17 Self-Care Tips and Activities for College Students (+ Expert Insights)

College life is fun and all, but it can also be pretty intense, don’t you think? Oh, I’ve been there. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of deadlines and social commitments, but taking care of yourself is crucial.

That’s why I’ve put together some practical self-care tips that won’t take up too much of your time or energy! Curious to know more? Here are ways to take better care of yourself:

Master the Art of Quality Sleep

I get it, as a student, you might pull all-nighters or flip your sleep schedule upside and down during exams. But here’s the thing: your brain needs sleep to be sharp. So, try to get those 7-9 hours of sleep.

How to achieve this: Set up your room so it’s conducing for rest. A quiet, dark room, a bed that’s calling your name, and a regular “lights out” schedule. If sleep evades you, try a relaxing pre-sleep routine—maybe a warm shower, a relaxing ‘sleep’ playlist, or your favorite podcast playing in the background.

Trust me, once you’ve got this down, you’ll notice a big change—in your focus, mood, and even those pesky under-eye bags!

"Create a routine that signals to your brain that it’s time to wind down and get to sleep; wash your face, brush your teeth, maybe read or listen to a podcast, do some breathing exercises, maybe journal, and call it a night.

Whatever you choose to do, try not to have it be stimulating. This includes anything with blue light.
• Turn off or down the blue light on your phone.
• Try to stop scrolling social media 30 minutes before bedtime
• Swap the TV for a book or audio of some sort."

Efthemia “Mia” Zambarano, LCSW | Mental Health Therapist and Performance & Lifestyle Consultant, LE Vie Consulting and Psychotherapy, LLC

Treat Yourself to a Healthy Breakfast

Aside from sleep, a healthy breakfast can also set the tone for your day. Think of your body like a car; you wouldn’t expect to get very far without filling up the tank.

Here are some quick yet satisfying breakfast ideas:

  • Scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese
  • Whole-grain toast with a swipe of peanut butter (or with an avocado, if you’re allergic to peanuts)
  • Greek yogurt with your favorite fruits

Keep it simple, but whatever you do, don’t skip. A filled tank means better concentration and energy to tackle your to-do list.

Plan Your Meals for the Week

Right, meal planning time! Not skipping breakfast is great, but why stop there? Planning meals can be a lifesaver during hectic school weeks. Plus, it’s a smart move that saves both your wallet and your health. Got 30 minutes on a Sunday? Sit down and jot down a quick meal plan for the week.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Pick simple recipes with shared ingredients (time and money saver!)
  2. Write down your grocery list (stick to it—no impulse buys!)
  3. Prep what you can in advance (veggies can be chopped, sauces can be pre-made)
  4. Stock some healthy, quick-fix meals for emergencies.

This way, you always have something ready when you’re busy or just too tired to cook.

"Engaging in mindful eating is a simple physical self-care activity. Mindful eating includes limiting the consumption of processed foods and incorporating more whole foods for a balanced diet.

[...] Most of us take better care of our things than we do our bodies. But ignoring your health needs can damage your happiness and well-being by making you less productive and much less able to deal with stress.

Taking care of your body means meeting all of its needs, like eating well, working out regularly, taking breaks, and getting enough sleep."

Ashley Grier, MA, LCPC | Mental Health Therapist, Speaker, and Consultant

Schedule Daily “Me Time”

Between lectures, study groups, and that part-time gig, it’s easy to forget the person working round the clock—you. So don’t forget to set a little “me time” every day. Trust me, even 15 minutes just for yourself can work wonders for your mental health.

It’s all about doing something you genuinely enjoy, whether it’s watching a quick video, listening to a podcast, doodling in a journal, people-watching, spending a few minutes with your thoughts, or even finding a quiet spot on campus to sip your coffee.

Whatever your ‘me time’ break is, make sure to set time for it.

"Identify what makes you feel most like you, and don’t sacrifice it. [...] You need downtime and opportunities to do things that aren’t about productivity or your future goals; you need to have time just to be present and have fun."

Stephani Jahn, PhD | Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor | Owner and Therapist, A Pathway to You - Online Counseling in Florida

Start Your Day with A Morning Stretch or Light Exercise

I know, mornings can be rough, especially after a late study night. But starting your day with a gentle stretch or some light exercise can do wonders. Think of it as waking your body up to get the blood flowing.

Try this: Do a simple stretch routine right after you wake up, or a take a quick walk around campus. Or if you’re more of a yoga person, roll out that mat and do a 10-minute yoga session. Give it a try, and see how energizing it can be!

"Physical activity will help the production of endorphins, also known as the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters, which can reduce anxiety. Take a walk, run a mile, do yoga, lift a weight; any type of movement is good movement."

Carlee Nussbaum | Certified Health Coach | Founder, Clarify Wellness with Carlee

Take Regular Breaks Between Study Sessions

Ever heard the phrase “all work and no play”? Well, it’s true. Non-stop studying can make your brain feel like it’s turned to mush. So, remind yourself to take regular breaks—seriously, set an alarm if you need to.

What this looks like:

  • Stand up and stretch every hour or so.
  • Take a short walk to clear your head.
  • Study for 50 minutes, then break for 10.

It’s about studying smarter, not harder. Your brain absorbs info better with short focus blocks.

Create A Study Schedule

Now, time for some real talk. A study schedule isn’t just for the super-organized. It’s for anyone who wants to juggle college life without feeling overwhelmed. A good schedule can help you stay on top of assignments, exams, and even social activities.

How to nail this down:

  • Figure out your best study times (morning bird or night owl?)
  • List out all your tasks and deadlines, then prioritize what needs to be done first.
  • Block time for classes, studying, assignments, and yes, breaks.

A good schedule lets you work, play, AND have a good night’s rest.

Limit Screen Time Before Bed

I know most of us are guilty of scrolling through our phones late at night. You might love scrolling through social media or binging that new show, but your sleep quality could be paying the price—screen time before bed can mess with your sleep.

Those bright screens trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, making it harder for you to fall asleep.

What to do instead: Set a screen time curfew (an hour before bed is ideal). Maybe read a book (the kind with actual pages), listen to soothing music, or just reflect on your day. This little change for a week and you’ll feel the difference in no time.

Keep a Feel-Good Playlist

Who doesn’t love a good jam? Music has that magic power to lift moods and get you moving. My advice? Keep a feel-good playlist handy.

Whether you’re walking to class, tidying up your room, or if you’re feeling a bit down and need a pick-me-up, your favorite tunes instantly put you in a better headspace.

Connect with Your Friends During Free Time

Let’s not forget about your social life! They’re like your lifeline in college. Group study, coffee runs, impromptu heart-to-hearts—they help keep you grounded and remind you there’s a world beyond those books.

These real-life connections can help you unwind and create a support system that’s there through thick and thin.

"Having friends in your residence hall that you can talk to and do fun things together is also helpful, especially for rainy or wintery days when you can’t or don’t want to go out.

Be sure to make plans with friends, especially on the weekend. Plan shopping trips, sports, movies, bowling, or even sightseeing in your town.

You can’t study all the time, but know when it’s time to buckle down and finish that paper or project versus enjoying yourself, even on the weekends. Having the same group that you eat with most of the time for dinner gives you a chance to talk with others and unwind from the day before you have to study in the evening."

Eileen Roth | Organizing Expert, Everything in its Place® | Author, "Organizing For Dummies"

Identify What Stresses You and Reduce Those Things

I mean, college can be a stress fest, right? The crucial part here is to figure out what specifically stresses you out. Exams? Assignment deadlines? Workload? Once you know your triggers, you can take steps to manage it.

Here are some practical tips:

  • For deadlines, a planner might be your new best friend to keep track of everything.
  • Overwhelmed by exams? Try out study groups or get a tutor for subjects that really twist your brain in knots.
  • Need more downtime? Block it out in your schedule like it’s an unmissable class.

Stress isn’t something you can avoid entirely, but you can learn to manage it.

"You might find it empowering to begin to identify opportunities to reduce stressors. This could be as simple as unsubscribing to unnecessary email lists or culling your social media feed to unfollow what raises your anxiety or self-criticism. You might even experiment with turning off notifications for some apps, just to see if it has been playing a role in introducing unnecessary stress.

[...] Try using an app or setting to interrupt you periodically during these activities (I use Stay Focused on my phone for this). When you get interrupted, you can pause to notice whether you feel your activity has been serving you or stressing you. "

Stephani Jahn, PhD | Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor | Owner and Therapist, A Pathway to You - Online Counseling in Florida

Know When to Say Yes or No

It’s easy to overcommit—clubs, social events, study groups, favors, and projects. But saying ‘yes’ to everything can lead to burnout. Knowing your limits is important for your well-being. I mean, you can’t do everything, and that’s okay!

For example: When a friend asks for help with their project on the same weekend you planned to rest, it’s okay to say, Sorry, I’ve got to recharge this weekend.” Believe me, understanding your limits is a life skill that keeps on giving.

"...Know when to say yes or no. This takes into account your needs as well as boundaries. This is the foundation of self-care in terms of actually “taking care of yourself.”

If something is going to benefit you, try to say yes or make time for it. If something is going to be counterproductive, even if you want to do it, learn to say no. I know it’s easier said than done, but this is a skill that you will take with you for the rest of your life."

Efthemia “Mia” Zambarano, LCSW | Mental Health Therapist and Performance & Lifestyle Consultant, LE Vie Consulting and Psychotherapy, LLC

Seek Help When Needed

Okay, so here’s something I realize a lot of us struggle with—asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak. It actually means you’re wise enough to know when you need a little backup. Whether it’s academic pressure, mental health, or personal issues, reaching out can make a world of difference.

Tutors, counselors, health services—your campus is packed with people who get what you’re going through and can offer support.

What this looks like:

  • Struggling in a class? Reach out to a professor or tutor.
  • Feeling overwhelmed? Talking to a friend can help. Or if it’s becoming too overwhelming the counseling center is there for you.
  • Not feeling well? Check in with campus health services.

Remember, asking for help is a smart move, and most importantly, you’re not alone.

"Get oriented to campus resources before you need them. Key players are the following:
• Dean of Students Office
• Disability services
• Health center
• Counseling centers (especially their crisis support options)
• Career services
• Advising

These are the top offices that students need help from when in distress, but waiting until you are in distress is going to make it much harder to get what you need. Bookmark the websites for these campus services and look at the main information on each to get a sense of who does what."

Stephani Jahn, PhD | Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor | Owner and Therapist, A Pathway to You - Online Counseling in Florida

Attend Campus Wellness Events

As we’ve been talking about looking after yourself, here’s a fun one—campus wellness events. From yoga sessions, meditation workshops, therapy dog hangouts (yes, that’s a thing!)—there’s something for everyone. These events are designed to help you unwind, learn, and connect.

So, keep an eye on your campus bulletin board or website for upcoming events. Make a point to attend a few throughout the semester. You might find activities you love and meet people who share your interests. Plus, they’re often free—so take advantage!

Do a Weekly Movie or Game Night

Here’s a fun tip: hit pause on the studying and have a weekly movie or game night. Unwind and give yourself a break with friends, or just by yourself. Whether you’re into video games or the latest blockbuster, it’s the perfect way to chill out and break the monotony of school life.

Invite some friends (or not), pick a night, and make this a thing. It’s a great way to relieve stress. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to during a tough week.

Spend Time Outdoors

Don’t forget—mother nature is pretty therapeutic. Spending time outdoors is like a natural reset button for your mind. Take a walk, go for a run, or just sit and soak up some sun.

Here’s a practical tip: Plan to spend at least 30 minutes a day outdoors. This could mean a walk around campus, a quick run, or even finding a quiet spot to read under the shade of a tree.

Fresh air and a bit of sunshine can do miracles for your mood and energy. It’s all about finding little ways to connect with the outdoors amidst your busy schedule.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Last but not least, recognize the good things in your life with a gratitude journal. This might sound cheesy for some people, but it’s actually a powerful way to shift your mindset.

It doesn’t have to be complicated; simply take a moment each day to jot down a few things you’re thankful for.

  • “Super thankful for the coffee catch-up with a friend.”
  • “Grateful for the unexpected ‘A’ on the midterm—hard work pays off!”
  • “Got a call from home today; really needed that pep talk.”

This practice can make a big difference, especially on tough days. It’s a gentle reminder of the good things in life, no matter how small.

"One of the best positive psychology exercises is journaling. Before bed and when you wake up — give yourself 5 minutes to journal.

Here are three journal prompt ideas:

1. Three things you’re grateful for.
2. Two things that you are proud of.
3. One thing you are looking forward to."

Carlee Nussbaum | Certified Health Coach | Founder, Clarify Wellness with Carlee

More Insights from the Experts

“When college students have good interactions with other people, they can feel like their thoughts, ideas, and opinions are valuable. When you have meaningful relationships, you feel happy, safe, and loved. Understanding and meeting your social needs are part of social self-care.

With good social self-care, you can:

  • Strengthen your social skills.
  • Become more organic in your daily interactions.
  • Treat others with kindness and gratitude.
  • Set more realistic expectations for others.
  • Set or fortify boundaries.
  • Talk to others effectively.”

Ashley Grier, MA, LCPC | Mental Health Therapist, Speaker, and Consultant

“Start the semester by making time to balance, not to accomplish one goal. If you want to get all your homework out of the way or wait to do it later to make the parties, you’ll be behind on your work and burn out.

If you want to get all your work done with no respite, you’ll burn out before you get going. If you want to do everything so you have a good resume for grad school but don’t tend to yourself, you’ll burn out.

Balance your week with what is needed:

  • Body
  • Mind
  • Soul
  • Academic
  • Social
  • Familial”

Johnathan M. Sumpter, MBA, MA, LPC-S | CEO and Founder, The Mental Well, PLLC

Assemble your team. Your school has the people and resources in place to make sure you achieve your personal and professional goals. Whether it’s your academic advisor, resident assistant, professors, counseling office, etc., these people will be your guide throughout your entire college career.

Schedule your free time. In addition to newfound freedom, as a college student, you will enjoy the luxury of increased free time. Avoid sitting in your residence hall or going back home right after class. Use the time to study, exercise, and take advantage of on-campus resources.

Check-in with yourself. It’s important to consider your mental and physical health. Don’t overwork yourself, physically or mentally. Are you stressed, anxious, depressed, or feeling overwhelmed? If so, know that you have plenty of resources at your disposal to help. Seek them out early and often.”

Josh Stern | Vice President for Student Services and Dean of Students, Gwynedd Mercy University

“Avoid being sedentary and give your body the exercise that it requires. Physical activity will also provide psychological fuel as you tackle your responsibilities. […] Build a positive support system; lean on friends, family, and/or significant others, there are additional supports available for post-secondary students.”

Fred Standil | Student Support Advisor, Herzing College

Know about the mental health support services on your college campus. Whether you have issues now or ever or not, it is important to learn about your on-campus network and what support is available for you there. […]

For verbal support, use your Resident Advisor (an older student RA in your dorm), Resident Fellow (RF adult in your dorm), peers, and parents.

Time management and study skills are key. Create a new routine or space(s) where to can study: In a library carrel, your room, any quiet space on campus that you find. Be sure you map out your time with more care and awareness since, in high school, you were committed from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM most days.

But also, in the downtime, you have to factor in possibly larger chunks of weekly reading, long-term assignments, problem sets/homework, laundry, socializing, exercise, etc. Those free chunks of time can get away from you if you aren’t also aware of using them wisely, so be sure to build in time for yourself, too.”

Cynthia C. Muchnick, M.A. | Educational Consultant | Former Teacher | Author, “The Everything Guide to Study Skills

Utilize on-campus resources. Many campuses have a variety of resources to help you take care of yourself. This may include slowing down to eat meals from the cafeteria that include a variety of foods. You can utilize on-campus recreational facilities to find enjoyable ways to move your body.

The campus health center is there when you aren’t feeling well. Got a scratchy throat or some digestive issues, pay a visit to the medical professionals on campus.

Feeling overwhelmed or struggling with a relationship, utilize the mental health resources that are available to students, which often include options for talking to someone individually or joining a group of other students navigating college as well.

Michelle F. Moseley, MS, LCMHC, NCC, BC-TMH | Outpatient Therapist and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor

Remember that what you see on social media is not the full truth. Many students struggling in college look at the highlight reels posted by their peers on Instagram and TikTok and wonder why their lives don’t feel the way everyone else’s looks. Remain cognizant of how your social media intake may impact your mental health, and consider taking a “vacation” from certain platforms if necessary.”

Caralena Peterson | Speaker | Author, “The Effortless Perfection Myth: Debunking The Myth and Revealing the Path to Empowerment for Today’s College Women

Follow the 45-15 rule. Every 45 minutes of work, you take at least a 15-minute break right after.

Forcing yourself to take a break helps to recharge your brain and also breaks up the day when you have a lot of work to do. You can use this time to catch up with friends on your phone, go for a walk or make a quick snack for fuel.

It’s important to prioritize your mental and physical health when in a stressful environment like college. That’s why breaks during your day are essential, as they help to give yourself a rest before continuing on.”

Isabela Calil | Higher Education Consultant, TEG London

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I practice self-care on a tight budget?

You don’t need to spend lots of money to take care of yourself. Start with simple things like going for a walk, meditating with free apps, or reading a book from the library. Cook at home instead of eating out, and look for student discounts for fitness classes or campus events.

Many colleges offer free resources like counseling, health check-ups, and wellness workshops—take advantage of these.

How do I find time for self-care with such a hectic schedule?

It might seem tricky, but even the busiest students can find time for self-care. Integrate small habits into your daily routine.

For example, take five minutes in the morning to stretch, or listen to a podcast while walking between classes. Schedule your self-care activities like any other important task.

What should I do if I start feeling overwhelmed?

If you feel overwhelmed, the first step is to acknowledge it. Take a moment to breathe and assess what’s causing the stress. Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps and tackle them one at a time.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Reach out to friends, family, or campus resources. Sometimes talking about your feelings can make a big difference.

How do I know if my self-care routine is effective?

An effective self-care routine leaves you feeling refreshed, more focused, and better able to handle your responsibilities.

Check in with yourself periodically: Are you feeling less stressed and more energized? Are you finding joy in your activities? If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it up. Self-care is very personal, and it’s okay for your routine to evolve over time.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it! Taking care of yourself during college doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. I think it’s all about finding small, manageable ways to make self-care a part of your daily routine. My personal favorite is setting aside some ‘me time’ each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Remember, you’re doing your best, and that’s enough! These tips can help make your college journey a bit smoother and more enjoyable. So, give them a try and see how you feel. You’ve got this!

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Leah is a creative soul with a passion for telling stories that matter. As an editor and writer at UpJourney, she channels her natural curiosity and imagination into thought-provoking articles and inspiring content. She is also a registered nurse dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact.

In her free time, she indulges her artistic side as a hobbyist photographer, capturing the world's beauty one shot at a time. You can also find her in a poor-lit room playing her favorite video games or in a corner somewhere, reading and immersing herself in the rich worlds of fantasy and dark academia.

At home, Leah is surrounded by love and laughter, living peacefully with her partner and their three adorable shih tzus.