses have a counseling center to provide students with the opportunity to talk through their feelings of stress and anxiety. Affordable self-care is rooted in knowing when it is helpful to seek the help of a professional.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.