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Self Care for College Students and Recent Grads: Your Ultimate Guide

Prioritizing self care as a young adult is challenging, but important. Need inspiration? We’ve got you covered.

It’s no secret: college is a stressful time for most young people. You’re faced with immense pressure to get good grades, participate in countless extracurricular activities, get impressive internships, make money with a part-time job, all while balancing your bustling social life. And life as a newly minted adult isn’t much easier. With everything you have on your to-do list (find an apartment, maintain a social life, show up on time to your soul-sucking job), practicing self-care for college students and recent grads might feel like an indulgence you just don’t have time for.

Self Care for College Students - stressed guy

We get it, because we’ve been there. Self care feels like the last priority as a college student, recent graduate, or even just a regular ol’ adult. Sorry, mom. You’re not that old.

The problem is that if you don’t find time to care for yourself, there can be some seriously negative consequences. The truth is that if you find a way to make time for self care, everything else in your hectic world will start to feel a lot easier, too. Self care for college students and recent grads isn’t a luxury: it’s a necessity.

Self Care for College Students - and breathe sign

What is self care (and what is it not)?

So, here’s the thing. So many people (and college students especially) think that self care is something they can ignore indefinitely. There’s an impression among many folks that self care is an indulgence and a luxury. And while it can be, most of the time, self care is exactly what the name implies: caring for one’s self.

This can mean so many things: exercising, moving your body, eating well, getting enough sleep, taking care of your hygiene. Yup, self care really is that simple.

Of course, you can get fancy with self care and add more extravagance to your list. Maybe taking a Lush-bomb bath, lighting a hundred candles, or splurging on an expensive manicure because it makes you feel fabulous. But self care is not just about gratification. It’s about actively choosing to prioritize yourself, your health, your well-being, and your mental state, and it can lead to an increase in confidence and happiness.

Self Care for College Students - reading

Why should you practice self care in college (and right after)?

If it’s not obvious from our above definition of self care (go back and read it again, we’ll wait), it is important to an epic degree as a college student. College is a time where you’re stressed to the max. Uncertainty about your future, coupled with all the stuff you’re juggling, and it’s so easy for your health and well-being to take a nosedive.

According to a study done by the American College Health Association, 44.9% of students report feeling an above average level of stress. An additional 12.7% say they feel tremendous stress, and another 34.3% have an average level of stress. So basically, 91.9% of college students are stressed. Sound familiar?

And as a recent graduate, your stress levels may get even worse. While there aren’t as many hard and fast statistics about recent grads and stress (hello, that’s where Adultescence comes in), we can tell you from anecdotal experience that life as a brand new adult isn’t a walk in the park. You’re broke, paying your own bills for the first time on a limited salary, don’t live near your friends anymore, have a probably-not-ideal job, and your dating life is nonexistent. Hello, stress, our old friend.

Self Care for College Students - stressed young woman

What are the risks of ignoring self care?

Which leads us to the conclusion of this thesis. JK, we are definitely out of college and have no interest in going back. Good luck out there.

If you ignore your self care, your stress levels will only increase. There’s lots of science around the negative toll stress takes on your body, mind and overall health. Not taking care of yourself can have long-term detrimental effects, like fatigue, lack of motivation, anxiousness, weight loss or gain, and even loss of sex drive. Yikes.

Plus, getting into the good habit of practicing self care as a college student will lead you to be an adult who prioritizes self care, too. Here’s a news flash: you’ll never be at a point in life where you feel like you have all the time in the world to take care of yourself. It’ll always be something you have to make time for. Except maybe once you retire. Hate to break it to you, but you’re a long way off from that.

Self Care for College Students - candle cozy

Self Care Ideas for College Students & Recent Grads

Have we convinced you that you need to start practicing self care? It’s as easy as taking twenty minutes out of each day to do something selfish that’s just for you. Make this a daily routine. If you’re lacking motivation, here are some ideas. And of course, most of them are free or cheap. We know the struggle of being broke all too well.

  • Go for a walk.
  • Play with your pet.
  • Light a candle.
  • Read a chapter of your favorite book.
  • Take a bath or a hot shower.
  • Do yoga.
  • Meditate.
  • Spend time outdoors.
  • Get coffee with a friend.
  • Make yourself a cup of tea.
  • Write in your gratitude journal.
  • Prepare a delicious smoothie.
  • Call someone you love.
  • Turn your phone off for an hour. Yes, actually off!
  • Go to bed early.
  • Take a nap.
  • Watch your favorite show on Netflix.
  • Have a movie night.
  • FaceTime with your family.
  • Listen to your favorite podcast.
  • Draw or color a picture.
  • Take photos of the sunset.
  • Paint your nails.
  • Compliment a stranger. It’ll make you feel good!
  • Play a board game with your roommate.
  • Do a face mask.
  • Sleep in!
  • Do your skin care routine.

Self Care for College Students - infographic

Final Thoughts on Self Care for College Students & Recent Grads

We know self care can be hard to do when you’re busy, but hopefully these suggestions made you feel inspired to hop aboard the wellness wagon. If you need more inspiration, look no further.

Check out the Adultescence podcast episode about prioritizing self care as a recent graduate. If you’re not there yet, you will be soon, and it’s good to know you have a girl gang waiting for you on the other side of that college diploma.

Until then, follow us on Instagram and let us know how you’re practicing self care today!

By Laura Davis

Laura was born at the beach in New Jersey, but she'd be the first to tell you her childhood was nothing like Jersey Shore. Sadly. When she's not writing, you can find her reading on her beloved Kindle, listening to true crime podcasts, or looking up adoptable cats.

Outside of her 9-5 as a writer, Laura is the owner of Looks by Laura, an online thrifted clothing boutique. She's the co-founder of Adultescence, a podcast and lifestyle website about navigating that challenging space between adolescence and adulthood. And she makes a mean eggplant parm.

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