Health Student-made Wellbeing

My love-hate relationship with self-care

Self-care – the latest buzzword, but what even is it? Does it have to be reserving a full day to pamper yourself, or can self-care be a lot simpler than that?

I’d describe my relationship with self-care as love-hate. I’ve always disregarded the term. I hate it when words become a trend and they get thrown around all the time – it kills their meaning. I’m always reluctant to jump on a buzzword bandwagon anyway for some reason. I have particularly disregarded the term “self-care” since starting in my third year at university. Under the illusion that self-care was a time-consuming act, I thought I’d have no time for it with my ever-growing workload, influx of deadlines and hectic schedule. Yet I’ve come to learn that I couldn’t have been further from the truth. In hindsight, the chaos of university life makes self-care even more important.

I’ve been sceptical of the term, and I still am to some extent. It’s been overused, and I think sometimes it can be used as an excuse or way to procrastinate from getting things done. When practiced right and regularly, it’s true that self-care can have a positive impact on your overall mood, health and productivity. But neglecting your work, especially with a deadline looming, in favour of a full day of pampering is a little extreme, in my opinion. And, surely putting off your work is no way to lessen your stress and lift your mood. But each to their own of course – everybody is different!

I’ve grown to learn that self-care is whatever you make it, as long as your purpose for doing whatever it is you’re doing in the name of “self-care” is for the right reasons. For me, I personally struggle to spend full days away from my university work – I like to chip away at something daily as being productive and proactive makes me feel better. The only time I can take a full day off is if I am very ahead of schedule (although that’s sometimes wishful thinking) or if it’s the holidays. Other than that, I’m doing something every day – even if it’s a smaller task that needs completing. I just feel better when I’m ticking things off my list.

So for me, any form of self-care comes in small doses, integrated into my daily routine. As a student, I personally think it’s the best way to look after yourself. You’re integrating a positive practice into each day to make sure you’re looking after yourself. So, I make sure I do two things every day – I eat well and I exercise. I don’t do this for the physical health benefits, although these are a bonus. Eating well for me means eating three meals a day. For years I skipped breakfast, but now I make sure I start my day off right by fuelling my body and my brain in the morning. I don’t diet, either. I just make better choices to feel cleaner and healthier. When I feel good, I work better. But don’t get me wrong, self-care at a weekend is rewarding a week of hard work with some good food somewhere or with a takeaway!

As for the exercise, I make sure I take a walk daily – it doesn’t have to be long. I don’t do it for the fitness aspect of walking, I do it to get outdoors and get some fresh air away from my desk. Then when I arrive back home to work, I feel refreshed and ready to go again. Admittedly, it probably helps that I’m a living-at-home student with a French bulldog that needs walking. But, why not suggest taking a walk with a friend or housemate that are also working hard? You could stop off somewhere for a coffee too!

Self-care doesn’t have to take up too much time at all. Self-care can be an activity that comes in all different forms – eating well, exercising, meditating, meeting a friend, joining a group or society, getting your nails done, doing a face mask, reading a book…the list goes on! It doesn’t matter what you do, the main thing is that you set time aside to do it, to feel good for a while, and to take time out from working hard to let your brain rest.

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