Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

2023 Self-Care Resources for Student Leaders

Suggested self-care resources
This is definitely something I’m still working on, but I think learning to say no is a huge part of self care! As much as we want to take on everything, there’s so much power in understanding your own capacity and saying no! Aside from that I always carve out time for things that I find recharge my battery like taking walks or watching Netflix - scheduling it in my day often forces me to actually do it. I also really, really prioritize getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep every night - that is something that I’m not willing to sacrifice no matter how much work I have and I find makes a huge difference in how I feel on the day to day.

I think a big part of self-care is not making one thing your entire life -- it’s important to have friends, colleagues, commitments, etc. that are more separated from each other so that the highs and lows of one sphere of influence are not constantly consuming you. Some ways to do this are to get off campus and interact with non-Harvard folks and communities, or talking with high school friends / strangers that would have no way to relate or understand your work, so you might as well just pick another topic to talk about haha. 

For me, self-care means being able to take a break from our hectic schedules and wind down without having to stress about anything at that moment. I found myself taking care of Canvas assignments and extracurricular activities, and not prioritizing and finding time to take care of myself, physically or mentally. One of my favorite forms of self-care is to deep clean, in any shape or form from vacuuming and dusting to fixing my closet. This may be the clean freak in me, but I find cleaning so soothing and relaxing. I love to light a candle or use an oil diffuser and choose a relaxing essential oil to fill the room, get a face mask on, a nice playlist, and just get to cleaning and take a long hot shower after. Having an organized place helps me organize my thoughts and recenter myself by making my space comfortable and fresh. It not only gives me an excuse to turn my phone off to recharge my social battery but also allows me to be productive in an enjoyable way. 

I like to practice “self-care” by taking the time to do what I like outside of school-related activities. For example, as a quality-time love-language person, I find joy in being around people that make me happy, even if it is in silence, doing nothing. Surrounding myself with people who bring me peace is something that is really healing for me. In addition, I also like to treat myself to my favorite foods or snacks, accompanied by one of my favorite and/or comfort shows. I also like to curate playlists for myself, and explore new music that gets me up and dancing, or swaying my head. I also appreciate going on long walks with my friends, and using that time to debrief on the goings-on of our lives. I think one of my favorite, and underrated forms of self-care is simply the art of doing nothing. A lot of the time, taking time to myself to just reflect or sit in the comfort of my own presence alone is comforting and helps me destress from my emails, Canvas notifications, and the chaos of the outside.

I think one of the hardest things for me in my time at Harvard is learning to make time to take care of myself. Like many of us, I’ve learned (the hard way) that it is important to make time for self-care because if we are constantly burning ourselves out trying to keep up with our surroundings, we are unknowingly shaving away the enjoyment from doing those things. Then the question that will linger is what is the point of doing those things if they no longer bring you fulfillment? A question I’ve also learned to ask myself recently is if what I am doing is detracting from my wellbeing, and if there is another way I can do the things I love without taking away from my happiness. I’ve come to realize that I destress best when I make time for myself over the weekends to grab a bagel with a friend, go on a walk along the Charles, try something new, call my loved ones, and when I have to tend to my academic responsibilities, to listen to music I like and to work with friends. Life is too short to put yourself second; you can take care of yourself while still being academically responsible! 

Self care as a student-leader can be hard. From not wanting to “look weak” to not having the proper time to reflect inwards, this can be a tricky subject for college-aged students, and even moreso for student leaders. One resource I often used when I was going through hard times was journaling. While talking to people is great, sometimes it can feel as though our heavy feelings may be too much to put on someone else, but with journaling, I was really able to speak wholeheartedly about my experiences. These entries could be as short as I wanted to get things off my chest. I also really emphasize in any space that I’m in that I am not invincible. I do not always have the answer to everything. By getting this out of the way early, I’ve found that it’s way easier to open up to the other people on my board about organization-specific things. I’ve found that no one looks down on you for expressing your worries or doubts about something; if anything, people feel closer to you and more included in the organization! I’m looking forward to reading and hearing about what other people think about self-care as student leaders!

Self-care is something that is very overlooked on this campus, where there is an inherent pressure to succeed and appear “okay.” Especially as a student leader, it is common to feel burdened by the spotlight that comes with serving in a leadership position. Something I struggled with was learning how to not spread myself out too thin and take on more than I can handle. Yes, the organization is important, but so is your wellbeing! It is so important to learn how to say “no” when things become too much. Furthermore, there should be no shame or judgment towards individuals who choose to say “no.” I think that student organizations should really prioritize check-ins/feedback to make sure that student leaders and members are taking care of themselves/getting the support they need. 

Self-care for both students and leaders can be challenging - students are constantly under social and academic stressors and leaders are inherently responsible for stepping up to the plate when times get tough in their groups. With this in mind, it becomes clear that self-care for student leaders can be especially difficult. I think this is something that I have struggled with for much of my life and only recently started to really improve upon. It took a lot of conscious effort, but some of the things that have helped me include:
Prioritizing exercise and eating 3 meals a day! Oftentimes I would just say I don’t have time for a full meal or exercise, but, I have found that having these routines really helps me perform better in everything throughout the day.
Carving out time for purely social activities - not studying with friends or hanging out with people who you’re involved with as a student leader - but rather leaving the Harvard bubble and doing things solely for enjoyment.
Taking time for myself - along with making time for social events, it’s also important to recognize when you’re not feeling up to them and just want to stay in or eat a meal by yourself.
Establishing a clear way of “letting off steam” and practicing it regularly, whether it be watching reality TV (my personal favorite), meditating, or playing video games - making time for de-stressing has also been super helpful for me.

I’ve never really done self care until recently. One thing I have found extremely useful is doing productive tasks. For me that usually takes the form of working out, reading, cleaning my room, calling family, or anything that strengthens one aspect of my life. I have found that in doing this I ultimately feel better about myself and feel like I am getting something done. Another thing I have been doing at Harvard has been going down to the river at night time and listening to music and chill. I like this a lot and it gets me to think a ton, and sometimes I even write a little bit in my notebook about random things. I’ve only done this a handful of times, but nonetheless, have found it extremely useful. The biggest thing I do for self-care is definitely work out or hang out with friends.

As college students and as student leaders, taking time away from classes and extracurriculars can be really hard. Especially during finals/midterms period, I find that situations are more stressful than normally. For me, tips that I got regarding self-care that I implemented include:
Checking-in or talking to someone – whether that be ranting or debriefing – helps you let go and destress. The person you talk to can be a friend or family member, but it is important to voice out your concerns and stress.
Establish a Schedule
Set up a routine and sleep schedule to make sure you aren’t spending too much time on one task.
Self-Care (traditional sense)

My blockmates and I sometimes do a “girl’s night in” where we make a makeshift spa and listen to music/watch a movie. Make sure in the traditional sense of self-care, you aren’t skipping meals to work and you get enough time to sleep/hang out with friends.
Take a Walk
When I’m really stressed out, I like to take walks around the river to clear my head.
Watch a Movie/Do Something You Love

Every week, set a time to do something you love whether that be crocheting, watching a movie, or playing a sport.
I love what I do so I don’t ever feel burnt out, but as with most things, the key to performing at a high level is balance. I can log 40 hours at HSA per week but if I’m not also eating three square meals per day with friends and exercising regularly, those aren’t quality hours. I’m a firm believer in Parkinson’s Law, that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion, so instead of starting with the work I have to do, I like to start with the things that I know will make me happier and healthier and build from there.

For me, forms of self-care can include having a solid morning routine. Making sure to start your day off right and not too rushed. Having time to decompress, collect your thoughts, make your bed, etc, can be a great way to start off with some productivity and put you in the right mindset for the day. Additionally, I am a firm believer in “me time,” and when you are overwhelmed, making sure to actually take the time to be on your own and let go of things. Sometimes this may even include putting aside work or responsibilities that you think are urgent, and getting back to them when you are in a better mental state. Also, I really want to stress the importance of being open and honest with friends or family. When you are struggling, reach out to people who care about you and are there for you. I know that it can be hard to be vulnerable, but people really are your best resource.

For me, self-care thrives in a non-traditional way. I find that I am best able to combat stress and a feeling of overwhelmingness by planning and having clear lists and schedules. I find that I am able to carve out “me time” when I know exactly how each of my days will be structured. Not only does optimizing time give me peace of mind, but it also holds me accountable to my schedule which in turn benefits me by providing me with ample sleep. My biggest and most consistent method of self-care is quality sleep. I have always been someone who has needed the minimum 7 hours of sleep to function productively and as someone who is very susceptible to getting sick, I have made sleep something I am unwilling to compromise on. I think the concept of having one or two self-care rituals that are priority and aren’t compromised on is very important!

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