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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Buffalo chapter.

Your mental health is important. Let’s start there. Too many of us don’t value our mental health and often put school, work, relationships, and other responsibilities first and ourselves last. We’ve all heard how important self-care is at nauseum, but how many of us actually do it? And I’m not just talking face masks and bubble baths. I’m talking about true, deep, healing self-care.

What is self-care?

Taking care of yourself will look different for everyone. For me, self-care is often just brushing my teeth or doing my laundry – both of which are really difficult for me to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed. It can also look like exercising, eating a nutritious meal, doing something creative, or taking a nap. Whatever you need in order to destress and be the best version of yourself. 

Why does it matter?

I think that this illusion of self-care as face masks or a glass of wine causes us to forget what the real point of self-care is. When we’re out of equilibrium, meaning we’re stressed, anxious, depressed, manic, burnt out, etc., we aren’t operating on all cylinders. Humans aren’t designed for the grind culture that we live in – and we need to rest in order to maintain productivity for work and school. Think about the last time you truly rested. I don’t mean laying in bed scrolling on your phone or watching Netflix mindlessly, but truly shut your brain off and just rested. Have you ever done it?

If you haven’t, schedule some time into your calendar this week to try it. Turn your electronics off and just sit with yourself for a few minutes. If some unpleasant feelings start to come up, just feel them. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to scream, scream. Listen to your body and your mind and give them what they need. I promise you’ll feel much better afterwards.

How can I prioritize self-care when I’m so busy?

Life is hectic, and it doesn’t slow down. Even after college, you’ll be thrown into the workforce that comes with a lot of the same stressors you probably face now. It’s important to start building self-care into your routine so that you can be emotionally prepared for whatever life throws at you.

Before you start choosing self-care activities arbitrarily, you have to figure out what you need. Self-care might not always be fun – it might be really hard and agonizing at first (or always). Like I mentioned, when I get depressed, I stop brushing my teeth. It makes me feel gross for obvious reasons, and I realized after some therapy that many depression symptoms are a result of us not feeling worthy of caring for ourselves in these basic ways. It could be not eating much or well, not showering, not cleaning your dorm… whatever it is, please know that you DO deserve to care for yourself. Start with the hard self-care, then do something fun as a reward after. 

I personally schedule self-care right into my calendar. My G-Cal is my best friend, we go way back. By scheduling things like workout classes, walks, creative time, video games, and reading into my schedule, I’m intentionally creating a habit of taking care of myself every day or week. As an introvert, I need alone time every day in order to fully participate in classes, social activities, and work. If you’re like me, try scheduling some alone time that isn’t for productivity into your week this week. If you’re an extrovert, make plans with friends instead. 

Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you want to do well in school long-term, you must take care of yourself, too. Your grades will follow when you are in a healthy mindset. Start small and keep trying even if you fail. You’ll thank yourself later.

Khrystina is a first-year grad student, earning her Master's in Social Work. She's written for a variety of audiences throughout her academic and professional careers on topics ranging from mental health to travel guides. She's passionate about wellness, sustainability, food, her cats, books, and love. ❤️