I want to share a secret. Something that far too many advice columns forget to mention when it comes to self-care. The truth is, you don’t need hours to take care of yourself.
Small quick changes can have a big impact. That’s important because it’s the busiest people who need self-care the most and the last thing you have time for is to feel guilty for having yet another thing on your to-do list you can’t seem to get to.
Most of the time when we think of self-care we think of activities. Catching a yoga class, walking through a park, or reading a great book. All of these are fantastic but they are not the only ways we can take care of ourselves. Making a change to your internal monologue, focusing on the positives in your day, or genuinely accepting a compliment from someone else takes only seconds but can go a long way to feeling better.
When it comes to self-care quick and often is better than long and infrequent. Can’t make it to that Zoomba class? Take three minutes in the morning and dance to your favourite song. Longing for a day at the Spa? Treat yourself to a fancier body wash or light your favourite candle for a few minutes before bed.
So what are you waiting for? Try one of these today. You deserve it!
Starting today, I’m ready to:
Make a point to smile at strangers while I walk down the street.
Turn up the radio and sing as loud as I can while stuck in traffic.
Send a text message to a friend to let them know I’m thinking of them.
Close my eyes and take three slow breathes in and out while saying a positive message like, “I’ve got this!” or “I am strong and capable”. (Helpful trick: Say it out loud. It makes a difference!)
Focus on my own progress and growth rather than comparing myself to someone else.
The truth is simple. Post-secondary life can be wonderful but it can also be challenging. And you can’t do it alone.
Whether you’ve moved out on your own, you’re living in residence, or commuting from home, adjusting to university or college can be difficult. You’re also expected to balance school work, a personal life, possibly a job or volunteering. Throw in a club or sports team and it’s amazing you have time to brush your teeth. (You are still brushing your teeth, right?).
Often we’re told to take care of ourselves, but it’s equally important to remember that we can’t do it all on our own. Humans by nature are a social species and as such we require the support of others.
To help you navigate all of the ups and downs, here is a helpful guide on social supports. To begin, we’ll review the 5 types of support that are essential to make it through college or university.
From there, we’ll review who in your life offers each type of support, how to best determine what type of support you need, and finally how to ask for more support when needed.
And for added fun, we’ve thrown in a quiz you and your friends can take to figure out the type of support you most often offer others.
All of which can be covered in less than your one hour lecture on organic chemistry. Let’s get started!
The Big Five Kinds of Poeple
There are five major types of social support needed in university or college; emotional, motivational, practical, problem solving, and recreational. Depending on what’s going on in your life you may need more of one than another but all are going to be needed at some point or another.
Person 1: Your Emotional Support
Who they are: This is the person who’s able to listen to how you are feeling without immediately trying to change or stop you from feeling that way. They’re good listeners and you know you can talk openly without being silenced, rushed, made to feel guilty, or that your feelings don’t matter.
Traits: Understanding, accepting, non-judgemental, and patient.
Things you won’t hear: “Ugh, don’t be angry/sad/etc” “Just cheer up” “Get over it”
Things you want to hear:“That sucks” “I’m really sorry that happened to you” “You didn’t deserve that” “I’m not sure what to say right now, I’m just really glad you told me”
Why you need this person: Whenever you are experiencing intense emotions it is helpful to have them validated by someone else. This helps you to feel connected and understood.
Useful tip:most of the time we don’t want someone to solve our problems but rather just offer understanding.
Person 2: Your Motivational Support
Who they are: This is the person who’s able to motivate you whenever you’re feeling discouraged or uninspired. They can remind you of the reasons behind your goals when you’re feeling down. This person truly believes in you and your abilities to accomplish what you’re working towards.
Things you won’t hear: “You can’t do that” “Oh come on, be realistic” “What did you expect?” “You always quit on things” “Just give up, it’s not worth it”
Things you want to hear: “That’s awesome, you’re going to do great!” “That’s exciting, please let me know how I can help” “I know you can do it” “Just keep trying, you’ll figure it out”
Why you need this person: Internal motivation isn’t constant, it comes and goes. As a result, we all have those times when we feel discouraged and want to give up. Having someone that believes in us and can remind us of our motivation can help us to accomplish great things.
Useful tip: Often the way in which the inspiring messages are communicated is just as important as what is said. Think about what truly motivates you as an individual. Do you prefer the boot camp drill sergeant or the positive cheerleader? Not all people respond to the same style of motivational support, it’s important to figure out what works for you.
Person 3: Your Practical Support
Who they are: This is the person who can help in those practical everyday ways. This person can help you unpack from your dorm room, has the spare charger in class when your laptop is dying, or brings over soup when you’re sick in the middle of a snow storm.
Things you won’t hear: “Oh man I totally forgot” “Sorry I have to bail last minute” “You’re on your own”
Things you want to hear: “I can help with that” “I’ll be there” “You can count on me” “I’m ready, what do you need?”
Why you need this person: Even the most independent of people need help from others at times. Having someone you can count on to be there makes certain experiences go a lot easier.
Useful tip: There can be many different types of practical support often linked to resources and skills. E.g. Someone who’s able to take notes for you in your econ class may not be able to drive you to the airport for reading week.
Person 4: Your Problem Solving Support
Who they are: This is the person who can help when you’re stuck and not sure what to do. They offer useful advice and feedback on how to make improvements in your life. They often help you to discover solutions you may otherwise not have been able to think of on your own. Often coming from their own experience, they take the time to understand what’s going on and offer ideas that are useful to your specific situation.
Things you won’t hear: “Oh wow, I have no clue what you can do” “How would I know? Looks like you’re stuck”
Things you want to hear: “I went through something similar, here’s what worked for me” “I wonder if you could try doing this…”
Why you need this person: When experiencing a stressful situation, our own ability to be creative and resourceful can decrease. What’s more, when we’re in university of college we often face situations we’ve never experienced before, and therefore may not automatically know how to fix them.
Useful tip: The most useful advice is offered after the person has a full understanding of your situation, which includes hearing what you’ve already tried or considered and why previous attempts haven’t worked out. Only then, will they be able to offer suggestions that you haven’t tried yet, leading to a less frustrating experience for you both.
Person 5: Recreational Support
Who they are: This is someone you’re able to have fun with. You have shared interests and enjoy each other’s company.
Traits: Fun, Entertaining, Enjoyable, Relaxing
Things you won’t hear: “No that’s boring, let’s not do that”, “I just really don’t like any of the things you want to do”
Things you want to hear:“Hey let’s go out this weekend!” “Want me to come over? We can hang out and watch a movie”
Why you need this person: Post secondary can be a stressful time, it’s important to take time to relax and have fun with others. Finding the people who have shared interests will allow you to make the most of your time at school and enjoy yourself.
Useful tip: There are many opportunities to meet new people at college or university for recreational support. Think of an activity you enjoy doing and find out if there is a club, team, or group on campus where you can meet others who also enjoy that activity. If there isn’t a group yet, consider creating one yourself!
Helpful Tips to Remember
Often people have the desire to be helpful but not always the ability. In order to qualify as a support, one must be both willing and able to offer that support. Recognizing and accepting this fact can prevent a lot of frustration and disappointment.
Getting the wrong type of support can feel rejecting and upsetting. For example your brother may be terrible at offering emotional support but don’t discount the practical support he can provide. Making a point to go to him when you need help moving out of your dorm room will therefore be far more useful than expecting him to have something helpful to say after going through a major breakup.
In addition to close friends and family, don’t forget about the support from paid professionals. A therapist, a professor, your residence advisor, or even an uber driver can all offer valuable support.
People can learn new skills all the time. Before you assume that someone can’t offer a particular type of support just because they haven’t in the past, take the time to talk to them about it. It’s possible that they’ve been trying to be supportive but don’t yet know the right way to support you as an individual. For example, some people find it helpful to be reminded of the silver lining in a bad situation while others find it discounts their experience. Learn specifically what you need in each type of support and try to teach others how they can help you best.
Let’s set the stage. It’s 9am and you’re sitting in a morning class.
You’re needing to give a presentation today and you’re feeling super anxious. Your legs keep shaking, you feel sick to your stomach and you’re heart is pounding.
You remember hearing it can be helpful to take some deep breaths to calm your nerves so you decide to give it a try. As you do, you realize that you’ve been holding your breath and can’t seem to inhale. Or your breathing is already quick and focusing on this is even more stressful. You think to yourself, “Great now in addition to public speaking I can add breathing to the growing list of things I can’t seem to do!”
But what you may not realize is that taking a deep breath is just one of the many strategies you can try to help calm you down in the moment.
If you can relate at all to the above scenario, here are four tips to try today.
1. Start with a breath out
Most of the time when we hear instructions on how to practice calm breathing, we’re told to start by taking a deep breath in. However, if you’re already feeling anxious or overwhelmed you may be already holding your breath which makes it very tricky to do this. Instead, start by exhaling as much as you can. Go ahead, try right now. Let out a great big sigh. Picture pushing out all the air from your lungs. Automatically your body will respond by then inhaling which will allow you to start taking slow, deep breaths.
2. Make a breath sandwich
A quick breathing exercise you can do almost anywhere at anytime, is called a breath sandwich. Start by thinking of a soothing sentence, such as, “I’m in a safe place” “Everything will work out” “I’m a good person who deserves good things”.
Then take a deep breath in and while you’re holding it repeat the sentence in your head. Now take a deep breath out. (i.e. sandwich your sentence with a breath on either side). Repeat as necessary.
3. Focus on your feet
Sometimes when we’re anxious, we experience uncomfortable sensations inside our body. I’m talking about heart racing, sweating, legs trembling, crying, or hyperventilating. When this is happening it may be better to focus on a part of our bodies that feels less intense. Often our feet are the furthest away from the above symptoms. Take a moment to wiggle your toes and think about how your feet are feeling. Are they warm? Cold? Can you feel the softness of your socks or weight of your shoes? Push down into the ground and remind yourself of the security of the floor beneath you.
4. Focus on your physical environment
Now if even your feet feel anxious, it may be time to focus outside your body on your physical environment. The best way to do this is by using your senses. For example, take a moment to notice five things you can see that are blue, or three things that you can hear. If you have a small object nearby like a coin or pen hold it in your hand and notice how it feels. Is it cold? Hard? How does it feel when you squeeze it? Is it warming up.
As you take a moment to focus on this, your initial problem doesn’t go away but you’ve hopefully been able to catch your breath a bit and feel a bit calmer.
Now over to you…
Which strategy have you tried before? Have you learned of other tips that help you when you’re struggling with deep breaths? Comment below!
1. Don’t do it alone – Having a friend, family member, or colleague with a similar goal can help keep you feeling motivated and accountable!
2. Keep it real – Pick a goal that is realistic and meaningful. Consider the changes you’ve maintained before and what made them work. If needed, break your overall goal into smaller, more attainable tasks.
3. Make the alternative a lot harder – if you’re serious about making a change, set up a negative consequence if you go back on your plan. Having a cigarette or skipping a night at the gym is suddenly a lot harder to justify when you’ve promised to give money to a rival sports team or political party each time you go back on your goal.
Breakups can be awful. Whether you’ve been with someone for a few weeks, years, or decades, going through a separation can make us feel a range of emotions, including:
If you’re currently going through a breakup, this list is for you. Follow these six steps to keep it C.L.A.S.S.Y.
You can do this. Remember, you deserve better.
C – Consider your words
As tempting as it may be in the moment to spill your ex’s awful secrets to his or her closest friends, you’ll feel better in the long run if you take the high road.
Also, if there is even the slightest chance you might get back together, be careful when telling your friends and family your ex’s biggest mistakes or failings as a partner. You may be able to forgive and forget, but those closest to you might not.
L – Look Ahead
Find new things to enjoy as a single person. Everyone needs to make compromises in relationships. Now is your time to rediscover those things you love that your ex didn’t.
Explore that hobby your ex never wanted to try
Spend time with old friends now that you have more free time
Stretch out in the middle of your bed and hog all the covers!
Being newly single can be an exciting time to rediscover who you are and what you love to do.
A – Alternate Your Supports
Even your best friend will need a break sometimes from hearing about your ups and downs. If you’re concerned about overwhelming one person, alternate between close friends and family members. Sometimes having someone impartial to talk to, like a therapist, counsellor, or life coach, can also be helpful.
S – Select the Right Friend for the Job
Think about what kind of support each of your friends can offer. Are they the friend that has always given you tough love? A shoulder to cry on? A fun distraction? Most likely you’ll need all of these types of supports at different times, but it’s important you match what you need with the person who’s able to give that type of support. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends what type of support you need right now.
S – Stay off Social Media
Especially early after a break-up, social media can be not only one of the most tempting but also disastrous ways for you to spend your time. Stay away from your ex’s social media. It is now a plague that you must avoid at all costs. This can extend to his or her close friends and family too. Remember that postings are more about what we want to show the world than how we’re actually feeling.
If you aren’t ready to block or limit your contact with your ex and the people closest to him or her, consider limiting your time on social media altogether.
Y – You – Take Care of Yourself
Now is the time to take care of the most important relationship you’ll ever be in – the one you have with yourself. Remind yourself that “you alone are good enough” and embrace this time to truly take care of yourself on a spiritual, emotional, physical, social and mental level.