My three loyal readers (hi Aaron!) might notice that this HeartBeat will be a little more serious than the ones I usually write. I want to talk about what it means to practice self-care beyond a Netflix night and #treatyoself Target trip. It’s really hard to have this type of conversation in a way that’s meaningful or authentic, because the reality is, sometimes a face mask doesn’t cut it. Late winter is hard for so many of us. It’s a new semester, friends or SOs have just left to go abroad, you’re thinking about summer work or internships, it’s still cold as hell, and all the most interesting holidays have passed. So I want to share three strategies I’ve learned (after hours of counseling and a few self-help books) for taking care of yourself and overcoming the February blues.
Please note that these are just suggestions from my own experience, meant to start a conversation or get you thinking about self-care. This is not any sort of substitute for actual mental-health treatment. Boe House or Residence Life staff are both good resources if you are struggling with mental health.
Work on setting healthy boundaries. The idea is to know your own limits with friends and relationshis – balancing your alone-time and social-time. Being self-aware enough to know when being around a bunch of people and friends will cheer you up, or when you need to snuggle up in bed with a favorite book. This also means knowing how much you can give. Maybe your friend is going through a hard break-up and really needs to talk. Great. Maybe you can talk over dinner, but you know it will really start to impact your own mental health if you let that talk drag on over several days. Boundaries mean knowing yourself and how much you can give. That is not selfish. You are one half of that relationship and it doesn’t do the relationship any good if you don’t take care of yourself too.
Listen to your body. I think this one is SO HARD in college. To me, listening to your body means prioritizing physical health to improve your mental health. It means knowing that maybe if you sleep in until 10:00 a.m. every morning, you’re going to feel more tired than if you woke up at 8:00. It means eating when you’re hungry, and not eating when you’re not. It means knowing maybe you aren’t the world’s best athlete, but biking for 30 minutes every other day makes you feel more energized. This is, of course, different for everybody and every body but the idea is, you start to realize what your body needs to help you function at your fullest.
Find your safe space. It doesn’t have to be an actual space. This means finding something that you know recharges your energy and your mind. Maybe that’s going to choir rehearsal and setting aside your worries and stresses and just singing for a while. Maybe it’s joining a club of like-minded people. Maybe it’s calling Mom or Dad and just talking for a bit. Maybe it’s a good book or a coloring book. Find something that engages your brain and makes you feel good. Find a way to work it into your routine so it can help you keep your general stress levels down, instead of trying to pick up the pieces when it gets super bad.
I hope you’re able to take some of these suggestions into your own life and find ways to practice self-care this late-winter season.
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