With all the stresses of college (and life in general), it can be easy to lose track of taking care of yourself, but could it be that making self-care a priority actually helps you achieve a more balanced lifestyle and could even reduce your stress level? Read more to find out.
There’s something so exciting about the beginning of a new year. Many people view this as a time to replace bad habits with good ones, to make and build new relationships, and to achieve goals we had always wanted to achieve. But what is it about this time of year that makes us so optimistic and expectant about what’s to come?
For some, the meaning of Christmas is watching the story of the Mean One of Christmas, a.k.a. the Grinch. For others, the meaning of Christmas is rooted in lots of family traditions revolving around food, movies, gift giving, and decorating. There are lots of wonderful things to do year after year, but sometimes I wonder if they distract us from the true meaning of Christmas. How can we make sure we are not distracted, and that we are seeing the real significance of Christmas?
People are an essential part of our lives, and we must know how to positively relate to them. In order to do so, we should learn what brings out there best attributes, whether it be a compliment, the right perspective in conversing with them, or even forgiveness if they need it to progress the relationship.
According to the Myers-Briggs (and my everyday life), I'm hyper-introverted, which means that time spent around a lot of people is exhausting for me. Like, there's a scale that rates you from super-introverted to super-extroverted, and I'm about three ticks away from being as introverted as you can be (Please, get all introvert stereotypes out of your brain). But, during my first two years at MC, I didn't really know what to do about that. I found myself irritable, exhausted, and spread thin, and I didn't know why. I paid more attention to what I needed to do, what I should do, and what my friends wanted me to do, more than I paid attention to what I needed. Then, I had a breakdown (you can read about it here), and I knew that something had to change.
Thankfully, I was (and am) surrounded by an incredible support system, I have a great church, and a wonderful therapist. Through hard conversations, long days, and a lot of trial and error, I began learning what it looks like to love myself well. It's been over two years since I really started my journey of self care, but the change that's been made in those two years is ridiculous. I've learned so much about myself, wellness in general, and what it looks like to set myself up to love others really well. And, not to brag, but my roommate recently called me the "Master of Self Care."
Like I said, though, I had to learn these things the hard way, and today, I'm hoping to keep your self-care journey from being as hard as mine was. Today, I want to give you an introduction to what it looks like to prioritize your self care, because, I promise, you are more than worth taking good care of.
Get to Know Yourself
I think it's easy to forget that as we grow, we change, and with that, our needs, likes, dislikes, desires, and more change with us. Not only that, but we are each a unique person with individual emotional, mental, and physical needs. We're worth getting to know, yes, by other people, but first and foremost, by ourselves. For me, the first step in learning self-care was to get to know myself. A good way to go about this is to take personality tests, like the Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram that will allow you to learn about yourself in really cool ways.
Another way to do this is to go to counseling, where you're given an hour of time to talk about yourself and receive guidance from a trained professional. Really, the goal of getting to know yourself is to increase your self awareness, or to better know what your individual needs are in your everyday life, so that you can do what you can to meet those needs for yourself.
Make a List of Things You Love
This may sound trivial, but it's important. The things we love, be it our favorite food, hobby, movie, or place to travel are part of what make us who we are. But, when life gets busy, it's super easy to look over those things. Make a list of the things you love to do, eat, see, watch, explore, whatever, and then make time to do those things. It's important to do the things that bring us joy, make us feel more human, and give us a break from the "have to's" of life. It could be anything from going for a run, cooking a good meal, doing something creative, reading for fun, or even just taking a nap. Make a list, be it mental or physical, and remember the things that make you happy.
Rearrange Your Schedule, Prioritize What's Important
Remember when I said that I'm a hyper-introvert? Well, before I paid attention to my self-care and didn't give a flip about loving myself well, I would seldom give myself the chance to be alone. After I realized just how introverted I was and how much I needed that alone time, I began scheduling a time everyday to be alone so that I could recharge and think. Between classes, homework, jobs, and other obligations, it's important to take time for ourselves. Schedule yourself some time to do those things you listed out earlier. Make sure you give yourself time to rest, whether that means physical rest or just mental and emotional rest.
Say Yes & No
I used to think that, if I had free time, I needed to schedule something to fill it. I said yes to everything, and never really realized that it was okay to say no if I needed to. A big part of self-care is realizing what is good to say yes to, and what's okay to skip out on. Yes, there are the things that we have to do, like going to class and showing up to work, and sticking to our commitments is important, but if you don't want to go to a social event, or you don't want to have another coffee date this week, it's simple: don't.
I wrote more about this last semester, and you can read it here.
Take Care of Yourself
In reality, this is the heart of self-love and self-care, but I feel like I still need to outline what it really means. In college, it's so easy not to take care of ourselves. We can eat junk, only get a little sleep, never exercise, forget to spend one on one time with Jesus, and ignore the things that give us life. But guys, we can't. It's impossible to love others well if we aren't loving ourselves well. Our performance academically and socially suffers when we neglect self-care. If you get nothing else from this blog, read this: Everything in your life will improve if you make self-care a priority. So, do it. Listen to your body, your mind, and your emotions and figure out what you need. Eat better, get some rest, sleep eight hours a night, spend solid time with your best friends. I promise, no one has ever regretted taking better care of themselves.
I know that this has been a lot, but the things I mentioned in this blog are only the tip of the iceberg. Self-care and self-love are non-negotiably connected, and I believe that a big part of growing up is learning what self-care looks like for each of us.
As the semester winds down and the stress levels increase, take some time to love yourself well. Let yourself sleep in before you go spend hours in the library. Eat at your favorite restaurant at the end of a long week. Go for a walk. Take the time to love yourself well, and everything will change for the better.
*Bonus* 5 Easy Ways to Love Yourself Well this Week:
- Buy yourself flowers.
- Go to sleep before 10pm.
- Make a list of things you're thankful for.
- Call your best friend.
- Go eat at your favorite restaurant.
My sophomore year, I had a lot of breakdowns. I found myself overrun by anxiety and unable to do life well because I was so overwhelmed. I made myself do everything all the time; I never said no to anyone and I believed that, in order to "be successful" I had to act as invincible as Wonder Woman. I think it goes without saying that, at one point, I hit a wall. I crashed, completely exhausted and unsure of what to do. I thought I was healthy; I was in counseling, I was in a good place with Jesus, I was physically healthy, but I still wasn't okay.
I want to talk about mental illness because I don't think that it's talked about enough. I've struggled with depression for almost half of my life, and I've been affected by mental illness in more ways that I'll recall here. Mental illness is real, it's hurts, and it's something that a lot of us don't know enough about.
This is about women being valued as less than men, a view that is clearly contradictory to the way Jesus interacted with women. It's about a woman wanting to be valued for her intellect, ambition, and passion, not her body. It's about Christians protecting the rights of all who have been made in the image of God.
Over the past few months, the Choctawk team has been having some pretty serious discussions on religion, politics, personal tragedies, and the need we see in the world. When you come to college, you'll come across people who believe differently than you, and you'll wrestle with your own beliefs and what they truly mean for your life. We feel as if these conversations are necessary to life, necessary to find the common humanity in others. Thus, we have decided to begin a series to discuss the hard things we've encountered; this is part one.