Written by: Aubrey Aguilar
“I’ll do it later.”
As university students, we find ourselves saying this at some point as we trudge our way through school. We become accustomed to setting things aside when what we really need is to be gentle with ourselves.
Over the past year, I realized that I’ve been living life with a warped view of what self-care really means. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always experienced a big weight on my chest, along with feelings of emptiness. I didn’t understand why. I think I’d always been aware of it, but it wasn’t actually dealt with until recently. I always thought it was normal. And when something’s ingrained in you, it’s a lot harder to recognize it as a problem until you realize it is. Until then, you tell yourself…
“I can do it.”
… which are amazing reminders. But if you’re saying these things at the expense of putting yourself and your emotions aside, you’re also doing yourself a disservice. When you teach yourself that you come second, you end up subjecting yourself to a lot of pain all at once. All of a sudden, there’s a rush of emotions and problems that you didn’t even realize were (still) there. “I’m okay” turns into words you frequently tell yourself without conviction. You try just to hang in there. These reminders aren’t harmful, but you also have to make sure you don’t neglect yourself in the process. This is easier said than done, especially when you’re a student trying to get by.
When you’re stressed, everything just seems inconvenient. You have a lot on your plate. Emotions are heavy, so you put them away. Being tired and drained isn’t an option, so you try to bury everything with caffeine and a smile. You start to believe that this way of life is sustainable for you because you’ve done it for so long… until you realize that it’s wearing you down. But there’s a beauty that comes with this realization: you become self-aware. And with your awareness, you have the power to change. You can practice being kinder to yourself. You don’t have to take giant steps to do this.
You can start small by slowing down and reconnecting with yourself; by committing to what’s really important to you. You’re allowed to say no to things that can be a detriment to your well-being. In fact, you owe it to yourself to set boundaries so you can do what’s best for you. You can still be a good, conscientious person without carrying the weight of the world. You can still help others… but first, you need to acknowledge yourself as someone who has needs as much as the next person does. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. After all, everybody needs everybody. But you also need you. Make a commitment to treat yourself with the same love, patience, and kindness that you would willingly give someone else. Eventually, you’ll have enough energy to go around that you can freely spread it without depleting yourself. And that’s when you know you’re taking care.