For college students and millennials, the term “self-care” speaks to our vernacular as much as it dances in our individual Google search histories. We exist in an Instagram era of aesthetically pleasing photos of açaí bowls, motivational quotes, and five-minute meditation tutorials. And in our constant race to become the best versions of ourselves, we eat it right up. As much as information about self-care and wellness are highly accessible to us‒‒and we definitely are interested; 94% of millennials in a 2015 survey indicated that they care about self-care and were willing to spend almost $295 a month on it*‒‒the Internet and apps can only provide us so much relief. Sometimes, the best opportunities for self-care come from college experiences themselves.
Last weekend, I took a break from reality and went to Lake Geneva for a retreat. As a leader in Vincentians in Action at DePaul, I was invited to spend time in community and reflection next to a gorgeous lake. I had the opportunity‒‒actually, the obligation‒‒to not think about homework, my phone, and Chicago traffic for two days. This kind of present is rare: In my mind, it was obvious that I needed to take advantage of it.
Surrendering technology can be a scary and not always realistic thing to integrate into your lives. As much as I wish it weren’t true, we kind of do need our phones to be college students. Another truth: As much as students don’t believe it, we kind of don’t need Pinterest boards to tell us the best way to care for our own minds and bodies. Think back to the times you’ve felt truly at ease, connected physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually… Were you on your phone, or were you in walking in the woods alongside your friends, gazing out into the cloudless sky? Were you favoriting $50 workout outfits, or were you staring into the flames of the campfire as the melodious sounds of waves echoed in the distance? Ahhhhh…
I won’t try to convince you to toss your phone in the garbage, Serena van der Woodsen-style, but I will tell you that most things that you enjoy doing that leave you with a sense of inner-peace probably aren’t going to involve your thumbs and a screen. They’re going to be in the real world.
The ‘real world’ was the retreat. Sure; I didn’t have work to do and people to email, but what I took in around me was world in its purest, realest form. And by journaling about it, moving freely within it, and connecting with other living things and human beings in an intentional way, I was taking care of myself. Whatever abstract understanding of wellness that exists in my realm perfectly described what I was doing. Labeling it #Wellness just wouldn’t do it justice.
College will present you with opportunities to grow and take care of yourself, even if they aren’t explicitly advertised that way. If you are interested in something but you aren’t sure what it all entails, you should almost always go for it. Likewise, taking advantage of the unique experiences college offers could benefit you in ways you never expected. Overall, if you’re overwhelmed in working towards your goal for self-care, consider looking in the places you never thought to look. Often, those are the opportunities that reap the most meaningful rewards‒‒in the form of inner peace and self-love.
*2015 study: millennial statistics
all pictures were taken by the author herself