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Puzzle with a missing piece

How You Can Increase Your Self Care

Mon Aug 8, 2022 at 07:30 AM

Colleges and universities tend to be hotspots for mental health struggles. A study of a Midwestern university showed how faculty and students were struggling with mental health issues including depression (28.3% faculty/staff & 31% students), anxiety (38.6% faculty/staff & 41.8%), and stress (31.1% faculty/staff & 33.9%) (Meeks et al., 2021). We cannot ignore the societal and systemic issues at the root of these issues, such as ever-decreasing resources and students whose resources are stretched, but it is also important to plan for what we can control, such as a self care practice. 

Just as we should plan for a successful semester of teaching, research, and service, we should also plan for how to sustain ourselves through and with this work, and encourage students to do the same. This teaching tip provides a framework for holistic wellness and self-care generally and specific to Oakland’s available resources. Use this worksheet to make your own self-care plan.

Self care is not selfish and is essential in achieving excellence in the classroom. Self care is more than just yoga and bubble baths. It is taking time to do things that can help improve your overall well being. A person’s wellbeing consists of 9 dimensions that impact one another. Neglecting any of the following 9 dimensions of wellness can negatively impact your overall wellbeing (physical, emotional, creative, environmental, financial, occupational, cognitive, social, and spiritual). Self-care activities have been shown to help individuals manage stress, reduce the risk of illness, and increase energy. When looking to incorporate self care into your daily routine it can be challenging to know where to start, especially when juggling your workload and personal life. The best place to start is to notice which activities invigorate you and which leave you feeling drained. Below, I have discussed what is important to consider when creating a self care plan and uncovering what self care strategies work best for you.

Creating a Self Care Plan

Self care is very personalized and may look different for each person. In life, you may be struggling with one dimension of your wellbeing more than another requiring you to pay more attention to the affected dimension. For example, say you just got a promotion, contributing to you feeling occupationally and financially well, but making you cognitively exhausted from all the new information. To help balance your cognitive health, you would need to identify a self care strategy to help elevate that dimension of your life. 

To help you identify a self care strategy for each one of the 9 dimensions of wellbeing (physical, emotional, creative, environmental, financial, occupational, cognitive, social, and spiritual), I have created a handout with examples for each dimension. This is great to keep on hand because when you find you are feeling unbalanced in one area of your life, you can look to this sheet to help you discover a resource that works best for you. Below, I have provided a self care strategy for each of the 9 dimensions of wellbeing as an example:

  • Physical Self Care Strategy: Getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night
  • Emotional Self Care Strategy: Journaling before you go to sleep each night
  • Cognitive Self Care: Reading at least twice a week for pleasure
  • Social Self Care: Family dinners every Sunday
  • Financial Self Care: Sticking to a monthly budget
  • Spiritual Self Care: Practicing meditation every morning when you wake up
  • Occupational Self Care: Eating your lunch away from your desk 
  • Environmental Self Care: Deep clean your house once a month

Once you have identified a self care strategy for each of the 9 dimensions of wellbeing, you must then ask yourself a series of questions for EACH strategy you identified. This will help you keep accountable for when you will perform this strategy, how often you will perform it, and allow you to assess any challenges you may face in implementing this strategy into your daily routine. Go through the following questions once you have identified a strategy for each of the 9 dimensions of wellbeing:

  • Which strategy did you identify to try out? Does it meet the components of adult self-care (meaningful and occurs regularly?)
  • When will you engage in your self-care strategy?
  • How will you ensure that you continue to engage in this self-care strategy?
  • Note any barriers that may be in your way of keeping to a self care plan and how to overcome them.

Where Can You Increase Your Self Care at OU

Oakland University has a variety of services and resources for OU faculty to increase their wellbeing. Below, I have identified places you can go or groups you can join to help increase different dimensions of your wellbeing. Some resources may fall under multiple categories. Additionally, this is not an exhaustive list and there may be other resources that are not on this list.

Physical Self Care Strategy: 
  Graham Health Center
  Recreation Center 
  OU Golf & Learning Center 
Emotional Self Care Strategy: 
  SEHS Counseling Center 
  Employee Assistance Program
  Counseling Center 
Cognitive Self Care: 
  Meadowbrook Theater
  Meadowbrook Hall
Social Self Care: 
  Athletics Sporting Event
  Latinx ERG
Financial Self Care: 
  OU Credit Union
Spiritual Self Care: 
  Library Reflection Room 
  OC Reflection Room (room 53)
Occupational Self Care: 
  The Research Office
  Human Resources 
  Women in Science, Engineering, And Research (WISER)
Environmental Self Care: 
  Campus Student Organic Farm 
  Environmental Health & Safety

References and Resources

Meeks, K., Sutton Peak, A., & Dreihaus, A. (2021). Depression, anxiety, and stress among students, faculty, and staff. Journal of American College Health. 

9 dimensions of wellbeing explained, from the Rollins Wellness Center.

Learn more about Self Care and how to get started, from the National Institute of Mental Health (2021).

Alexander, J., & Kelch, B. (2021, July 9). Self Care Strategies for Faculty. Inside Higher Ed.

Save and adapt a Google Doc version of this teaching tip.

About the Author

Caitlyn Hennings is a Wellness & Educational Outreach Coordinator at University Recreation & Wellbeing. She has a Master of Science degree in Health Promotion, is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and has received a certification in Clinical Health Coaching. Caitlyn is new to Oakland County and just moved here from Delaware where she had lived her entire life.

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