“Caring for myself is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation.”

                                                                                                                           – Audre Lorde


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What is self-care?

Self-care is a skill to help us feel more “balanced” and achieve a sense of “wellness.” This skill involves taking intentional steps to take care of our physical, mental, and emotional health.


Why self-care important?

Self-care is not a “one time” deal and it can change based on your needs. It’s a lifestyle approach that focuses on healthy activities that sustain well-being, help cope with daily stress, build resilience in the face of challenges, and maintain a sense of energy and vitality. It is a way to refuel your whole self, so you can keep doing what it’s important to you!

Consider how do you take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally now and whether there are any activities you might want to add or eliminate?


Also, it may be helpful to consider obstacles that may come up:

If you tend to put others needs first, consider that your self-care is critical for your well-being and for your ability to be there for others!

Some of the components of self-care:

  • Physical
  • Mental/Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Relational


How do I practice self-care?

To get you started, here are some ideas to consider and get you started in developing your unique self-care plan:



Sleep regular hours

To facilitate sleeping:

  • Drink warm milk before bed
  • Avoid caffeine after 3 PM and alcohol before bed
  • Eat something light before bed
  • Get up at a regular time no matter how well you have slept, however, if you need a nap, take one, but try to stay active during the day
  • Read or listen to something relaxing before bed (this means no strenuous exercise!)


Eat a balanced diet at regular intervals*

  • Even if you are not hungry, eat a little at each mealtime
  • Eat a breakfast that includes whole grains, proteins and fruit or fruit juice
  • Stay hydrated, bring a water bottle when going to class
  • Limit amount of caffeine in your diet

*American Council on Exercise (2002). Eat well to stay motivated and energized [Handout]. San Diego, CA: American

Council on Exercise.

Exercise moderately each day

  • A brisk walk will do. Stress prepares people physically to fight or flee. Regular exercise discharges this energy more productively when fighting or running will not solve the problem. Without such release, the energy may be turned inward creating fatigue or turned outward creating conflicts in your relationships.
  • Play a sport
  • Dance
  • Jog
  • Relax tense muscles 
  • Try yoga, Tai Chi, back and foot massages, etc.
  • Stretch often
  • Take a deep breath

(Seek medical attention if stress is making an existing medical condition worse or you have significant difficulty with eating or sleeping).




Recognize what you can and cannot control. We may not have much control over how many exams or papers we must complete to pass a class, but we can control many things in our daily lives. Ways to gain control over your life are:

  • Create a schedule of study: with multiple projects, assignments, and responsibility, it’s important to practice prioritizing and goal setting skills to help manage stress!
  • Goal Setting 
  •  Time Management 
  • Reward yourself - with a flower, a book, etc.
  • Express your opinions but avoid heated arguments
  • Identify and remind yourself of your strengths
  • Practice saying "no" (e.g., setting healthy limits and asserting yourself) and asking for what you need
  • Recognize that thoughtful people of goodwill may come to very different conclusions from yours
  • Expect to be respected
  • If possible, spend time with animals
  • Express yourself creatively: singing, dancing, cooking
  • Do something fun; laughing at serious times is OK
  • Escape in healthy ways: video games, movies, hikes, rather than overeating or abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Count to 10 and breathe
  • Commit to loving yourself  Self-Compassion 


  • Seek out religious or spiritual communities
  • Prayer
  • Meditation  
  • Read inspirational quotes 
  • Journal your thoughts and feeling
  • Spend time in nature
  • Express yourself creatively: paint, draw, sculpt, write, play a musical instrument, scrapbook
  • Help or volunteer

Feeling Good through Helping Others: What Can You Do?

You have unique gifts, special interests, and sharing yourself by helping others may assist you in coping with stress. Depending on your political or social stance, you may choose to participate in campus organizations, letter writing, and organizing idea exchanges on campus. You may choose to help others through volunteering for a community service agency or reading books on tape for the local library. Remember that involvement may be time consuming, upsetting, and tiring as well as rewarding. Be sure to care for yourself by keeping balance in your life.


  • Join an orginization or create your own book club
  • Volunteer
  • Ask a friend to introduce you to others friends
  • Make an effort to get to know better some of the acquaintances you see on a regular basis.
  • Reach out to family and friends - share how you truly feel and ask for time to be listened to and reassured
  • Talk to and ask for guidance from Resident Hall Directors, Residence Assistants, coaches, professors, and other possible sources of support (e.g., seek out positive people!)
  • Talk about your feelings, but avoid talking solely with persons who are only negative and pessimistic
  • Seek support groups or counselors if you continue to feel distressed

PACS offers free confidential counseling for all students. Call 862-2090 if you are interested in receiving individual and/or group counseling. We are located in Smith Hall #306 – 3 Garrison Avenue.

* Adapted from a publication by Student Counseling Service, Iowa State University


For more information on self-care and other resources, please visit our Quick Reference Links page.