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Student Self-Care Advice From Psychotherapist Victoria Emanuel, By: Courtney Crites

May 19, 2023 08:56 PM
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In today’s fast-paced and demanding academic landscape, students often find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of responsibilities, pressures and deadlines, sometimes leaving them burnt out, exhausted and lacking motivation. To shed light on the crucial role of rest and relaxation in students’ lives, I reached out to Victoria Emanuele, a seasoned psychotherapist with a deep understanding and passion for mental health and well-being, who owns and operates Moving Mountains Psychotherapy (@mm.psychotherapy on Instagram). 

Below, we will explore Victoria’s insights and discover the importance of prioritizing self-care, finding balance, and nurturing mental health through the restorative power of rest and relaxation: 

What makes rest and relaxation important for students, especially during the summer break? 

Maintaining a healthy balance is so important especially because of the demanding nature of the school year. Juggling academic tasks, social commitments and other responsibilities can leave you feeling drained. It’s so important to prioritize self care and to listen to your body and your mind throughout the year, but especially in the summer months. Taking the time to reset and recover from the academic and exam season will help you enter the upcoming school year or work with a refreshed mindset. Investing in self-care not only allows you to recharge but also equips you with the necessary energy to pursue your goals and excel in your endeavours. By prioritizing self-care, you can nurture your well-being, improve your overall productivity, and approach your tasks with more energy and intention.

Are there any specific activities or practices that you would recommend for students to help them relax and recharge?

Finding the right approach to self-care and relaxation can be challenging just because it’s different for everybody. Listening to your body and mind means recognizing and honouring your unique needs, which can look different from person to person. Some days, you may feel the need to take it easy and engage in low-key activities, while other days, you might crave movement, socializing, or solitude. I think mindfulness is the root of a lot of relaxation. I always encourage people to incorporate mindfulness into their lives in whatever way works best for them, because it enhances focus and allows you to be present in the moment, rather than being consumed by thoughts of the past or future. This could involve engaging in meditation and yoga, but it could also be as simple as savouring the present moment, practicing deep breathing exercises, or engaging in conversations with friends or family about how you’re feeling. Recognizing that relaxation and self-care are highly individualized experiences, it’s important to explore and discover what works best for you. Embrace the diversity of relaxation methods and find what resonates with your unique needs and preferences. 

How can students work towards balancing rest and relaxation with other important activities such as summer jobs, internships, or academics? 

Achieving balance in your life can be difficult, but oftentimes it comes down to self-awareness. It’s important to recognize when you’re putting all of your energy into one area, and make conscious efforts to avoid that. One way to do this that I’ve found to be effective is to seek accountability from friends, family, or even a therapist. Creating a well-balanced schedule for yourself can also be very helpful. For instance, if you work a 9-5 job, make sure that you allocate time in the evening for self-care and engage in activities you enjoy on the weekends. This way, you can prioritize both your personal well-being and the things you love outside of work, whether it’s pursuing a hobby, watching TV, or exercising. 

It’s crucial to be mindful of not pouring all your energy into a single aspect of your life, be it work or relaxation. Striving for balance means filling the different areas of your life to prevent burnout. I always encourage people to remember that balance is quite subjective and varies from person to person. Some individuals may require more social interaction, while others may need more alone time. It’s about understanding what balance looks like for you and ensuring you don’t exhaust yourself by overcommitting to any one thing. 

What are some of the benefits that students can experience from taking time to rest and recharge during the summer? 

Taking time to rest and recharge can have noticeable benefits, especially when transitioning into a new school year. Allowing yourself to rest without feeling guilty creates a positive mindset and a renewed sense of motivation. By prioritizing rest, you set yourself up for success by being able to balance your commitments and approach your work with clarity and focus. When you give yourself permission to rest, it creates a positive cycle. You become more motivated, energized, and dedicated to your endeavours. Taking time to rest and recharge during the summer allows you to enter the upcoming school year feeling refreshed instead of continuously drained. 

What are some negative consequences or challenges students might experience if they don’t take time for resting? 

Burnout is the first thing that comes to mind and that affects individuals in various areas of their lives, whether it's work, school, or other responsibilities. When we neglect to give ourselves the necessary time to rest and meet our own needs, we may feel burnt out, leading to feelings of exhaustion, lack of motivation, and diminished excitement or passion for things we once enjoyed. This burnout can significantly impact our mood, leaving us with anxiety, sadness, or a decreased desire for social interaction. It creates a negative spiral that can be challenging to get out of. 

The root of self-care lies in establishing a positive feedback loop. By recognizing the importance of rest and making it a priority, we can prevent the onset of burnout and avoid falling into a negative cycle. Taking the time to rest allows us to recharge, regain motivation, and preserve our enthusiasm for the things we love. It’s really important to break free from the misconception that rest is unproductive and indulgent; instead, it’s a vital component of maintaining overall well-being and sustained productivity. 

What would you say is your best advice to students?

In the midst of challenges, it might feel like time is running out and that everything weighs heavily. Remember, you have time to figure things out. Prioritize self-care and your mental health above all else. Taking care of yourself is so important because without happiness and fulfillment, the efforts you’ve been investing won’t be truly worthwhile. There’s always time to go to school or get a job, but taking care of yourself is the baseline for any next step in life.