By Sapphire Demirsöz
February in Cambridge is a magical month. Not only is it the most romantic city in which to spend Valentine’s Day but spring is already in the air, with idyllic blue skies and cherry blossoms blooming
As it coincides with the middle of Lent term, a time laden with heavy assignments and short deadlines, it’s beneficial to give yourself a well-earned breather. So if you’re feeling burnt out and don’t know where to begin, a different and exciting way to treat yourself is by trying out Gary Chapman’s ‘five love languages’. These love languages are five alternative ways to give and receive love, comprised of words of affirmation, gifting, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch.
People tend to have a hierarchical preference for the ‘languages’ listed, but each ‘language’ is wonderful in its own unique way. Thus, coinciding with the romantic season, and the necessity of balancing your hard Lent work with a little play, here are five spring self-care tips for Cambridge residents (or visitors) based on the five love languages:
1. Words of Affirmation
Listening to some words of affirmation is an amazing way to replenish your mind with a wash of positivity. In case your work, relationship, or anything in between have been consuming your headspace, it’s time to sweep them all away. Your mind is like your home and the feng shui needs to be restored. An immediate way to start nourishing your brain is by picking out some psychology or self-help books from any one of Cambridge’s extensive libraries. Even if you decide to simply skim over the pages, adding a different perspective to your mentality could add a new dimension to your life. Self-help books can be so eye-opening that, when you get back to work, you may see things from a completely new point of view. The fabulous Homerton College librarians have even started compiling a dedicated wellbeing section – drop by to see what resources we have on hand at the CRCLC’s home at Homerton.
When you love someone, you often want to treat them well (often too well – you will probably find yourself wanting to spoil them because you’re so overcome with giddiness), and a way to show this is through giving them gifts: whether it’s a bottle of champagne, freshly baked cookies, or a romantic dinner for two, it’s a way of showing how you think that they’re worth investing in. Vice versa, to be given gifts is heart-warming, because it lets you know that the happiness in your relationship is mutual. But when it comes to treating yourself to the things you would eagerly lavish on a loved-one, sometimes we forget to do it – or worse, we choose not to. So let’s change that: you are a hardworking, fun-loving and affectionate human being who deserves affection in all its forms, and Cambridge is brimming with opportunities to treat yourself. From the handmade fudge in Cambridge Fudge Kitchen, to the macarons and hot chocolate at Fitzbillie’s café, this month make sure to treat yourself as wonderfully as you would treat a loved one. You could even re-immerse yourself in one of your favourite pieces of children’s literature, rekindling the joy of youth through comforting words and delightful illustrations.
3. Acts of Service
It really is the little things that matter. Whether it’s a partner driving you home one evening so you didn’t have to call a taxi, or you picking up groceries for someone who couldn’t find the time, it means a lot when someone goes the extra mile and does a daily-necessity on your behalf. If you find that amongst all your time spent at work you’ve been neglecting yourself, find a moment to unwind and do your future self an act of kindness. We often feel better when we are in a clean and clear environment so, when you have a nice long evening at the tips of your fingers, light a candle (if you’re not living in university-owned accommodation), open a diffuser, let your fairy-lights twinkle, and begin to Marie Kondo your living space. If something does not bring you joy, donate it; if you have a stack of old paperwork, recycle it. Clean, fold and organise your external environment, and afterwards you will feel clean and organised inside too.
4. Quality time
Let yourself reflect on your achievements and immerse yourself in a beautiful new place whilst you do so. As you give yourself some time for mindfulness, why not meander down the Botanic Garden, to observe the city of snow drops and smell the fresh scents of spring. Alternatively, walk to King’s College at sunset and sit in the chapel as the choir performs their Evensong.
5. Physical touch
The final ‘love language’ is physical touch. It is a commonly held assumption that your years of studying can be an isolating time, as work gets prioritised over relationships, or there are simply no relationships that match your needs right now. External relationships can help provide the oxytocin we cherish, but forcing (yourself into?) a relationship (or remaining in one) for this is not advisable (literally, this would be the worst thing to do). But it is sweet to reach out to others if you want some bonding time, and everyone loves to have been thought about. If there is no-one you feel you can reach out to, a recommendable strategy is to focus on yourself! Keep your circulation flowing by trying some Pilates stretches in the gym; find an acclaimed spa and get a soothing massage; and pamper yourself in the shower with lathers of gels, scrubs and lotions. You deserve it!
Sapphire Demirsöz is studying an MPhil in Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge, and she is an avid writer. You can find her on Instagram at @sapphiredemirsoz.