Self-care tips for the new academic year
As lots of young people return to school or university, it's a good time to think about how we can best take care of ourselves. We asked a group of young people to share their self-care tips.
After a long summer break, the new academic year brings with it a fresh start. This may excite us or worry us - there is no right way to feel about it - but whatever the case, it's important that we look after ourselves. So whether you're just starting school or university, approaching the end, or entering an exam year, here are some tips on ways to look after yourself.
"More often than not, we get stressed out because we feel overwhelmed with our workload. I personally find that having a physical planner to jot down my schedule and the tasks I am expected to complete day by day helps me keep focused and organise my thoughts. I use different coloured pens to categorise my subjects and the type of tasks I have to complete," says Lily.
Nazifa finds that creating a plan helps her: "It can be helpful to set a goal for the year and create a timetable or plan on what to do (and when) in order to achieve it. It doesn't have to be fancy or super strict - even having a rough guide can help to keep the year in perspective."
Remember that your teachers are there to help
If we find school difficult, we may end up feeling like our teachers are the enemy. It's important to remember that they're there to help and support us - and sometimes being open with them about what you're facing can make life easier for the both of you.
"It may sound odd, but being pals with your teacher can actually make your school experience one hundred times better. Obviously, I'm not suggesting you go out for coffee with your science teacher! But talking to them like the actual human being that they are is not only a good way to make lessons more fun, but it can also really help if you're someone who tends to feel intimidated and anxious around authority figures," says Rosie.
Charlotte adds: "Taking the time to speak with your teachers can help you if you need support as the year goes on. If you have a favourite teacher, you can go to them for help."
Find something that helps you relieve stress
Even if you feel as though you have a lot of work to do and you don't have time to let off steam, it's important that you give yourself permission to do so. You're a human, not a robot, and everybody needs a break sometimes.
"Take the opportunity to discover activities that you enjoy, or get involved in a cause that you are passionate about. I personally enjoy writing about mental health, and I found that being able to write about what I am passionate about while juggling studies helped relieve some of the stress I was facing. Whether it be going to the gym to work out, volunteering, or doing something creative - find something that can allow you to relax before returning to your tasks," says Lily.
"Sign up for an activity, club or society you've always been interested in but haven't had the chance to take part in. It's a great way to meet new people and spend your time doing something you enjoy," adds Nazifa.
It doesn't have to be anything too challenging though, says Charlotte. "Even if it's just reading or catching up with your favourite TV series, make sure to find time for yourself."
Get enough sleep
Nazifa says: "Get enough sleep! Functioning throughout the day can be hard when you've only had four hours sleep the night before. Put your phone, tablet, or laptop away and aim to be in bed by a certain time every night so you feel refreshed and ready for the next day."
Lily adds: "The amount of sleep we get influences our energy, concentration and mental health. Teens aged 14-17 should aim for between eight and ten hours sleep a night. For those aged 18 and over, between seven and nine hours sleep a night is the optimum."
Find your support system
It's important for us to make sure we have people around to support us - whether we're currently struggling with our mental health or not.
"Make some time to socialise, catch up with old friends, or make new friends. Having a good support system while facing the stress of school or university contributes greatly towards your wellbeing," says Lily.
As Rosie points out, it's important to surround yourself with people you feel comfortable and happy around. "School can be a great place for socialising, but don't feel you have to at the expense of your own happiness or to 'keep the peace'. Dysfunctional friendships can ruin your school experience, so be honest with yourself about which relationships are healthy and which aren't," she says.
Be kind to yourself
"If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it's this: be kind to yourself," says Rosie. "You are trying and you are growing. School is a learning process but it's about so much more than academia - you're learning about yourself too, and while that happens you're going to feel a little lost, confused and maybe even angry at times. So trust me when I say - from one frustrated kid to another - it's going to be OK. You are stronger than you think and greater than you know. All you need is time, so give yourself some," says Rosie.
If you are having problems at school, check out our 'Problems At School' page for support and guidance.