5 Ways to Practice Self-Care

The start of each semester at FSW brings about a host of emotions for students, staff, and faculty. During the first week of school, students have come to expect that staff in “Ask Me” t-shirts can answer their urgent questions and calm their first-week-jitters.

As students, staff, and faculty are now settled into the fall semester, some may find themselves wishing for permanent “Ask Me” staff to answer the plethora of uncertainties due to the COVID-19 crisis. To add to this, political tensions and issues of social justice deepen feelings of uncertainty, depression, anxiety, and isolation. So, how do we care for ourselves in a time of social distancing when the need for connection and support is at an all-time high? 

Making a concerted effort to care for yourself and others during this time will alleviate stress as well as protect the immune system. Self-care is paramount, but let’s take a closer look at what that means at FSW for students, staff and faculty.

Create and stick to a routine

Having a routine to ensure that you keep up with everyday health habits is always a good thing to have in place. During times of crisis, a daily routine is a crucial part of maintaining well-being and improving mood. Implementing a routine that you look forward to creates a sense of control and a sense of certainty in uncertain times. Consider adding these important wellness items to your routines:

  • Setting a bed time that will ensure that you get enough sleep. A bedtime routine may include having a cup of tea, cutting cell-phone screen time an hour before bed, engaging in light stretching, and journaling the things you’re grateful for that day. 
  • Scheduling time outdoors every day (even if this means a 5-minute walk)
  • Eating a healthy diet and drinking enough water

Prioritize stress relief

Set aside time each day to manage stress and create peace – Again, this does not need to be an inordinate amount of time.

Meditating, coloring, putting a puzzle together, going for a nature walk, or setting a timer on your phone for breathing breaks are all good examples of how to spend time with yourself in a way that helps to alleviate stress.

Be more compassionate to yourself

Humans are notorious for speaking to themselves in ways that they would never speak to others. In times of crisis and uncertainty, compassion for self and others may be the most important tool for increasing resiliency and improving mental health. When we are already collectively suffering, self-compassion will reduce the intensity of internal suffering for each individual; in turn, creating a kinder, more accepting environment for others.

Self-compassion can feel overwhelming at first. A great place to start with this is to just notice when you are bullying yourself and choose non-judgement instead.

Example of mental self-bullying: “Ugh, I’m such an idiot. I can’t believe I forgot my mask again!

Self-compassionate response (yes, actually talk back to yourself): Deep Breath. “You’re not an idiot. You’re a human being experiencing a huge adjustment to a global pandemic. It’s OK that you forgot today because you can use an extra mask from the S building or purchase one from the bookstore.” 

This takes practice, but it is a small change that will make a monumental difference in your mental health and wellness. 

Make connection a priority

One of the most common complaints I have heard during the pandemic is that people are feeling lonely.

When social distancing wasn’t an issue, we were able to easily connect to others without much forethought. Think of all the ways that we filled our “connection buckets” prior to the pandemic: interactions during class, seeing events happen on campus and popping in to engage, the ability to hug each other and high five, sitting next to someone to study, going to the grocery store without a mask and smiling at strangers. Now, however, we have to make a concerted effort to create connections within isolation.

Student Engagement has put together excellent Zoom programming that really helps build connections. Additionally, Active Minds and other mental health initiatives have promoted Zoom presentations and talks to address mental wellness and destigmatization. 

Know where to turn for help

Managing daily stress and mental health problems can become overwhelming for anyone. Take a moment to identify your support system. Family, friends, spirituality and religion, professors, colleagues, pets, and community resources can be vital parts of your support system.

Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed or in crisis to find out who to call when you need help! We have great resources at FSW including staff, students, and faculty who are certified in Mental Health First Aid, free mental health counseling, case management services, a food pantry, and a caring community of Buccaneers all willing to get you connected to the right resources.

Be proactive and have an idea of who you would go to for help if you needed it. Also, program crisis numbers in your phone just in case you ever need to make an emergency call. The numbers below are great resources for you or a loved one in the event of a crisis:

FSW Counseling After Hours Crisis Line: (239) 218-7116 Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 United Way: 2-1-1 Crisis Text Line: Text “home” to 741-741 National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Please know that you do not have to wait until you are in a crisis state to reach out for support. Contact BucsCare@fsw.edu, Counseling@fsw.edu, or FoodPantry@fsw.edu to get help now. 

This time, though uncertain, is time for all of us to reflect on small ways that we can make a huge impact on our own well-being as well as the well-being of those around us. 

Angela Snyder is the assistant dean of students. You can reach her at angela.snyder@fsw.edu or (239) 433-8023.