By Elise Kanber
So, it’s your final year as an undergraduate. All of the deadlines and all of the exams so far have been leading to this point. It can feel like there are countless obligations to cram into this crucial year; studying hard to finish with your desired degree classification; figuring out life post-graduation (and the ‘what am I going to do once I leave’ crisis); gaining valuable work experience; all whilst ensuring you have fun and enjoy every single second of the last leg of your University ExperienceTM. Consequently, it can be hard to decide which ones to prioritise. What is selected as top priority will be down to the individual, and thus, everyone will have a unique university experience. Nonetheless, there is one fundamental responsibility (perhaps the most important) that rarely ranks highly on students’ lists of priorities – themselves.
Due to the pressures of the final year, it is often all too easy to choose to miss out on sleep to finish an essay, or to skip meals due to stress. Whilst occasionally working overtime can be necessary to ensure you meet the deadline for a particularly difficult assignment, moderation is key. I like to think of it like The Sims – if you didn’t play enough air guitar at 2am to fulfil the ‘fun’ need, or socialise enough with Horatio from a few doors down, your Sim would get irritable and wouldn’t be ‘in the mood’ for studying. Likewise, consistently neglecting to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing can have a negative impact on your health, happiness and productivity. Recent research has found that self-care in students is positively associated with their ‘engagement, persistence, and success in higher education’ (Moses, Bradley & O’Callaghan, 2016). Nevertheless, it is often the first practice to be abandoned.
A huge benefit to being at university is the range of opportunities and events available, especially those designed to aid your wellbeing. For instance, the Stressbuster events – such as puppy therapy – put on by the SU throughout the year are brilliant for taking short, productive breaks. Alternatively, taking up a new hobby, or joining a sports team can be a great way to practice self-care. Personally, I found exercise to be beneficial for my mental and physical health, and joining the Athletics and Cross Country team in my final year was perfect for taking some time out from my various responsibilities. Self-care can even be as simple as cooking a proper meal, having an early night or taking a hot bath.
Whilst self-care practices can’t eradicate the workload and other responsibilities faced in your final year, they can make the process a little less stressful. Taking time out to do activities that help de-stress when you have been bombarded with deadlines can feel counter-intuitive; but taking a few moments to prioritise yourself, even if it just means going for a walk, will waste a lot less time than if you end up having to take time off because you let the stress build up and didn’t take care of yourself. In my opinion, university is about hard work, but make sure that disregarding your physical and mental wellbeing isn’t a by-product of that. So, ensure that you don’t end up asleep on the kitchen floor in a puddle of your own pee due to exhaustion, and meet your basic needs. You might end up making the game that is university your ideal real life, instead of just a simulation.
Featured image courtesy eveningexpress.co.uk