We hear it all the time: "Self-care is important," "You need to take care of yourself," "Put yourself first." But how many of us actually prioritize self-care, especially as college students?
I know I don't.
Since I started my first semester of college in August, I have been going through a cycle that goes something like this: Getting terrible sleep, eating like shit, letting my mental health get the best of me; realizing I need to make changes in order to do well here and to feel better; about a week of superficially "taking care of myself" to make myself feel better in the moment; getting lazy and ending up right back where I started.
We've all been there.
Today, it is my top priority to break that cycle and get to a place where I can truly thrive in college and in life in general.
So... where to start?
Before I even act on anything, I want to work on how I frame my mindset around these acts of self-care. As young people, and humans really, we tend to do things that give us immediate gratification and, now more than ever, we are losing our patience for the long processes that actually bring about real change.
That's what self-care has turned into to me. I drink a glass of water to make me feel less bloated after I ate a bunch of junk food. But will I actually start drinking a lot of water and eating better in the long term because its what's best for me? Or will I keep just drinking water to feel like I'm correcting the gross feeling I have in my body?
My goal is the first one. I want to be able to consistently take care of myself because I care about myself, not because I have to do it to make me feel better after a second of immediate gratification. That starts with how I speak to myself, which is something I have always struggled with.
How I am going to try to integrate more positive self-talk into my life is by truly thinking about the small decisions I make every day and how they reflect on how I feel about myself. Am I going to stay up late watching Netflix, knowing I am going to be exhausted in the morning or am I going to go to bed early so I can feel my best and frame my day in the way I want?
Try asking yourself questions like this before every little habit, or mentally go through your day and write down the negative option and the positive option. Then, reflect on the why. Why do I want to take proper care of myself? Why am I taking these steps to feel better?
To me, a person with clinical depression, I am making healthier decisions for myself to keep my head in the right place and not let my depression control me. I am taking my power back. I have big goals I want to accomplish while in college and I don't want to let my mind sabotage me. The best way I can do this is by taking small steps every day to be a healthier person.
We all know why self-care is important; I don't need to preach about that. But even if you know that and are still struggling to implement healthy behaviors in your everyday life, think about why you want to do these things and how you are framing your mindset surrounding the decisions you make every day.