Throughout life, we are loved dearly and we love others dearly. But we sometimes forget to love ourselves just as dearly as we are loved and love others. Knowing how to love ourselves is important all the time, but especially in times of stress or preparing to face a known stressor. College is that stressor for us. Graduation from high school can lift an immense burden off our shoulders, but college puts a burden back onto our shoulders during that pre-frosh summer whether it’s picking the right classes, the right major, or even just the right planner (which is very important). Here are ways to show yourself some self-love while preparing for college, and how to adapt the habits for your new college environment.
In both my mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy classes I was taught that meditation must be a disciplined lifestyle in order to be truly effective, not just a once a week hobby. I disagree. I’ve found that when I feel myself burning out from emotional or academic stress, I can stop and take five minutes for myself to sit and breathe, listening to a YouTube clip of crashing waves or falling rain.
Download a meditation app: Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer. Or don’t download one and just meditate with the timer on your phone. Meditate when you’re stressed about moving away from home or “Should I bring my teddy bear?” Some people don’t “believe” in meditation, as if it doesn’t actually work. But after a five-minute meditation, I think I feel better. Maybe I’m not “actually” better or less stressed because my meditation isn’t a disciplined lifestyle, but if I think I feel better, then I’m all the more ready to face the world again. Whether you believe in meditation or not, it may be the break your mind and body needs.
At college: With equally stressed roommates and partying floormates, it may be difficult to find peace and quiet even for just five minutes. Add earplugs to your shopping list. They’re a cheap fix to ensure a deep meditation and, even better, a good night’s sleep. Noise-cancelling headphones are an optional investment if you haven’t made it already. Also consider searching for a space around your campus you can turn to for some short-term privacy: a lonely corner of the library, the stairwell out of the way that no one uses, or even a designated safe space. My school has a room designated as “Reflection Space” in the Student Center where students freely go to meditate or do yoga.
It’s no news that exercise can relieve emotional, mental, and physical stress and contribute to a more productive lifestyle. But it does need reiterating because even though we all know how good exercise is for us, we’re not all doing it. Maybe it’s too hot to run outside, gym membership is expensive, the nearest pool is miles away and you have no car, or you’re scared of gaining muscle (which, by the way, is not as easy as it sounds, much to my disappointment). I’m not going to instruct you to start running or lifting anyway, whatever your reason for not doing so already (though it would be great if you did).
Take the summer to find what works for you: running, lifting, swimming, yoga, crossfit, pilates, zumba, sports, or even just Blogilates. Especially Blogilates. Even though high school graduates are getting ready to face the next step towards the real world, we can’t overlook the fact that you guys are still pretty limited whether it’s no car, no money, or no time. It may sound offensive to say there’s no excuse for not exercising anyway, but there really isn’t. You can look up basic five- to twenty-minute workouts online: cardio circuit on Bodybuilding.com or booty-toning on Youtube.
Deciding what your niche is before arriving at college is a great help. It’s better to learn and get comfortable with a workout style in the privacy of your home or local gym, rather than awkwardly putz around the campus gym trying to work the lat pull down only to get discouraged that others are waiting to work in with you.
At college: Poke around the gym or rec center early in the year (with a friend, if it helps) and make a plan of how to adapt your fitness routine. You have a treadmill at home, but the gym has mostly ellipticals. Look online for an elliptical workout. Your local gym had five Olympic benches, but this one only has two. Look around for chest machine you can use for days you can’t get a bench. During the beginning of semesters, the gym is filled with curious newcomers trying get their bearings. No one will notice one more casually inspecting the equipment and space.
We at The Prospect continually emphasize the importance of reading (here, here, and here, just to link a few), because it can only add to your intellectual and personal growth that is all the more important when entering college. Start broadening your interests by reading fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, graphic novels, autobiographies, the classics, self-help, and essays. Don’t force yourself to trudge through Charles Dickens’ Bleak House or Carl Sagan’s Cosmos if it doesn’t capture you. Find the genre or author that makes you enjoy reading. It can develop into a hobby or passion that you can engage in anywhere and sometimes at little cost.
Browse through a Barnes & Noble or the Google Play store. Ask your friends or family if you can borrow copies of their favorite books. My ideal method of obtaining books that works perfectly in the summer is local book sales where I’ve picked up some of my favorite books for just a dollar or even fifty cents. (Check Book Sale Finder for book sales near you.) Stock up on physical or digital copies during the summer so you always have something to turn to during the school year.
At college: Days and nights are busy in college but I’d doubt the credibility of anyone who says they can’t spare the time for a single paragraph or page per day. Have a book near your bedside and read just one page, or even just one paragraph, every night. Slow progress is still progress. If you find yourself able to commit to reading, bring the book with you throughout the day. Read when you arrive to class early. Kill the ten minutes between meetings with a couple pages of 1984. I personally keep a digital version of a book on my phone so all my little paragraphs read here or there always add up throughout the day. I’ve found that this method works perfectly for bolstering my vocabulary and expanding my interests despite a busy schedule.
Maybe these suggestions seem like overkill or obvious self-improvement encouragements you hear from everyone around you. But it’s not for no reason. There’s no better time to start (or further) attending to one’s mental, physical, and intellectual health than when all of those aspects are about to be put to the test in one of the most important stages of life. Do yourself a favor and try meditating, exercising, or reading for yourself. Just five minutes of silence, three push-ups, or one paragraph can set you on the path for the healthy lifestyle in college.