For most students, the stereotypical “college experience” is inevitably going to look a little bit different this year. Many are unable to have roommates, some are partaking in remote learning, and others are even being forcibly displaced from on-campus housing altogether. With this semester already ringing in more stress than normal, it is even more essential to not lose sight of how we can take care of ourselves amidst the chaos.

For all of you incoming freshmen, it can be particularly easy to forget about your wellbeing as you hoist yourself into every social, academic, and extra-curricular activity (if those are even an option this year). However, if you don’t take this time for yourself, you’ll learn quite quickly how easy it is to wear yourself thin.

Regardless of whether you’re staying at home with family, moving into an apartment with roommates, or living in a single dorm, paying close attention to your mind and body will help you to feel more balanced and in control of your life.

Although I, myself, am guilty of pushing down my own needs in order to focus on more seemingly “pressing” tasks at hand (which typically are not at all that pressing), the days I do practice some sort of self-care are those in which I feel most at ease.

Though these tips below may only be mere suggestions for how to keep a stable head through the stress, I strongly urge you to keep them in the back of your mind for the days you’re feeling overwhelmed. And, always remember, self-care isn’t selfish.

So, without further ado, I encourage you to:

Find your “space.”

Your “space” can refer to your bedroom, dorm room, the library, a park bench, or a small cafe in town. The significance behind finding your own space, right at the start of the school year, is that this can be a place for you to turn to when you need alone time.

As exhilarating as it may sound to be surrounded by all of your college besties, there will be times when you need to be alone. Not to mention, if you are sharing a room with another person, this alone time sometimes isn’t easy to come by. That is why finding a quiet place to escape to is so beneficial for the times when you need to cram for an exam or clear your head.

With this escapism space, it’s important to note that you should never feel like you owe anyone an excuse for why you need to be alone. This may be easier said than done if you’re still living under your parents’ roof, but try not to feel ashamed or guilty for wanting to step out. You deserve a place of peace.

Go for walks!

If you cannot seem to find a space that is easily accessible for you to escape to when you need alone time, going for a walk is a perfect alternative. This is also something that doesn’t require reasoning behind why you’re going out. If you need a break from your roommates or siblings, go take advantage of the fresh air. Plus, you don’t even have to have a destination in mind! Do a loop around campus and you’ll come back with a clearer head.

Make a schedule for yourself.

Now, I am a huge planner. I have a physical notebook where I write down all of my homework assignments and I use Google Calendar to keep track of my classes, meetings, and work shifts. However, even if you’re not really into this type of organization, it is still crucial to schedule in time for yourself every. single. day. This doesn’t mean you need to plan an entire spa day, but simply making sure you allow yourself some free time will ensure that you aren’t overworking or overbooking yourself.

Treat yourself.

It can be so tempting to be extremely hard on yourself when things don’t go the way they were planned. Sometimes, you’re going to fail an exam, sleep through a class, or simply not feel like getting out of bed. And, quite frankly, that’s life! Beating yourself up about it will only damage your self-confidence even more. So, be sure to celebrate all of your little victories, and go easy on yourself. The world is a literal stress ball right now, so making sure to give yourself some leniency will lessen your self-tension.

Some ways you can treat yourself may be ordering takeout (without guilt!), spending a night watching Netflix instead of getting ahead on assignments, or even staying in your pajamas all day. All in all, just be sure to pay attention to your daily successes and be proud of them!

Lastly (and arguably most importantly),

Surround yourself with people that you LOVE.

Even if you don’t get along with your roommates, or are quarantined in your house with an overbearing family, this is still possible. Visit friends’ dorms, join clubs (virtually or in-person) with people who share your common interests, FaceTime loved ones, get coffee with your classmates, and do what you love with those you love.

The energy of those surrounding you will, in fact, influence your own mood and perspectives. So, make this the year of cutting out those toxic relationships and replacing them with healthier, more positive ones that encourage you to be the best version of yourself.

With college comes stress, uncertainty, moments of doubt, and a bit of sadness. That being the case, no matter where you are in your schooling experience, be sure to give yourself a little extra love this year and recognize all of the good that you bring into this world.