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College, Stress

Overcome College Overwhelm with Self-Care

About a month into the semester, my students express that they feel overwhelmed and frustrated by their coursework

This happens to be when the demands of their classes are ramping up, and they’re frazzled.  They don’t know how they will get it all done.

Whatever the reason, they need help getting back on track, and start feeling better.

I have felt this way many times during my academic career, and I didn’t know how to deal with it for years.

Looking back, I often made it worse by trying to push through my feelings, and getting it all done.  Then, I would become mad at myself for being a ‘failure’ or panic because I didn’t know what else to do.

In this post, I will discuss a few types of self-care that will help you feel better and more in control of your semester.

Self-care is all about maintaining a healthy balance.  Practicing self-care will improve your mental, physical, and emotional health.

I find that when these areas are not maintained, I begin to feel overwhelmed and frustrated.  I struggle to concentrate, and sometimes I even get sick.  None of this helps me to do my best.


The first area of self-care that I pay attention to is sleep.  The amount and quality of sleep you get effects all areas of your health.  You also experience reduced productivity, focus, and concentration levels with poor sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens should get 8-10 hours of sleep, and adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep. I find that when I get too little of too much I don’t function as well.  I am also more prone to getting sick or feeling overwhelmed.

If you have trouble falling asleep, creating and following a sleep routine could cut down on the time you spend staring at the ceiling

You will find falling asleep easier when you go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, and set aside wind down time before heading to bed.


The next area of self-care that I give attention to is exercise.  You need aerobic activity and strength training for optimal physical health.

According to Psychology Today, research shows that exercise boosts your mood, reduces anxiety, and improves sleep. You will also think more clearly.

Each week, I aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity as recommended by the Mayo Clinic.  Walking, swimming or biking are great forms of exercise to do to meet this goal.

The Mayo Clinic also recommends two days of strength training each week. You can get a great workout at the gym, park, or your home.  Free weights, exercise bands, or your body weight are great choices.


Another area of self-care that I has helped me tremendously is meditation.  I try to practice at least a few minutes each day.

I find that morning meditation time helps me to set the tone for the day.  I experience more clarity, optimism, gratitude, and productivity when I practice meditation early in the day.

I prefer guided meditations in the morning.  You can find some great guided meditations on YouTube or the Calm app.

I include meditation in my evening wind down time to help me quiet my mind, and prepare for bed.  In the evening, I prefer unguided meditations with little or no speaking. You can use new age music, instrumental music, unguided meditations, or sit in silence.

I will practice square breathing if I begin to feel overwhelmed or stressed. Square breathing involves slow, deep breathing through your nose. Here’s how you practice square breathing:

  • You inhale for a count of 4
  • Hold your breath for a count of 4
  • Exhale for a count of 4
  • Hold your breath again for a count of 4
  • Repeat 3 more times

I experience calmness after a few rounds of square breathing. I love that I can do this whenever and wherever I need it.  You can even practice square breathing around others, and they won’t realize it unless you count out loud.

There are many more ways to practice self-care, but these will get you started on the path to feeling better.  I hope this post helps you discover new ways to feel your best, so you can have an awesome semester.  If you have a favorite type of self-care that I didn’t list, please let me know in the comments.

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