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The Balancing Act of Prioritizing Yourself

You’ve heard it a million times before but it’s very important to prioritize yourself. Whether you’re struggling during exam season or dealing with an overbearing boss, a little bit of self-care can go a long way. It can be easy to keep piling things onto your to do list, but if you end up burnt out, you won’t be able to accomplish anything. At the end of the day, you should always be priority #1.

At the same time, growth is very valuable and rarely occurs in your comfort zone. Mild or temporary discomfort that leads to growth can also be a form of prioritizing yourself—just look at university! But if you’re overwhelmed or approaching burn out, you need to reevaluate your approach. Ultimately, it’s important to strike a balancing act between indulging yourself and pushing towards growth. Yet regardless of where you are on the scale, it’s still possible (and very important) to make your well-being a priority.

Making time for self care

Regardless of whether or not you’re sticking to your comfort zone, it’s extremely important to make time for self care. It’s especially important to give yourself breaks during high-stress periods like exam season, although it’s also easy to feel guilty for not working. Even though it can be difficult, try to remember that your own well-being—physical and mental—comes first. Without self care, everything starts to fall apart.

Despite what social media and ad campaigns claim, self care does not necessitate expensive skincare products or fancy trips to Bali. It can be fun to treat yourself from time to time, but self care can be as simple as distancing yourself from stressors. Try to set aside some time for hobbies, exercise, or gatherings with friends. Block off time in your calendar if you have to. Although the thought of stepping away from work might make you feel anxious, it’s far more important to give yourself a break. As a bonus, you’ll feel renewed afterwards and it’ll be easier to tackle any challenges that you’ve been facing!

Eliminate the bad

As important as it is to push outside of your comfort zone, you also need to take action when a particular part of your life causes more stress than it is worth. Are there any parts of your routine that you’d like to change? For example, I used to buy lunch on campus every day but would get stressed when I thought about the cost and lack of nutritional value. It can be very hard to change bad habits (even though it’s less frequent, I still love to treat myself to lunch!), but the results are very satisfying.

In addition to habits, it’s a good idea to look at your wider lifestyle and see what your biggest stressors or frustrations are—for example, maybe your overly demanding boss is pressuring you into working free overtime. Once you’ve made a list of problems, see if there are any steps that you can take to eliminate them. Of course, bigger causes of stressors can be more difficult to eliminate—you might need to save an emergency fund or find another position before quitting your job—but moving forward is extremely satisfying and will go a long way towards your future well-being.

A word of warning: eliminating major stressors can take a while. Whenever possible, don’t move so quickly that you put yourself at risk (i.e. quitting your job without a way to pay rent). It’s better to make steady progress towards well-being rather than enjoying short-term happiness that comes with long-term penalties.

Although it can be difficult to balance indulgence and growth, it’s important to remember that your well-being always comes first. Especially during times of stress, make time for self care. Whenever possible, you should also try to eliminate unnecessary stressors.

Demetra is a third-year English and Cinema Studies student at the University of Toronto. She loves cooking, reading, and drinking way too much coffee.
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