The main thing I struggle with as a student is taking time away from work and actually having some self care time. I get too into projects and completely lose track of time, usually working well past the point when I’d normally go to sleep.
But this really isn’t healthy, either for my physical or my mental health.
So as I progress onto my Masters degree (that still seems so surreal to actually say!) I’m determined that I won’t make the same mistakes that I did on my undergrad!
Let face it, most of us don’t drink nearly enough water; including me. I’ve noticed is that when I’m working on a project, I get so caught up in it that I complexly forget to drink – even if I have a bottle of water next to me on my desk.
I’ve really worked hard to improve this recently and I must admit, I’ve noticed a huge difference to my health!
I have more energy and feel a lot more awake, plus the number of headaches/migraines I get has dropped quite a bit since I increased my water intake. It hasn’t been easy but I can usually manage about 2L a day now; back when I had a Fitbit it was a lot easier as it would remind me to move ever hour, and during that time I’d made sure to drink a cup or two of water too.
Even though I’ve gotten rid of my Fitbit, I had it long enough for the habit to stick thankfully.
It might not seem like an obvious way to practice self care, but looking after your physical health is just as important as looking after your mental health.
Normally I’m in bed and asleep by 11pm, but I’m also a workaholic and will carry on working well past this point if I’m really into a project. Even though I’ve been told plenty of times that this is a positive thing, I actually can’t say I agree.
Working yourself into exhaustion is not healthy at all, so putting away your work and getting an early night every so often is a must; if you’re tired you’re going to struggle to concentrate and will probably end up making mistakes.
Having an early night means you can wake up well rested and refreshed, ready to get back into your projects with fresh eyes.
It doesn’t matter if you have a full blown, hour long skincare routine or just wash your face with cold water every day – taking care of your skin is a great way to practice self care and self love.
It seems really simple, but at the very least you should try to wash your face when you first wake up and then again before you go to sleep. I usually use cold water in a morning to help me wake up, and warm water on an evening to help me relax; normally with my Main!tone micro-fibre cleansing cloth, to make sure I get rid of any dirt or makeup that might be on my face and neck.
This doesn’t have to mean going to the gym every single day, it can be something as simple as getting up every hour or so to walk round and stretch.
Yoga is a big part of my morning self care routine, and I tend to do a few minutes worth of stretches regularly thought out the day. I used to be really bad for just sitting at my desk all day, staring a my laptop and not moving; which really isn’t good for you.
I already struggle with an undiagnosed condition that causes me to be in pain for most of the day anyway, and sitting in one position for long periods of time makes that ten times worse.
Getting up and leaving a task can also be a great way to find a new perspective and can really help if you’re struggling with a project. There’s been plenty of times where I’ve had writers block so I’ve got up, had a stretch and maybe done a quick task like put some clothes in the washing machine; then when I’ve come back I’ve found a new burst of inspiration.
Okay so this one seems really obvious but it’s something we all do; even me. If I end up with a project I don’t like or don’t understand, I have a habit of working on the ones I do like which results in the other being left until the last minute.
I ended up doing that with one of my projects last year, I left it until the last minute because it was code based and I absolutely detest coding. I ended up doing the whole project in just a week (thanks to quite a few YouTube tutorials!) and by some miracle ended up getting a First for it.
I’ve still no idea how I did it but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it; I ended up with some serious burnout, anxiety and probably only slept 20 hours that whole week.
This is probably the most important point in a lot of ways; never get so busy and engrossed in your work that you forget to have fun and enjoy yourself.
I’m always trying to get the best grade possible or find a way to increase my earnings as a freelancer, but I also try and balance that with doing something non work or uni related.
Some days I’ll want something that’s a bit more active so I’ll either play on the xbox or do some exercise; usually dancing around my room to classic 90’s songs.
I used to do dance classes as a kid and I still remember a lot of the old routines!
Other days I want to do something more relaxing like loosing myself in a book, drawing or coloring in. I’m really loving using my iPad Pro and iPencil to color in on, it doesn’t waste any paper and you can reuse the same image multiple times.
I’ve recently been using some of the lovely mandalas that Gemma has designed, which you can find on her Patreon page. She’s created an art therapy subscription package on there which I think it such a great idea, plus you choose to donate whatever you can afford.
I use the procreate app and there are so many free brushes you can get for it, its a great way to create different styles using the same image. It’s also the app I used to create my oracle deck (which will be going on sale in my shop soon) and all my other designs too.
Whatever your hobbies or interests, make sure to take some time away from work for them.
This post was written in collaboration with Gemma, who kindly sent me a selection of her lovely mandala designs. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.
A twenty-four-year-old autistic writer and designer from Sheffield. Tattoo obsessed, animal lover, self confessed bookworm and eclectic witch.