As some of you may know, I was not very kind to my body throughout college. Living on 4-5 hours of sleep a night juggling school, extracurricular activities, a part-time job, working out and partying all weekend.
Senior year was difficult. I struggled to stay healthy and keep my immune system strong. I spent nearly half the year sick with the flu or sinus infections, and then feeling weak trying to recover from previous illnesses.
To add onto this, I was barely sleeping because I developed stress-induced night terrors that were only allowing me to sleep 3-4 hours in a night before I woke up from a scarring nightmare. After three months of sleep deprivation and sickness, I decided enough was enough and something had to change.
If I continued on this path, I was going to continue being consistently ill and potentially cause more serious / permanent damage. I needed to start taking vitamins, drinking less alcohol, and sleeping WAY more. But most importantly, I needed to find a channel for stress relief. I needed to prioritize self-care.
We all need to find ways to give ourselves a break from our life stresses to allow time to rejuvenate and recoup. Self-care is a way to remind yourself (and others) that you and your health are important. This is no easy feat and often falls to the end of the seemingly never-ending to-do list, but is necessary and important for maintaining energy, motivation, confidence and self-esteem. Think of self-care in these terms: If you are not taking the time to care for yourself, how can you expect to be present and strong enough to care for others?
My journey to get there took humility, establishing a routine, and learning to say “no.”
Step One: Meditation
Last Christmas, I had reached my limit with my night terrors and lack of sleep, that inevitably caused extreme irritation, fatigue, and continuous sinus infections (I apologize to my college roommates for putting up with my crankiness and illnesses). I finally threw in the towel and decided to go back to see my therapist. (Yes, I have a therapist. Yes, my therapist is an angel. Yes, I think therapy rocks.) She helped me drill down to what was causing my night terrors and taught me mechanisms to help with stress relief. It is called mindfulness meditation, and I swear it saved my life senior year by teaching me how to relieve stress and sleep peacefully again.
It is a challenging practice to learn, but is very rewarding.
So yeah, I meditate. If you have never tried it, I highly recommend it. It can just be for 5 minutes if that is all you have. It helps center you, forces you to focus only on your breath, and release anxiety / tension from other areas in your life. I only do it for up to 10 minutes at a time, and it always works like a charm.
Step Two: Make a self-care routine. Stick to it.
In my full-time life, I am experiencing all the ups and downs of young adulting: Am I doing well at my job? Do they see me as high-potential? Having money and savings is pretty great!! When will I see my family and close friends again? My new friends are fun and interesting people! How do I not become this corporate america robot and find time to have interesting hobbies outside the office? Paying off my loans feels good! I need a damn vacation. Is this all there is?
HOLD UP. I need a drink…or do I?
Self-care does not mean running to the bottle in order to run away from the worries in your life. It means allowing yourself to take a break from them and then come back with a fresher mind in order to face them head on.
People have many ways of doing this, but mine is through fitness and a weekly bubble bath. Laugh all you want, but it works.
Fitness has always been an important part of my life, and often the part of my day that I enjoy the most. I make it a priority to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, so I can wake up for a morning workout from 5:00-6:00AM before work. You have to put your foot down in areas that matter to you most – and this is one of them for me, helping me keep an open mind and higher self-esteem.
My self-care routine also includes my weekly bubble bath. I usually save this bath for Sundays to prepare for the week, or Monday nights as a way to make the day easier to get through knowing that I have a bath waiting for me at home.
Here is my personal recipe to the perfect bubble bath:
- Lavender bubble bath with eucalyptus Epsom salt soak.
- Eucalyptus candle lit and lights turned low.
- A cup of hot peppermint tea.
- Moroccan oil deep conditioner in my hair.
- Skin purifying face mask.
- A cold, lavender infused cloth to place on my forehead post-mask.
- Alone time to sit in silence and fully relax.
- Read a book that brings you joy, stretches your mind or inspires you.
- Dry off and wrap yourself in a fluffy robe.
I cannot express enough how much prioritizing mental and physical well-being has made a difference in my life. While I am still overthinking and trying to figure out what value I want to add to this world, I have maintained a strong immune system, healthier skin, and less irritability.
Step Three: Learning to say no.
This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. I am a “yes-man.” I am down to do anything and try everything…all the time. But that is the issue. It took me a long time to learn that you can still be adventurous and be a “yes man” – but it doesn’t have to be 24/7 with no time to take care of yourself.
I was a roadrunner in college: always on the go, involved in three too many things at once, while never wanting to say no to plans with friends. This is an unsustainable and unhealthy lifestyle. Hence why I was always sick.
I have learned to be better about this in post-grad life, although I am still learning. I only spend time with the people who matter to me. I make time to read, write, and call my friends / family. When I am tired and do not want to go out, I stay in and feel satisfied in the fact that I am taking care of myself. This may make me seem lame, but I haven’t been sick now for 8 months (knock on wood), and it feels good to finally put my health first.
I had to learn my limits and respect those limits by saying “no” to things I do not want to do. Self-care has helped me gain a better perspective on the things that matter most to me.
Self-care is important. Self-care is necessary. Self-care is not selfish.
What is your routine for self-care? If you don’t have one yet, what are you waiting for?