Read on for self-care tips about: healthy sleep, caring for yourself while you wait for an appoitment and stocking your medicine cabinet.
Healthy Sleep Tips
Healthy sleep habits can make a big difference in your quality of life. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having good “sleep hygiene.”
Try to keep the following sleep practices on a consistent basis:
Stick to the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends.
This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.
Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
Evaluate your room.
Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.
Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms.
Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening.
Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. It is good to finish eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
Self-Care While You Wait for an Appoitment
While you are in the process of scheduling ongoing individual counseling, you may wonder what you can do in the meantime. Here are some things you can do to alleviate some of the distress you may currently be experiencing (this list is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any conditions – it cannot substitute for a consultation with a medical or mental health professional):
Stick to a routine.
Get dressed, go to class, keep to the structure you normally have during your day.
Eat healthy food regularly.
Skipping meals robs you of the energy you need to cope.
Talk to supportive friends or family members.
Isolating yourself can make things worse.
Find activities that are relaxing or soothing to you.
Listen to your favorite music, practice taking deep breaths throughout the day, take hot baths, meditate, take a long walk.
Get some sleep.
Most people need from 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
Do some kind of physical activity that you enjoy.
This can be running, swimming, playing sports, working out. Even walks around the campus and neighborhood can help you feel better emotionally and help reduce stress.
Avoid using alcohol or drugs as a way to “self-medicate.”
This includes caffeine.
Find humor in life.
Spend time with those who make you laugh. Watch a comedy, YouTube or read a funny book.
Distract yourself temporarily from your difficulties
– watch TV, text a friend, play a game, go outside.
Recall what has helped you before in similar situations.
Make a list of these things and try to do them.
Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings.
Note any patterns or questions you’d like to discuss in counseling.
Stocking Your Medicine Cabinet
It's a good idea to be prepared for the possibility of an illness or injury. You may want to keep the following items in your residence hall room for use in self-care:
Ibuprofen (Advil), and/or Aspirin for fever/pain/swelling
Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM) and Guaifenisen (Mucinex) for coughs
Decongestant (Sudafed) and saline nasal spray for nasal congestion
Cough drops/lozenges with benzocaine and/or menthol for sore throat
An antihistamine (Benadryl or Claritin) for sneezing/watery eyes/other allergies
Pepto-Bismol and Rolaids (or equivalent) for indigestion and upset stomach
Loperamide (Immodium) for diarrhea and Bisacodyl (Dulcolax) for constipation
Tweezers and scissors
Adhesive/bandage tape and sterile gauze pads, Adhesive bandages
An elastic (ACE) bandage
Antiseptic solution (like hydrogen peroxide)
Antibiotic ointment (such as Bacitracin or Neosporin)
Hydrocortisone ointment (such as Cortaid)