One thing I have failed miserably at over the last several years is taking care of myself when trying to get things done, whether those tasks were final projects, deadlines at work, or taking care of my kids. As an undergrad I had a very active social life, plus I was very involved in several student groups. However I also had very high standards for myself academically. I remember having very little sleep for days on end and living off caffeine to make up for that. Although I was able to achieve (mostly) everything I set out to do during my undergrad years, I wouldn’t say that my approach was the healthiest. In accomplishing what I needed to do, I sacrificed my own well-being.
I think one of the things that people ignore here in the U.S. is their own personal well-being. In my area of work and study, well-being is quite the hot topic. People tend to focus on things like physical health, academic achievement, and opportunities for enhancing one’s resume/CV. But unless one takes the time to take care of oneself, it won’t mean anything. Until relatively recently, I ignored my own well-being in order to focus on others’ well-being and outside responsibilities. But I’ve come to learn that there’s more to well-being than accomplishments, good grades, and good physical health. In fact, by ignoring my own well-being, everything else in my life began to suffer. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Because I wasn’t caring about myself, I began getting irritable and crabby and unmotivated, and that spread out to other aspects of my life.
So, without further ado, I’d like to list some strategies for self-care and urge you all to think about what you can do to promote your own well-being.
- First and foremost, take time for yourself. Yes, you need to finish final projects and study for finals, while also maintaining the level of involvement you have with student/community groups and your social life. But you also need to take a break now and then. Do something relaxing and fun for yourself—I choose reading books for fun as my relaxation technique. Just make sure to put a time limit on it so you don’t add more stress by not finishing what you need to do!
- Practice time management. This kind of goes along with the first tip. I find that I work best if I place things in order of priority, and then in order of “how long will it take to do this?” I also make lists!
- Learn to say no. This is a huge problem that I still have, but sometimes you just gotta say no. At least, to things you can say no to (i.e. don’t tell a professor that you’re not going to finish your final project).
- Stay connected to friends and family. It’s important to have a support network to turn to when you’re feeling stressed. Maybe you can entice friends to study with you or bring you a delicious iced mocha during your time of need.
- Get some real sleep! All-nighters really, really suck. Go back to tip #2 for a great strategy to use to avoid having to pull an all-nighter.
- Finally, you should still take care of your physical self. You can take half an hour to shower and brush your teeth. Personally, I’ve found that there’s an interesting correlation between my level of motivation to accomplish tasks and my cleanliness. Eating well and exercising also fall under this category—don’t skip meals because you can’t spare the time, and don’t avoid exercise because you’re frantically typing up your final paper for that ridiculously hard class.
The takeaway from this list? Stop sacrificing yourself in order to get things done. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, what’s the point of all your work to get things done?