Taking Care of Yourself

On this page:

  • Stress
  • Relationships
  • Physical activity
  • Eating well
  • Sleep

You've got a lot to manage, but task #1 is managing yourself so you can do what you want. Here are tips for self-care, to help you feel better, and prevent or manage symptoms.  

Stress: During college, many students find that their fellow students are more motivated, their instructors are more demanding, the work is more difficult, and they are expected to be more independent than in the past. These high academic standards and expectations are even more evident in graduate school. As a result of these demands, it is common for college students to experience greater levels of stress related to academics.

Many students find that they need to develop new skills in order to balance academic demands with a healthy lifestyle.  Fortunately, the University of Michigan offers many resources to help students develop these skills.  Many students find that they can reduce their level of academic stress by improving skills such as time management, stress management, and relaxation.

Relationships:  Almost every college student feels stressed or overwhelmed at times. Supportive relationships help make these challenging times more manageable.

The symptoms of chronic health conditions can make it difficult to start new relationships or to get the most out of existing relationships.  For example, disclosing your condition (link to section on disclosing) may lead to feelings of anxiety that others will not like you or would judge you. Symptoms such as fatigue can get in the way of developing and maintaining satisfying and healthy relationships. 

  • Participation: Belonging at college comes from participating in activities outside the classroom. Even if you don’t see yourself as the “typical” college student, you can find students at U-M with similar interests and experiences, but you have to willing to look for them!
  • Balance: If you are a very serious student, or if you don't find people you connect with right away, you may feel tempted to bury yourself in schoolwork rather than seeking out relationships. Remember, there is much to learn and experience in college that can’t be found in textbooks or research laboratories. Prioritizing friendships can help make college a fulfilling as well as an educational experience.
  • Quality over Quantity:  Some students feel comfortable in large networks, others feel more comfortable among smaller groups of friends. If you fall into the latter group, you may worry about not having enough friends or not being popular enough. Remember, the number of friends you have is not nearly as important as the quality of your relationships. Having one or two close friends may be all you need to feel connected.

Physical Activity:  The idea of physical activity can be overwhelming for if you're dealing with a chronic health condition, but remember that anything is better than nothing!  Do what seems manageable -- even a ten-minute walk can be helpful. You can increase the amount and frequency of physical activity slowly.  Don’t try to make a huge change in your routine all at once, just keep it fun and set a realistic goal.

Regular physical activity can reduce symptoms associated with some common chronic health conditions, improve stamina and muscle strength, and improve psychological well-being and quality of life. That's a lot to gain from just moving your body!

Many college students perceive barriers to physical activity.  Check out a list (link to pdf from CMW) of strategies and resources to overcome the most commonly perceived barriers.

Eating well: Eating well is a big part of any successful self-care plan. Nutrition has been linked with emotional, physical, and cognitive health.  Eating a healthy diet gives your brain and your body the vitamins and minerals needed to stay well.  However, healthy eating habits can be difficult to maintain, especially if you have a chronic health condition. You’re not alone if you find yourself experiencing changes in your appetite as a result of your condition, or find yourself gaining weight as a side effect of your medication.  Make sure you discuss concerns about medication side effects or significant appetite changes with your healthcare provider.

Sleep: A regular sleep schedule can be difficult for students due to living in the residence hall, studying for exams, late/early classes, and socializing. The more you know about your own sleep patterns and needs, the more you can use sleep as a tool to increase your productivity and help you manage the symptoms of your chronic condition. 

It may be helpful to tracks your sleep over the course of a week or two.  You may not realize how some of your habits may be making it more difficult for you to fall or stay asleep.

And did you know that napping for 10-20 minutes can reduce stress, increase alertness and productivity, improve memory and learning, increase cognitive functioning, and improves overall health?   You can get so much from just a few Z's.