My Journey With Self-Care

I have concluded that self-care is something I supremely suck at. I’ve always thought that I was doing it and doing it right. But after my seventh bout of illness this year, I’ve realized that maybe the self-care I read about online or hear about from friends is not the type of self-care I need. 

I do the occasional baths with fancy bath bombs and pamper myself with an at-home manicure. I get enough sleep (seven to nine hours) and I aim for three meals a day (although it ends up being two a lot of the time). I spend time with friends and family. I schedule my life extensively (seriously, I even schedule my lunch so I don’t get behind). I still end up sick, exhausted and burnt out every few months (or back to back to back for a couple of months straight like what happened to me last semester).

Let me tell you about what happened last semester first! So here is the setting: it’s the spring semester of 2019. Kansas City, Missouri is very, very cold. There’s been enough snow and ice that we’ve had more than one snow day this semester (which doesn’t happen very often from what I’ve heard from upperclassmen). I was a freshman, a very excited and overprepared freshman to be specific! I was always going, going, going even in the cold weather. It was like nothing deterred me! I was becoming involved and I was making friends on top of completing my school work. I, unfortunately, didn’t take any time for myself.

When I say that I didn’t take any time for myself, I mean that I was constantly busy with something. I was either studying or at some organization meeting or hanging out with friends. I didn’t feel stressed at the time and although I was almost always exhausted by the end of the day, I thought that was normal. I wasn’t pulling all nighters studying or gaming, like some friends. I actually made time to have some sort of breakfast. I was also exercising!

On paper, it sounds like I was living a really healthy and normal college life. But I got sick, like a lot. I was sick for a total of six times that semester. And it wasn’t just a quick three or four day illness. These symptoms would stay with me for one to two weeks. It was such an exhausting cycle. And the minute I was healthy, I didn’t take a break and reevaluate, I just kept pushing. So I got sick again, and again and again. My family and friends were super worried about me, to say the least.

When I finally hit that sixth bout of illness, I took a step back. I decided that even though I could handle such a load on the surface, it didn’t mean that I should. I also figured out that face masks and bubble baths and hanging out with friends weren’t enough in terms of self-care for me. I needed actual time to process things. I needed time to just sit and watch an episode or two of something on Netflix. Just as much as I needed to schedule in time to eat and see friends, I needed to not schedule but have the freedom and willpower to find time to destress. I needed to skip an activity every once in a while and forgive myself for it.

Getting sick pretty badly again this semester reminded me of that need to skip things every once in a while and to not always be go, go, go. I hope that finding and reading this article encourages you to do the same. And if my type of self-care doesn’t work for you, maybe experiment a little and find your kind that actually helps! It’s so important, and I unfortunately don’t think a lot of us understand that even if you don’t feel the toll of being go, go, go immediately, it will eventually hit you. Please take care of yourself.