5 Essential Self-Care Tips for College Students

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College is a unique period of your life. You go from a structured education system that you’ve known basically your whole life to then having total freedom: freedom to choose your classes, create your schedule, make new friends, join new clubs. It’s your time to step out as an adult, fresh and ready for what this world has to offer.

College can also be a time of immense pressure and stress. In order to really embrace college life while also taking care of yourself, Dallas Iron Fitness has put together for you 5 essential self-care tips for college students.


We know we’re preaching to the choir: you can’t expect your body (and your mind!) to feel good when you are not providing it with enough sleep, exercise, and hydration.

But these basics can be particularly difficult to prioritize in college, when your schedule changes day to day and a regular health rhythm is hard to stick to.

For instance, studies show that 70.6% of students report sleep deprivation—getting less than 8 hour of sleep each night. Half (50% y’all!!!) of college students report feeling sleepiness throughout the day, compared to only 36% of adolescents and adults. That’s a big difference.

And it’s easy to see why—often, college is seen as a time of packing it ALL in—a full class load, campus involvement, making new friends, internships and part-time jobs. Who can consider sleep when there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get it all done?!

But ignore the basics of self-care like sleep, and you’re putting yourself at risk for more than just a few yawns in your 8am.

Let this study tell you:

“Depression and sleep are interrelated. A cardinal feature of depression is disturbed sleep. Depression is common during the college years: 14.8% of students report a diagnosis of depression and an estimated 11% have suicidal ideation. Insufficient sleep can increase depressive symptoms. In a study of female college students, sleep debt of 2 hours per night and/or a bedtime after 2 am was associated with greater depressive symptoms. Irregular sleep schedules have been associated with greater depressive symptoms. Prolonged sleep latency was associated with loss of pleasure, punishment feelings, and self-dislike.”

The most important act of self-care? Taking care of the basics. Make sleep, exercise, and hydration an absolute priority.


“Sleep, work out, and water! Pretty much the same tips I follow now and also the same tips I give my clients.” — Jenna Courtney, personal trainer

“When I needed time for myself in college, I’d go to hot yoga or a run.” — Stephanie Ferris, client


HOW, though, do you put these basic, yet vital, self-care practices into action? You plan it out. And we mean plan out everything.

For those of you who are adamant that there simply isn’t enough time each day to take care of all your responsibilities while also exercise and also eating well and also staying hydrated and also getting enough sleep, you need to begin by taking a time inventory.


For a week, track how much time you are spending on each and every activity you do. For digital activities, like writing a paper or responding to emails, you can use a free app like RescueTime, that tracks how long you spend on each activity. Keep a detailed log of everything you’re doing (social media, texting, getting ready in the morning... everything!) for a week.

Once you have your time inventory, take a look at what you seem to be spending excessive time on unnecessarily. Much like a budget, you need to cut out the things that aren’t important with the things that are extremely necessary to your health (aka sleep, exercise, eating well). Probably the unnecessary thing that takes up your most time? Screen time. Do you need to scroll through Instagram before bed? Nope. Put the phone away, and get some zzz’s!


Planning out your week doesn’t have to be another burdensome task—make it fun! Make your favorite smoothie, put on some fuzzy socks, and turn your Sunday nights (or whatever day works for your schedule) into a date night with your calendar. Think ahead to your week, and plan out each and every detail of your week—what times you’ll wake up and go to bed each day, when you will work on that big mid-term paper coming up, when you will hit up your university’s gym for a run on the elliptical, the meals you’ll eat each day (a trip to the caf or a quick meal you’ve whipped up in your dorm?)... everything.


By regularly setting perimeters for your week, you’ll be able to work more productively and feel less chaotic knowing you’ve already given thought to what each week will bring.


“I also highly recommend scheduling out your week (I use google cal app on my phone) so you know you have time for everything and everyone including yourself. On Sundays, I block out my week with my work schedule, then I add in what events/dinners or things I planned with other people, and then I put in my workouts and ‘me time’ even if it’s for learning, expanding my skill set, a glass of wine. I think it prevents a lot of anxiety through the week with such a crazy schedule!” — Jenna Courtney, personal trainer


We’re not talking about a weekend trip (who has money for that on a college budget, anyways?). Sometimes, you just need to get away for a little bit, especially when you’re living in a dorm or sorority/fraternity house where you’re constantly surrounded by other people.

One way to do that: get out of the classroom and dorm settings of campus life, and get into nature. According to clinical psychologist Irina Wen, ph.D., “[Being in nature] reduces cognitive fatigue and stress and can be helpful with depression and anxiety.”

Find a park in your college town, or look to areas within an hour’s drive that have spaces for walking or being in nature. You’ll be able to get moving while spending some time de-stressing in a peaceful environment—wins all around!

Other ways to “get away”: take yourself on a solo lunch date with your favorite book, stop by the humane society for puppy snuggles, or make a playlist of your favorite tunes and take a drive around your new city (we won’t judge you for using your alone time to belt out your favorite songs).


“My freshman year of college, I lived with two other girls in a one-bedroom dorm. I love me some alone time, so I would create a playlist of my favorite tunes and drive to a Target that was 20 minutes away just for the sake of being alone for a bit.” — Ally Willis, web manager

“I’d drive to a larger town that was close to my college town to go to Newk’s and the mall.” — Stephanie Ferris

“I would walk down to the square and go to this little coffee shop in San Marcos. When I was in Lubbock, there were ponds randomly all over the city; I would go watch and feed the ducks. Sometimes I would read too, or bring my dogs. But it was always really peaceful.” — Krista Hoffarth, personal trainer


Phone addiction is real; I’m sure we can all share stories of times where we know we should be doing something else, anything else, but instead we’re scrolling through Instagram for the fourth time in the same hour.

When was the last time you woke up without immediately checking your Facebook notifications, read a book without your phone by your side, or watched a movie without updating your Twitter feed every other scene?

A report showed that 56% of users suffered that lurking FOMOfear of missing out. We’re human; we all compare. The never-ceasing presence of social media allows us to constantly see all the things we’re missing out on. REAL TALK: have you ever really felt good about yourself after scrolling through Instagram? Prolly not, dude.

Protect yourself from that pesky FOMO: flip that phone onto airplane mode and actively engage in something fun, whether it’s a walk around a nearby park or a night re-watching your favorite romcom. You are more able to enjoy the fun things you’re doing when you’re not constantly checking in to see what your suitemate is up to that night.


“I’d put my phone away and just watch Netflix for an hour or two.” — Stephanie Ferris, client


Feeling the pressure of school becoming too much for you to handle on your own? Hear this:


A survey of 63,000 students at 92 schools found that 61% of students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety in school.

Universities offer counseling services to students, often for no additional fee—it is absolutely worth it to check out your college’s counseling services to get that extra help to manage the stresses of college life, especially when those anxieties begin interfering with your day-to-day routines.

As sociologist Brene Brown said, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” Truth and courage—you’ve got both, babe. Asking for help when you need it is the best self-care you can offer yourself.

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