As the semester moves from Thanksgiving break into finals, now is a better time than ever to stress the importance of self-care, which has a reputation of being a glamorous luxury that requires a lot of time and money. While this is far from the case, it is also more than just mentally checking out and watching Netflix for a few hours.
As an average college student, I find myself under a lot of pressure to perform well in school, be involved in extra curricular activities, hold a job, maintain a social life, stay healthy, and keep my room clean. Even though that last one tends to fall lower on my list of priorities, I still struggle to make time for all aspects of my busy life, let alone to take care of myself.
According to PsychCentral, self-care is defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. That can mean different things to different people, but there are a few things to consider when thinking about your own self-care:
- Self-care is a way to recharge and replenish, not take away.
As much as I love watching of all my TV shows, I found that I was not getting the relief I needed from a chronically stressful environment by mindlessly turning on “The Office” for the seventh time. Rather, activities that are engaging, yet still relaxing, have proven to be the better option. By reading a book has been my go-to downtime activity this past semester, for example, I am able to give my eyes a break from screens and lose myself in a story that is not visually presented to me; it is a personal, cozy pastime that also gives my brain some exercise. Be it reading a book, spending time outside, or even watching something different on TV, the time set aside for self-care is precious and is meant to be a way to give back to yourself.
- Instead of an occasional treat, self-care is most effective when incorporated into everyday life.
Some people meditate for a few minutes every morning; others hit the gym everyday after class. This aspect of self-care requires establishing a routine and knowing how you work most efficiently. Most days I feel like a ping-pong ball bouncing between school and work and friends and studying. The name of the game for me is frequent, short breaks. Right before classes started, a friend told me about this wonderful app from NPR called NPR One. Since downloading this free app, I have discovered that NPR is so much more than morning news and documentaries about obscure subjects (though those have proven to be really, really cool). Ranging from three to 45 minutes, incredibly enriching podcasts and radio shows that cross dozens of subjects serve as perfect intermissions to my day. Now, I look forward to my drives across town and walks between class buildings. Integrating self-care of any form into daily practice reduces and prevents anxiety and stress, leaving room for positivity and productivity.
- Self-care is not selfish.
This final point addresses the perception of self-care. From a young age we are encouraged to give to and care for the people around us, to always work our hardest and try our best. It can be uncomfortable to bring something new into your lifestyle that seems to be solely for personal relaxation and pleasure. As a student working toward attending veterinary school, I have drilled the ideas of working hard, pushing my limits, and not stopping until the letters D, V, and M are behind my name; it has become the core of my undergraduate career. While determination and giving 100 percent are keys to success, I have learned you cannot get there running on fumes alone. In order to reach my full potential as a student, employee, ambassador, daughter, friend, and vet school applicant, I must take care of myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. In doing so, I am able to put my best foot forward when it comes to supporting the people in my life.
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of self-care characteristics or activities, I hope this serves to stimulate delving further into understanding the importance of self-care and discovering which techniques work best for you. Start that journal, make time for that fitness class, or stop being afraid to talk to a counselor.
Self-care is meant to build healthier, happier people, and healthier, happier people tend to do better on finals.