First of all, what is self-care? According to Merriam, it is care for oneself, specifically giving healthcare provided by oneself often without a medical consultation by a professional.
The reason why I first defined it is that it seems that the term is now widely used often for commercial purposes, often enough only serving the “self” while forgetting the “care” part.
Personally, I think that self-care is about giving yourself what you NEED — what your body, mind, and soul needs. And they don’t often use commercial products. So as often or as cliche this post may be, here’s a reminder of how to do proper self-care for architecture school.
#1 Get Enough Sleep.
I won’t ask you how many times you’ve heard this but this IS one of the many self-care things an architecture student often ignores. “Enough sleep” isn’t the same for everybody. Some can do 4 hours, 6 hours, some need 8-9 hours. Don’t lie to yourself saying you can do 4 when you know you can function much better with 8. Get to know your body, your rhythm.
When it comes to plate-making or studying, I find that I function much more effectively with enough sleep. I work a lot slower when I lack it and sometimes it takes twice as much time for me to finish a task compared to when I’m fully rested. The rule of thumb I would say is if you find yourself doing a task really slowly where you would normally do it quicker, or you do it while being sleepy, that’s the trigger. You need to get some rest.
Sleeping isn’t being lazy if you actually need it. It’s also bad to oversleep as it can take a toll on your day and give you headaches as well. Just, get the right amount.
When I got sick of hearing my alarm and I’ve already associated it with a negative experience, I started trying out different sleeping apps. Sleep Cycle helped me wake up from my sleep peacefully as it wakes me up when my body hits the lightest phase of sleep. Since I mentioned earlier that you don’t need commercial products to actually help yourself practice self-care, the apps that I mention on this post is unaffiliated and free.
I won’t be a hypocrite. This part is hard for me as I always forget to drink water and would normally choose juice, tea, or coffee. However, I do think that this is one of the important self-care practices we should develop. I’m not so sure how accurate or necessary it is to drink 8 glasses of water a day, but I would say, let’s practice choosing water every time a choice is presented to us. It is also advised to drink water right after we wake up in the morning as our bodies aren’t able to hydrate throughout our sleep.
I was also told that whenever I would do all-nighters, it is better to drink water than coffee. It also helps to keep you awake while keeping you hydrated.
There are also free apps that could help motivate you into drinking more water. I personally used waterlogged.
#3 Exercise. Get Moving.
If you’re an architecture student in your first years, you’d probably have a lot more load or a more packed schedule. Most probably you are stationary all day from sitting in class for long hours and in your room doing your plates and homework. You don’t have to sign up for a gym to get a proper exercise or to get moving. What I did at the beginning of my college years is that whenever a decision has to be made where I can move more or not, I choose the former. For example, despite having classes on the 8th floor, I forced myself to take the stairs than using the elevator. I got so used to it that the feeling of using an elevator seemed like a luxury. Also, whenever it is safe to walk, I choose to walk. I’m able to have 6000-10000 steps a day ever since college started. Before I got a gym membership, I would also jog around the park whenever I can. There’s also a bunch of apps that can help you exercise at home every day, for as little as 7 minutes.
Of course, before you get into an exercise habit, you need to have had enough amount of sleep. It can be dangerous to workout without having enough rest. When I had the opportunity, I decided to sign up for a gym membership as this forces me to get enough sleep, and actually make exercise a habit as I’m already paying for it. We wouldn’t want to waste good money. Another domino effect (aside from forcing my sleeping habits) is that I’m able to drink more water because of working out.
Take note though, that you don’t need a membership to get started exercising or to get moving.
#4 Eat Healthily.
This isn’t easy if you’re a college student especially if you’re living in dorms. Fast-food chains are everywhere. Perks of it are that they are more accessible, quicker, and cheaper. However, feeding on too much unhealthy food affects your mood and later on your productivity. If you decide on choosing healthier options, you will feel better and if your mood is better, it is more likely for you to feel motivated. You don’t have to buy something expensive. Sometimes packing your lunch or having a home-cooked meal is healthier.
You can try having a go-to recipe and if you get bored of that recipe, try learning another one. Cooking doesn’t have to be daunting. You can try it one step at a time. If you can meal prep early on, the better.
#5 Journal or Meditate.
The first four practices are more centered on the body. This practice is for the mind. As someone who gets anxious a lot, I need coping mechanisms to calm myself down. Some of the things that help put my mind at ease are journaling and meditation. Journaling didn’t work for me at first so I concentrated on meditation. I started with five minutes per day then moved on to ten when I finally got the grasp of it. I used different meditation apps to help me but eventually settled with Calm as they have a timed option where you can just hear nature sounds.
Later on, I tried practicing journaling again to see how it will help me improve. I bought myself a bullet journal (since buying a notebook specifically for it helps me entitle myself as I’ve spent money on it) and there I wrote my thoughts in the morning and at night, alongside writing down my goals for me to view every time. It helps me perform tasks that are only aligned with my goals as I am reminded of them every day. It also helps me get rid of my anxious thoughts as I write them down. I tell myself, it doesn’t have to be long. If I force myself to write longer, I sometimes get demotivated. So, with even just one paragraph, a quick statement of how I’m feeling day by day helps.
#6 Plan your day but prepare for the unplanned.
This is something I tell people who also likes to schedule stuff. You might as this is a self-care post so why am I giving a tip on productivity? This is also a practice I do to help calm my mind. Whenever I get stressed, it’s usually because I live in the future wherein I’m inside my head and reviewing all the tasks I need to finish over and over again. So when I just decide to write them down and plan them on my calendar or planner, I know that I don’t have to think about them, thus caring for my mind.
Preparing for the unplanned means allowing yourself to be flexible. There was a time where I was really stressing myself out as I kept on planning but it seems as if I’m always failing at fulfilling them. I realized it’s because I wasn’t allowing myself to be flexible and that I should allow for a space in my calendar where I’ll be able to adjust things. It’s also important to remember that it’s okay when things don’t go as planned. Stressing yourself out because it will be useless because some things are just beyond our control. We have to learn to reflect before we replan.
#7 Plan your breaks.
Rest is actually holy, you know. So remember to take breaks. It takes care of your body, mind (and possibly even soul) when you do this. Even a machine overheats. We need those breaks. And when I say take a break, I mean take a BREAK. Thinking about all the things you have to do while you are resting DOES NOT equate to you taking a break. You need to actually relax and put your mind off those things. Prioritize your health by also prioritizing your breaks. This will help lessen or avoid burnout.
Planning your design, analyzing, and doing plates can really be heavy-duty tasks. Our minds need to take a rest once in a while.
#8 Forgive yourself.
I feel like the world is full of hate especially on social media. I used to be someone who hated almost everyone, but it was because I hated myself also. It didn’t make sense to me why people have their shortcomings knowing what’s right from wrong, and I was unforgiving to myself also. It made me miserable and when I learned how to forgive and be patient with myself, I realized I was able to spread more love and be more understanding of people. We will have goals. We will make plans. But we will make mistakes. It’s a tendency we have on our nature so it’s really important for us to learn to forgive ourselves. It is the only way to be more loving to other people. What we do to ourselves, we also do to others whether we notice it or not.
I feel like I don’t need to relate this to architecture school as this is a general thing. But it helps to know that this can be one of the self-care practices we can follow.
#8 Save Up.
I’ve shared about ways to care for yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Now it’s time to care for yourself financially. It can add up to your mental stress and anxiety when you feel like you’re not in control of your expenses. We should try our best to save FIRST before we buy. Having a savings account for emergency purposes, an account where you will not spend anything from it, I think is essential. It will help reduce your mental stress if you know you’re not living paycheck to paycheck.
Saving up doesn’t only pertain to important expenses, however. You don’t need to deprive yourself of certain luxuries if you know you can afford them with the quality of your income. It is important, however, to keep track of these expenses and it is better to have an account allotted for such types of expenses, so you’ll get an overview and know when you need to stop spending all these extras. Especially in architecture school where there are loads of expenses academically.
Here are 8 practices which I also try to apply to my life in order to practice self-care in architecture school. I hope you get to practice at least some of them and be of help greatly!