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When most people hear the phrase ‘self care,’ the first images that come to mind may be images of flawless skin as portrayed in the media, days spent at a spa unwinding, or products that are promoted by health and wellness influencers online. It all sounds expensive, unattainable, unrealistic, and self indulgent. For some, the idea of self care may seem to be a ploy by the health and wellness industries used to convince people that they need higher maintenance by spending money on their products and services. But is this really what it takes to maintain ourselves?
While the notion of self care is viewed by some as a luxury and not a necessity, it is actually crucial for our overall wellbeing. Self care involves multiple aspects of our health that we sometimes neglect such as our physical, mental, and emotional health. The reality is that especially during these troubling times of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, taking care of ourselves should be a common practice done by all. With many of us being confined mainly to our apartments during the COVID-19 pandemic, self care has become much more important than ever before. As social isolation has taken a toll on many Americans, the maintenance of our emotional, physical, and mental health has never been more important to maintain.
Self care can be defined as how one consciously and actively takes care of and maintains their health, with or without the help of professionals. It is not a “one size fits all” treatment, and not everyone takes into consideration how their actions, lifestyle and environment have a cumulative impact upon our overall wellbeing.
Stressors have some of the largest impacts on our health, and if left untreated, they can cause our bodies serious harm. Stress can be defined as the degree to which an individual is overwhelmed, and stress can cause physical or psychological strain. Stressors can be defined as the underlying causes of our heightened state of tension and distress. An overload of stress has the potential to disrupt and disturb sleep patterns, especially if it is occurring for a considerable amount of time.
Disrupted sleep patterns have the ability to evolve into larger issues, and even a single night of disrupted sleep can lead to lack of performance, irritability, impaired memory, and not having the proper mental stamina to fully engage the following day. Getting substantial sleep is one of the more obvious ways we can begin to take care of ourselves, especially since 1 in 3 adults report not getting enough sleep in the United States. Even more alarming is the 7 in 10 teenagers in high school nationwide report not getting enough sleep. Proper rest prepares you for the day ahead as it leaves you refreshed and with more energy for what is to come. The CDC recommends that teenagers between the ages 13-18 get around 8-10 hours of sleep every 24 hours, in order to prevent health and behavioral issues.
Engaging in hobbies and mindfulness is one way people can bring more peace to themselves. The concept tends to get ignored and not mentioned as much, but it can significantly increase performance and attitude, improve physical health without being physically demanding, and reduce overall stress. “I practice self-care, and I do this through journaling and meditation. Journaling helps me be more mindful of myself, and meditating just helps with stress,” said Subah Mehrin ’22.
Rather than take time away that could instead be dedicated to working, engaging in such activities tends to lead to higher levels of productivity. Dr. Russell Thackeray a clinical psychologist who focuses on productivity, supports the notion that those who take time to take care of themselves produce more rather than less. Thackeray believes that “People that look after themselves [and practice self-care] do have better cognitive ability. They do have better focus and…concentration.”
For many in this day and age, finding more clarity can be found through detaching from harmful environments. “I have been detoxing from social media, along with pursuing a lot of self reflection, which helps me to build upon my mental and emotional self in order to create a better me. I think my methods of self care might be more physically minimalistic, but mentally and emotionally, they work for me,” said Abel Torres ’22.
Incorporating physical movement, such as working out or running, into our daily routines, is one of the most important ways that we can look after our physical health, especially with all of the time that we currently are spending at home during the Coronavirus pandemic. Exercise has many benefits such as boosting energy levels, bettering your mood, assisting with better quality sleep, and relieving stress. “I work out in order to improve my mental health,” said Randall Dominguez ’22. Sitting in the same spot all day as we stare into computer screens can lead to stiff muscles and back and neck pain. Making sure to get up every thirty minutes in order to move around, as well as incorporating exercise into our daily routines, even if it’s a brief walk outside, can provide many health benefits.
Eldisa Rosario ’22 mentions that for her, self care involves taking the time to work out, as well as going to bed early, in order to get enough sleep every night. “Self care is taking time out of your day in order to focus on your happiness. It’s those moments where you can be selfish in order to help yourself. For some people, it’s putting on a face mask and dancing around, and for others, it means going out to extravagant spas. Self care is what you want it to be,” Rosario notes.
Engaging in hobbies and mindfulness is one way people can bring more peace to themselves.