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Feeling Burned Out? Evaluate Your Self-Care Strategies

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There is no denying that students have experienced elevated stress levels in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – even a year into it. Full-time and part-time students face a strenuous amount of work, which is only amplified by things like social distancing, furloughs, career changes, and for parents, limited access to childcare.

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In Career Services, we often speak with students who juggle coursework, a full-time or part-time job, and personal responsibilities such as caring for a family. But with so many responsibilities, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to care for yourself.

With the new demands brought on by the pandemic, it is evident that now, more than ever, self-care is critical. Implementing self-care is an evolving process of growth and change. Try integrating these three strategies to help you balance your self-care needs on a busy schedule.

Establish Boundaries and Put Yourself First

Establishing boundaries is not a rare form of self-care, but it can be difficult to do. Boundaries help you focus on what matters most and protect you against the conflicting demands of life by limiting distractions. Implementing boundaries reduces your stress, improves your relationships, and supports your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

Executing established boundaries does not impede or require you to rearrange your schedule. In fact, without these distractions, you may even find spare time in your day. Some ways to establish boundaries include:

  • Unplugging: Avoid answering your phone calls or text messages (except for an emergency) after a set time each morning and evening. You could also turn off notifications during certain times of the day, such as during class or meetings, scheduled study time, or family time.
  • Distancing yourself from social media: Social media has been linked to an increase in stress and anxiety, as well as an addiction to these platforms. The more time you focus on social media, the less time you have to focus on yourself, your goals and your responsibilities. Try to invest more time in yourself.
  • Simplifying your schedule: Say no to additional tasks that will require you to work more than necessary. By saying no to tasks that someone else can do, you have more time to focus on the tasks you really need to accomplish.
  • Pampering yourself: Participate in activities that bring you joy, such as going out with friends, taking a day trip with your family or reading a book for a class you are taking. 

Practice Self-Compassion: Free Your Mind to Help Free Your Time

Negative thoughts consume your time and make you feel less productive. To help you reclaim time for yourself and your commitments, integrate self-compassion into your daily self-care regimen.

Self-compassion can be a challenging form of self-care, but it is also crucial. Self-compassion helps us empathize with ourselves, rather than criticize our pitfalls and conceal our emotions.        

A recent study by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford concluded that implementing self-compassion can reduce your heart rate and switch off your body’s threat response. By expressing self-compassion, you are caring for your overall mental and physical wellbeing. Here are a few ways to practice self-compassion:

  • Mindfulness: Acknowledge the existence of painful feelings and learn how to ease them with kindness. It is okay to give your mind and body a break. 
  • Positive Self-Talk: Reframe your negative thoughts to include positive self-talk. For example, rather than thinking, “I can never get anything right!” try thinking, “I did not get it right this time, but next time, I will seek advice from others and take a different approach to ensure what I do is accurate.”
  • Reflection: Reflect on your positive attributes in the morning. At the end of the day, identify and write down three to five things you like about yourself, as well as your daily accomplishments.

Maintain Balance and Commit to Self-Care

Self-care requires small steps, practice and perseverance. As you improve your self-care, strike a balance between different self-care techniques and your daily responsibilities. Be sure to create a plan and stick with it; that way, it can be easily integrated into your routine.

Self-care has many components. If you become off-balance, you may not be able to follow through with your self-care techniques.

Self-care apps can also help you stay committed to self-care practices. Apps are less complicated and can easily be incorporated into your daily routine.

There are various apps designed for mental health, exercise, sleep, and mind and body. Here are some highly rated apps to help you implement and improve your self-care practices:

  • If you are into gaming, Habitica could be right for you. Habitica takes your to-dos and turns them into quests to keep you engaged and motivated. This app can help you keep your boundaries in check.
  • Implement self-compassion through the Happify app. Happify helps you boost positive thoughts and develop healthy resilience to life stressors while providing tools to overcome negative thoughts.
  • The Strides tracker assists you with staying on track. It will send you reminders for your daily self-care routine, keep you balanced throughout your day and ensure that you’re making yourself a priority. 

We tend to think that self-care requires more time and that it’s just another box to check off the to-do list. But self-care practices are beneficial to your health and often require little to no time at all.

The stress of trying to juggle several roles or responsibilities and not acknowledging yourself as a person can wear you down. By establishing boundaries, expressing self-compassion, finding the right balance and staying committed to self-care practices, you can effectively improve your health while maintaining an ongoing list of responsibilities. The more time you give to yourself, the more time you will be able to give to others.

Taylor graduated from Shepherd University in 2017 with a bachelor's in social work and a concentration in psychology. She began her career in higher education working for the Student Life Department at Lord Fairfax Community College, which led to her work as a Disabilities Fellow for Shenandoah University. She currently works in the Career Services Department as a Career Coach for STEM students, where she strives to build strong relationships with both current students and alumni. Taylor enjoys supporting students and alumni by teaching them job search strategies and helping them find value in their skills and experiences.

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