"Treat Your Self" Student Edition: Self Care and Why It Matters

You’re overwhelmed with midterms. Papers are piling up, and you’re overworked at the two jobs you’re juggling at once. You keep reminding yourself of the grad school application deadline (so that you don’t fall behind in the process), and you’re running from one professor’s office hours to another one’s to ask for recommendation letters for that internship you want. You have no idea how long this madness has been going on for, and before you know it, you’re burnt out. 

I’m sure many of us have been there. It can be so easy to get lost in our daily hassles, that we end up forgetting to take a step back and breathe. Did you know that stress caused by daily hassles accumulates and ends up being as toxic to our mental health as major stressors? So take a deep breath and keep reading to find out why self care is not just a reward, but a crucial part of the process.

  • Why is Self Care important?

As indulgent as it sounds, self care is just a few basic habits that are crucial to your physical and mental functioning. The average college student spends 4 years trying to find a balance to the “Devil’s Triangle,” also known as the sleep-social life-GPA triangle (this is pure experience speaking). Under these circumstances, the slightest reprieve feels like a luxury. Healthy eating and exercising starts slacking, simply because you don’t have the time for it. This mindset is wrong for many reasons, but perhaps the most important is that self care actually helps you progress faster. Self care:

  1. Prevents “overload burnout"
  2. Reduces negative effects of stress
  3. Helps you refocus

So next time you catch yourself treating self-care as a reward to be deserved once you complete a hard task, stop making your job more difficult by putting more restraints than necessary on yourself. Research done by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney in “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” shows that we only have a limited supply of willpower, and we use the same resource for many different things. We start each day with a fresh stock of willpower, and deplete it throughout the day by straining ourselves. So if you want to take another break as you’re working, chances are you’ll be more productive once you go ahead and take that well-deserved break.

Here’s what else you can do:

  • Make Time to Eat Well and Exercise

As daunting as it sounds, making time for exercise and clean eating in your daily routine is plausible, necessary and one of those things that actually make you feel good once you do them. Eating junk can feel like self-care, and even though there is nothing wrong with occasional indulgences, you have to be careful with how frequently you opt for these “treats” instead of healthier options. Clean eating and exercise accompany better sleep, improved performance in school and an overall better mood.

  • Practice Good Emotional Hygiene

Emotional stress takes its toll on our mental well-being probably more than anything else. Trying to deal with stress, anxiety, sadness and depression, and having to put on a happy-face façade can make anyone feel like the loneliest person on earth. What you can do instead is set aside a minute to acknowledge your feelings, instead of brushing them under the rug so that you don’t exhibit how you feel on the inside on your face for others to see. Keeping a journal is a good idea; it’s a catharsis of kinds, and a study found that it helps people come to terms with stressful events.

  • Spend Your Time on What Matters

We all procrastinate. It’s the rule of being a student. I’m not going to tell you why procrastination is bad for both your performance at school and for your health (you probably know them from experience anyways), but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. If you’re always behind on your daily schedule, stop procrastinating and make more realistic schedules. If you’re always sleepy, stop procrastinating, finish the work you have to finish and go to bed earlier. Find out what is the most time consuming thing you do that is preventing you to get work done.

  • Hug Someone!

Whether it’s a friend, a parent, or a pet, hugging someone can be therapeutical! I find that it helps you step back and appreciate the things in life that we usually take for granted, such as the knowledge that there are people who care about us (or that you have a loving cat you care for).  

The more you practice self care, the more you’ll see your mental and physical well being improve. You’ll notice that your school performance is getting better, and that you’re having the time to do the things you really enjoy.



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