17 Self-Care Activities For College Students

Take a break from the college grind with these 17 self-care activities for college students.

College is never easy no matter what your college major is or how smart you are.

And every college student, now and then, will experience burnout from the demands of college.

If you are currently feeling overwhelmed or running low on energy to put towards your studies, here are 17 self-care activities you can try as a college student.

These self-care ideas will hopefully help rejuvenate you and get yourself back in a productive mindset in no time!

A woman in a pink sweater holding a cup of coffee as a way of practicing self-care. The text overlay says, "self-care activities for college students."

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What is self-care for students?

Self-care are acts or activities that help college students maintain and better their mental, physical, and emotional health.

Many of these acts or activities involve college students spending time by themselves, separated from their studies, and are meant to help college students reset their mind and attitude.

As a result, they are able to return to their studies with more motivation and optimism.

The International Self-Care Foundation states that there are 7 pillars of self-care:

  1. Knowledge and health literacy
  2. Mental wellbeing
  3. Physical activity
  4. Healthy eating
  5. Risk avoidance
  6. Good hygiene
  7. Rational use of products and services

By incorporating a little bit of each pillar, college students can create a well-rounded self-care routine for themselves.

Which as a result can help them cope and manage stressors from college and day-to-day life.

Why is self-care important for college students?

Self-care can help students build resilience towards set backs they come across during their college journey, like a bad grade or a loss of a loved one while in college.

You may also like: 20 Ways To Improve Your College Grades [If You’re Failing]

By partaking in self-care as a college student, you are prioritizing yourself and your health above everything else.

And while that may seem counterproductive to finishing your assignments or studying to get an A on a test, it can actually benefit you in the long run and help you make better grades and be more productive.

Is self-care being selfish?

Self-care, while it may seem selfish to you at first, is not selfish at all.

By caring for yourself, you are giving yourself the opportunity to come back to your studies with a fresh mind that’s ready to focus and a fresh pair of eyes that are ready to guide you through your studies.

Simply put, for you to perform your best as a student, you have to feel your best and that requires routine self-care.

How can college students practice self-care?

There are many activities college students can do to practice self-care.

Some self-care strategies are quite simple, like getting enough sleep or taking a shower.

But you can do more “complex” self-care activities like attending a therapy session with your on-campus counselor or driving out to see a loved one in another city to spend time with them.

Self-care for students could also mean setting boundaries for yourself like:

  • Not checking your university email after 5 PM
  • Stopping all school work after dinner
  • Not drinking alcohol before an exam

In this blog post, we will discuss 17 activities college students can do to practice self-care.

17 self-care activities for college students

1. Take a nap

One of the best self-care strategies for college students is simply taking a nap.

I honestly love taking naps and I took them all the time my senior year of college and even as a first-year graduate student.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following as benefits of taking naps, all of which can greatly benefit any busy, stressed-out college student:

  • Relaxation
  • Improved mood
  • Improved memory
  • Improved reaction time
  • Improved alertness
  • Reduced fatigue

So if you find yourself barely able to keep your eyes open to read your textbook or overly frustrated at an assignment, try taking a nap. Even if it is just a 15 or 30-minute power nap.

2. Take a long hot shower or bath

Who doesn’t love a hot, steamy shower?

My boyfriend honestly swears by this self-care activity and takes showers just for fun because they’re so relaxing.

Taking a hot shower or bath can also make you feel refreshed and gives you some need peace and quiet time for 20-30 minutes.

But you can also rock out to your favorite music in the shower if that helps you relieve stress too.

If you want to, you can also create a self-care shower or bath routine for yourself, which is a little more complex, and time-consuming (in a good way), than a shower you would take before going to work or school.

A self-care shower or bath routine may involve things like:

  • Doing a hair mask
  • Exfoliating your body
  • Doing an all-over shave
  • Moisturizing your skin after showering
  • Using a stress-relieving body wash
  • Lighting candles

3. Drink water

As a busy college student, you probably find yourself grabbing for the iced coffee with two shots of espresso rather than a glass of water.

However, drinking water can be such a simple, but effective self-care strategy for you.

Drinking water can help boost your energy, help you focus more, and improve your memory.

If you’re having difficulty sneaking in water into your diet, try eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking sparking water, or finding a water bottle, like this cute one, that motivates you to drink more water.

4. Take a 15-minute break every 45 minutes

As a college student you are constantly on-the-go.

From attending class, extracurricular activity meetings, going to work, and studying in the available time you have–it’s a never ending grind until the last day of the semester.

However, always feeling the need to be doing something 24/7 can seriously burn you out.

So instead, consider taking a 15-minute break every 45-minutes and give your mind a break from school.

You can easily accomplish this by setting a timer for 45-minutes, working on a school task, and then taking your 15-minute break when the timer goes off.

During that break you can:

  • Grab a snack to eat
  • Take a short walk to check the mailbox
  • Check social media or text messages
  • Drink some water
  • Stretch your legs
  • Splash water on your face

You may also like: 30 Productive Things You Can Do In Between Your College Classes

5. Go on a walk or exercise

Sometimes the best thing you can do as self-care is literally taking a step back from your school work and going for a walk or exercising.

If it’s nice outside, consider taking a 30-minute walk around were you live.

On your walk you can listen to a podcast or uplifting music or try going in silence and really taking in the scenery.

During my first semester of graduate school, I would go on Friday afternoon walks with my boyfriend and it was a great way for me to take a breather from my studies.

I also saw this really genius post on Reddit the other day.

A user on Reddit said that he would take walks in between his synchronous online lectures to simulate walking to and from class like he would do during a “normal” college semester.

I thought this was a really practical tip, but something I would never have thought of myself.

And honestly, walking from class to class, is definitely something we, as college and graduate students, have taken for granted since the switch from in-person to online classes.

6. Practice breathing exercises

If you have only 3-5 minutes to spare in your busy college schedule, but want to get some much needed self-care in, try breathing exercises.

Breathing exercises can help you relax and relieve tension, but don’t require a lot of time and space to conduct.

There are a lot of breathing exercises you can try and experiment with. Try to find one that you like best.

My personal favorite breathing exercise is boxed breathing, but you can try others like belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, or roll breathing.

7. Watch a movie or TV show

Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is just pick a mindless movie or TV show and curl up in a blanket for an hour or two.

I personally love watching TV shows on Netflix / Hulu like:

And if you’re looking for a good movie to get your mind off of school, I’d recommend Knives Out, which you can stream on Amazon Prime Video.

8. Pamper yourself

What comes to your mind first when you think of self-care activities?

Probably something to do with pampering yourself.

And that’s totally true, pampering yourself–whether it is doing your nails, doing a face mask, or getting a massage–can be a great self-care strategy for college students.

You can even do a pamper night with your college roommates or best friend and take all your minds off of college together.

Pampering yourself can really boost yourself esteem and reenergize you. It is also a great, sometimes free way to treat yourself after a good grade on an exam or major assignment.

You may also like: 19 Stress Relief Gift Ideas For College Students

9. Read something other than a college textbook

College textbook readings can be super boring and sometimes overwhelming.

If you can’t bare to read another sentence of your textbook, try taking a break from your studies and treat yourself to some self-care time by reading something unrelated to what you are currently studying.

It could be a romance novel, a celebrity gossip magazine, or even an online forum on a subject you are genuinely interested in.

I personally love reading books on search engine optimization for bloggers or reading Facebook posts from the blogging groups I’m in.

And even though those are somewhat educational reads, they’re definitely not related to my studies and give me a good break from doing statistics all day!

Alternatively, if reading is not your forte, and I totally get that–I hate reading (for the most part) too–then try a coloring book.

Nowadays, coloring is not just for kids. There are plenty coloring books for adults, like this one about coffee and animals.

10. Spend time with your pets

Pet therapy has been shown to be beneficial for college students and many other populations.

Some benefits of pet therapy include:

  • Reduce pain
  • Reduce anxiety or depression
  • Reduce fatigue

Your college or university may even ofter pet therapy close to midterms or finals. Mine did, so check to see if yours does too!

And if not, you can always spend a few moments cuddling with your own cat or dog or a roommate or friend’s pet.

11. Call or FaceTime a friend

If you have a lot on your chest or just want to have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around your studies, then try calling or FaceTiming a friend or close family member who can help take your mind off of college.

When I was in college, I would often call my twin sister or my boyfriend to confide in about my grades, a stressful test, or to just gossip about sorority life (yes, my boyfriend graciously put up with all of that).

Also, it’s generally good to not isolate yourself even during this time of social distancing and taking online college classes.

By speaking with a friend or family member, you can get that connection with others that you have lost since classes went fully online without breaking social distancing guidelines.

12. Organize your study space

Keeping your study space clean and organized can really make you feel empowered and ready to be productive.

I find that when my study space, which as of right now is my apartment kitchen table, is cluttered, I feel more overwhelmed than I need to be.

Research has also shown that having an unorganized, cluttered study or work space can hinder your ability to be productive.

So each day before you start working on your assignments, take 5 to 10-minutes to clean off and organize your study space.

Also take that time to ensure you have all your study materials ready to be used like your textbooks, computer charger, notebooks, and writing utensils.

13. Eat your favorite healthy food or snack

Sometimes when I study I lose track of time and forget to eat or I’m too stubborn to get up and eat because I want to finish up an assignment so badly!

But you gotta eat in order for your brain to function to it’s full potential.

In fact, eating healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help you not only improve your mood, but also your memory, among many other short and long-term benefits.

Some healthy foods you can indulge in while studying include (source):

  • Eggs
  • Berries like strawberries, blackberries, etc.
  • Citrus fruits like oranges
  • Dark chocolate
  • Nuts

14. Write down your goals

In college, there may be times where you feel like, “what’s the point of all of this?”

And that’s totally normal, but these kind of thoughts may make you feel demotivated to continue studying or confused about your purpose for being in college.

One of the best ways to refocus yourself and give yourself some self-care is to simply write down your goals.

Write down your goals you want to accomplish this week, month, and even year.

By writing down your goals, you are giving yourself an opportunity to take a break from school, prioritize yourself, and be more intentional with how you spend your time and effort in school and in other areas of your life.

If you find that something you are doing is not helping you fulfill your goals, then it may be a sign you need to reduce or totally cut it out of your life.

And as a result, you will lessen your stress and free up more of your time to do things that directly help you achieve your goals.

15. Set your phone on “do not disturb” or turn off notifications

Do your phone notifications make you anxious?

For me, especially after turning in an assignment, every single phone notification makes me jump because I fear one of them will be a grade notification.

One way to practice self-care, is to set boundaries for yourself.

And that may include turning your phone off, putting it on “do not disturb mode,” or simply turning off notifications from your university email.

Of course that means you eventually have to check your phone or the place your grades are updated, but you’ll alleviate any dread you get when your phone buzzes throughout the day.

16. Work on a hobby not related to school

One of the best, if not the best, self-care activity you can do as a college student is find a hobby (or side-hustle) that’s not related to school.

Finding such a hobby or side-hustle can help you take your mind off of school and help you develop (or improve your) school-life balance.

Personally, my hobby/side-hustle is blogging.

It’s not really profitable right now, but it’s been such a fun side-project and allows me to delve into my creative side without having to worry about a grade attached to it.

So try finding something, or multiple things, you can do that’s not school related.

It could really be anything like:

  • Starting a YouTube channel
  • Puzzle making
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Sudoku
  • Reading
  • Knitting or crochet
  • Starting an Etsy store
  • Reselling thrifted finds
  • Photography
  • Gardening
  • Candle making
  • Painting

And once you find a hobby or side-hustle, try to make time for it at least once a week.

Personally, I set a goal to work on my blog at least once a day, at minimum for 45 minutes.

Setting this goal has really helped me progress my blog since I started it in July 2020, but it also helps get me up in the morning and puts me in the productive mindset.

17. Take the day off

Every once and awhile, it is totally fine, and even recommended, to take a mental health day.

In college, this may be difficult to do, especially if you have a busy college schedule mixed with work and extracurriculars, so it may need to be a half-day instead of a whole day, but whatever time you can come up with for a mental health day will be well worth it.

On your mental health day, you can focus on a single or multiple self-care activities.

This day could involve you:

  • Allowing yourself to sleep in
  • Taking your time getting out of bed
  • Making yourself your favorite breakfast
  • Reading a good book curled up in a fuzzy blanket
  • Taking a long, hot bath
  • Taking some extra time to do your hair and makeup
  • Going out for a much needed run or a brisk walk
  • Catching up over the phone with someone you love

At the end of the day, your mental health half-day or full-day should involve a variety of activities and experiences that help boost your spirits and energy.

These should all be “feel good” activities that you may find yourself too busy to do on a regular basis.

And hopefully, after your day of relaxation, you can come back to your college studies with new motivation and drive to succeed.

Concluding thoughts on self-care ideas for college students

Making time for and regularly practicing self-care in college is so important.

It will help keep you from burning out, keep you focused on your school work, and more resilient towards any setbacks that may come your way this semester and future semesters.

In this blog post, we discussed 17 self-care activities for college students, and I truly hope these ideas have given you inspiration on what to do the next time you give yourself some much needed self-care.

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