How I Learned to Practice Self Care

It happens to all of us. Our lives get busy, we meet new friends, we start dating someone new, we get involved with too many activities, and the list goes on. As a junior in college, the most valuable thing I’ve learned so far is how important it is to take care of myself.

After years and years of never knowing how to say “no” to people, barely sleeping, and rarely spending any time by myself, I’ve started to burn out. I was trying so hard to please other people without taking care of myself. I didn’t think it would happen to me, but it did. I stopped having the same energy that I once had, and I found myself not enjoying the present anymore.

There was a night where I sat down, and wrote to myself: What am I doing to myself? It was hard for me to process what was happening, but I felt overly critical of myself and as if I hadn’t had a proper rest in a long time.

I took active steps to make a change in my lifestyle. It didn’t happen overnight, and it’s still an ongoing process, but I wanted to share with you the decisions I made to live a healthier life for myself.

Firstly, I made sure to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. This definitely takes a while to get used to and be able to do, especially if you’re like me and suffer from sleeping problems. However, I’ve found that after putting a big value on getting quality sleep time every night, I had so much more energy the next day. No cup of coffee can do what a good night’s rest can.

Next, I made sure that everyday I had a bit of time all to myself. I started to make sure I got my work done before a few hours before bedtime, and to go home earlier. That way, I’d always have some time to wind down each day. This also helped to ensure that I’d go to bed at the same time every day. I always take a bath, watch one episode of whatever show I’m into at the moment, journal for a bit, and then call it a night. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time that you set aside for yourself each night! For me, the whole process takes about one hour, but that one hour of winding down has changed my life for the better.

I also learned when to say no. I was really bad at saying no because deep inside I want to be a people pleaser, but that led to me having a daily schedule of waking up at 7am and not getting home until past midnight. This really took a toll on my health, as I was exhausted everyday but spending a lot of energy trying to please everyone.

Learning to say no to people is an ongoing process, but I’m getting better at it. I tell myself that the worst that can happen, is that someone will get a bit upset with me. But that’s temporary, and that short amount of time that someone is upset with me isn’t as important as my overall health and freedom.

Lastly, I lowered my expectations. Sounds a bit harsh when written out, huh? But what I mean is that I started to focus on the present instead of trying to have a big end goal. Goals are good for motivation, such as to maintain a certain GPA or to save a certain amount of money. But having too many expectations, such as hoping that if I do this favor for someone they will one day return the favor, or that if I dedicate two hours everyday to studying for this difficult and awful class I’m taking that I’ll get an A, will only make things worse.

I started doing things out of love, curiosity, and enjoyment. I stopped having the mindset that people will owe me if I do something nice. If something is too hard for me or not enjoyable, I hold out the best I can, and learn to let go if I have to and thank myself for doing as much as I could. Don’t beat yourself up about things you can’t control.

Learning to take care of myself is something I try to improve upon daily, by changing my daily habits and mindset. I’m still learning a lot about myself, but so far this is how I was able to change my life.

Good luck.

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