University life is such an exciting time for many of us. These years are filled with many little adventures and epiphanies woven throughout the various classes we take and exams we worry over, but our various exploits and relationships (romantic, platonic, or professional) can clog us up mentally and emotionally and leave us weary. We forget, amidst the hustle and bustle, to take time for ourselves and practice what most of us know as “self-care”.
It was not a phrase given to me until my junior year (the past year), when I worked as a resident advisor on campus. My supervisor was always asking me and my coworkers what we were doing to practice self-care. When I tried to tell my sister in her graduate-level fiascos to employ self-care, I remember her specifically telling me as she drove us around in her tiny Saturn car, “I don’t even know what that is”.
It seems simple enough to say, and you think you are doing it if you are feeding and clothing yourself. However, it goes beyond the basic needs all humans possess. Self-care is more similar to an art form in need of mastery which comes through dedication, and requires practice to really implement it in your life; but self-care in a college setting is beyond vital. If you ever want to succeed to your fullest at a university, you must practice self-care. Without it, you are more likely to be as helpless as a soaking wet cat when stressors arise, which we all know come frequently in the many semesters of college life.
Therapist Lori Moffett created a whole TED Talk around the concept called “Igniting a Self-Care Revolution”. Moffett explains how this practice betters us through our parasympathetic nervous system. When we do some mindful practice such a yoga, streaming some Netflix, having lunch with friends, or, for me personally, getting a pedicure, we find our heart rate slowing down and our hormones and stress levels balancing out.
It creates an inner calm within ourselves that will make us more successful in the grand scheme of things. This is not something you earn or reward yourself with. This is not a sticker at the top of your test like you got when you were a kid.
Self-care is a practice as vital as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Each level of the pyramid (physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization) can be improved upon if we all take a moment to ourselves.
In truth, the regular implementation of self-care can be integrated in every aspect of the Maslow’s pyramid. Some argue that basic showering and sleep constitutes self-care, but the difference between care and requirement comes from the level of indulgence in the activity. Treating yourself to an afternoon nap is different from going to bed after a night of studying. Do you see the difference?
If you still sound like my sister and just do not get it, let me put it this way. In 2008, the Associated Press and the MTV-U collaborated to do a survey of college students in regards to anxiety and depression. The results showed that 80 percent say they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress.
Also, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that anxiety disorders are the most common on college campuses. What we can gather from these two facts is that stress is extremely prevalent in university life. It is a turbulent time that requires so much of us as students. The use of self-care in everyday life will allow the individual an opportunity to combat the issue of anxiety that so readily wishes to defeat us.
In a packed schedule, this seems hard to pencil in, but the reality is that if you are not taking care of yourself you cannot take care of others. You cannot take care of your business, including all work, assignments, readings, and possible stock trade.
As written in one of my favorite pieces on the subject by Julie Beck for The Atlantic, “there’s little about modern society that prioritizes, encourages, or facilitates caring for yourself or treating yourself well. It’s all, ‘Buy more things!’ ‘Work harder and at any hour of the day!’ ‘Click back and forth uselessly between the same five websites and call it leisure!’ And people are pushing back on that with space, with quiet, with careful, simple care.” As Beck acknowledges between the lines of her writing, nobody is going to do it for you. You have to take care of yourself.
Think of it more as preventative care if it helps. Think of it as some little luxury you can afford. Think of it as necessary to your regular everyday life as a glass of water. It can be just as essential as a multivitamin or a regular visit to your primary care provider’s medical office.
What happens when we forget to check ourselves and nurture ourselves? Things fall apart and the world seems hopeless. Next thing you know, you are having a quiet panic attack over a paper or sleeping through your 9:00 a.m. class because you were up all night working… or maybe that is a bit too specific to relate back to your own story.
Self-care keeps everything in check and it is the powerhouse that assures you are still going strong. However, I prefer to refer back to that iconic mantra popularized by the television series Parks and Recreation, “treat yo’ self!”