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Mental Health

7 Self Care Strategies from a Perfectionist Who’s Tired of Being a Perfectionist

I hate being a perfectionist. I’m sick of tying my self-worth to grades, success, and completing tasks. There are so many options and so many strategies to complete work and be academically productive, and it is incredibly easy to be overwhelmed. These are seven of my favorites self care strategies that I do daily.

Choose a stop time

This is a cemented time to stop doing your work and responding to emails. I absolutely stop my homework at 9 p.m. After many late-night cram sessions, last-minute essays, and crying sessions over assignments, I finally learned that I do not function well working late at night. It increases my anxiety, and as a result, I go to bed later and my quality of sleep is worse. It is also important to have boundaries between your work life and your personal life. Your peace is more important than completing an assignment. 

Establish a nighttime routine

After you stop working for the night, establish a night-time routine. I personally love doing anything creative, like reading, crocheting, or painting. Sometimes, I simply like to put on an eye mask and watch comfort movies or shows in bed. Grounding exercises are also important to soothe yourself in preparation for sleep. Moisturizing your arms and legs is a nice way to reconnect with your physical body. Gentle yoga in bed is great to release some tension. Massaging your hands on certain pressure points can calm anxiety for a better night’s sleep.

Eye masks

I find full-face masks annoying, especially when they’re the wet sheet type that drips all over your hair and neck. The clay face masks are time-consuming because it takes ages to wash them off your face. So, I have been using the Burts Bees eye masks or the Pacifica eye masks. You don’t even need to wash your face after! Eye masks are great, especially after crying or a poor night’s sleep. There are so many options: anti-puff, vitamin C, vegan collagen, rose quartz, rosehip seed extract, and jojoba oil, just to name a few.

Make your planner your best friend

I live for my planner. I have the calendar pages color-coded (yellow for schoolwork, pink for personal, green for doctors appointments, etc). Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it is convenient. You need only glance at the calendar to know what your day looks like. On the pages where I write my daily homework and tasks, I highlight the most pressing ones with orange, the second-most-pressing with yellow, and the least-pressing with pink.

For those exceptionally stressful and busy days, I use sticky notes. I block off periods of time for classes or appointments. Then I write what I plan to do in the empty periods of time, including meals and going to the gym, so that the entire day is accounted for.

Fighting Procrastination

It’s important to know yourself — how fast you read, how fast you can write an essay, and how you learn best. The best way I fight procrastination is by giving myself a strict time limit. I approximate the time I think it will take to complete the assignment and set a timer. I also usually give myself an additional 20-30 minutes as a kind of grace period.

As an English major, I have an obscene amount of readings. For years, I have been frantically cliff-noting before class and writing essays on a book I didn’t read. Now, I will take a sticky note, put it on my planner next to my homework, and divide the reading evenly by the number of days that I want to complete it. Of course, sometimes there is simply too much reading, and you can’t get it all done. That is okay. Your worth is not defined by completing tasks.

The Importance of self-talk

There can be endless loops of doubt and negative thoughts in your mind that constantly work against you. The first step is to pay attention to them and listen. Then you can start planting seeds of positivity and correcting those thoughts. I’ve found that the best way to do that is to say the thoughts out loud. They somehow sound less scary that way. This is something that is challenging, needs to be actively worked on, and can by no means be perfected. But that’s okay. Nothing and no one is perfect. So you shouldn’t have to be either.

Letting yourself feel all emotions

My perfectionism even stretches to my own emotions. I realized that I had been favoring some emotions over others. I praised diligence, focus, and happiness over laziness, procrastination, sadness, anxiety. It’s okay to be “just okay,” a little down, or melancholy. There is a range of human emotions, and we should embrace feeling all of them. You need to experience pain and sadness in order to feel joy, contentment, and abundance.

Try these strategies and find your own. I hope that, like me, you feel uncomfortable with the label perfectionist and find the strength to push back against it.

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Sarah Robinson

U Mass Amherst '24

I'm an English major in the Commonwealth Honors College, specializing in Creative Writing, The Study and Practice of Writing, and Environmental Humanities. Some of my passions are women's rights and issues, writing in any medium, and reading. Currently I am loving learning about Irish literature, language, and culture as a first generation Irish-American. I also love tattoos, my two dogs, and doing anything creative!