Making Time for Myself

Jana with her sorority sisters at SongFest
Jana and her sorority sisters used their study breaks to prepare to participate in SongFest; their theme “Game of Thrones.”

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:

  1. 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.

    Jana and her Friends at Messina Hoff
    Jana and her friends enjoyed a Sunday afternoon at Messina Hoff after a long week of tests.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

A Fresh Perspective for Senior Year

Jana G.The start of senior year as a biomedical sciences student is an exciting time. This will be my last football season to sit in the student section, many of my friends are getting “big kid” jobs and moving across the state (sometimes across the country!), and, on top of it all, I am applying to veterinary school.

Knowing that I wanted to be a vet since I was 7 years old, I spent the majority of my time growing up and as an undergraduate pursuing that goal. I have so much passion for this field and I have worked so hard, but how do I put all of that into words on an application? While inputting every activity, calculating every hour, and writing every essay, I can’t help but feel that years and years of energy, growth, and preparation have all led up to this moment. It can be exciting! But, more often than not, it’s scary and it’s stressful.

Summoning the courage to hit the final “submit” button on these applications has taught me a few things. One, my grades do not define me. Two, I have the best support system in the world. And three, it’s OK that I don’t have it all figured out.

Of course, grades are the most important part of college. After all, school is the whole reason any of us are here. In preparing for vet school, though, I have found that experiences matter just as much. Whether these experiences stem from plunging head-first into a 16-hour semester, volunteering out of your comfort zone, or shadowing in a veterinary field you thought you had no interest in, it all begins to shape you. Now, being a senior, the way I view and approach my classes has changed drastically since my freshman year. My courses are no longer daunting obstacles that stand between me and my goals but tools to help me get where I want to be. It is a wonderful feeling when suddenly class work has apparent, real-world applications, just as great, in fact, as realizing that the only reason you understand a metabolic pathway in biochemistry is because the underlying concepts were taught in CHEM 101. In other words, my classes have become part of my experiences. Through coursework, just as with extracurricular activities, I have found topics I enjoy and want to pursue, along with topics that do not intrigue me as much. I give the same piece of advice to every prospective student who takes a tour with me of VBEC: your classes have to interest you. The “A” on an official transcript may not have made me who I am, but the intellectual expansion and inspiration gathered from that class did.

College is a time of major change. My family has always been the most important part of my life, and I had to leave them three hours behind in Arlington to attend A&M. Breaking out of your shell to make college home and find new friends is hard, but once you do, they are friends for life. Between school, work, shadowing, and volunteering, my schedule can be hectic. Fortunately, my friends and family have been my biggest fans throughout the entire vet school application process. Be it with dinner dates, long phone calls, or simply studying with me, they have found ways to be sources of constant encouragement. In turn, they have taught me to be a better friend and support system to those around me.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have realized that my career goals are dynamic. Growing up with horses, I had always thought of being a large-animal veterinarian. Now, thanks to fun trips I have taken, incredible people I have met, and unique opportunities I have had, I want to go into veterinary research. Though I am fully confident that this is what I want to do with my life, I could not tell you what kind of research I want to do; I only know what interests me. Vet school will be a new, wonderful chapter in my life, and I am positive it will change my perspective and bring my attention to new areas of focus. I may not know exactly where I will be in five or 10 years, but I do know that I am following my passion and am on the right path.