Self-care can diminish life’s stresses

By Julia Rhea, Southwest Mental Health Counselor

The new semester can be chaotic for students. Some of you are embarking on a new journey by beginning your first-ever college level courses. Others are returning students who have an idea of what to expect. Regardless of how much experience you have with college, a new semester can present extra stress and anxiety in your life. The good news is that you can offset some of these feelings through self-care.

Self-care is defined as “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” Self-care is taking time out of the day or week to concentrate on keeping yourself happy and mentally healthy. Examples of self-care include:

  • Getting enough sleep. This is an important one. It is recommended that college students have between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep can help improve your memory, mood and grades, while decreasing your likelihood of getting sick.
  • Taking a break. If possible, give yourself plenty of time to do an assignment, and don’t start that big paper the night before. Take breaks between working on different assignments to give yourself a chance to collect your thoughts and clear your mind before you start on something else.
  • Journaling. Start a journal to write down your thoughts and feelings about the day. Be creative. There is no right or wrong way to journal. Just write down what feels right in that moment.
  • Exercising. Exercise has been proven to reduce stress levels. As little as five minutes of cardio can make a difference.
  • Doing what you enjoy. Take a bubble bath. Read a book. Listen to music. Watch a movie or television show. Take 20 or 30 minutes away from schoolwork to do what you enjoy.

These are just a few recommendations of ways you can take time out for yourself. Find what works for you and helps you relax. Make time to practice self-care at least once a week. If you notice that stress or anxiety is a major concern for you, please schedule an appointment to speak with a counselor at Southwest. Counseling is available for students by appointment at the Macon Cove Campus on Tuesdays and Fridays and at the Union Avenue Campus on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Other centers are by appointment only. For more information, call me at 901-333-5121 or email