It’s that time of year when it is important to be checking in with ourselves.
Self-care is a buzzword that is continually employed to ensure that, in a growing age of mental health concerns and issues, we are doing what we can to take care of ourselves. As a concept, self-care is welcomed, needed and good for us.
Recently, Features Editor Dana Murphy wrote a fantastic article for The Phoenix discussing the way self-care has become entangled with issues of consumerism, socio-economic inequalities and how society has created the atmosphere that forces us to seriously invest in taking care of ourselves. These are important factors to consider as it can easily be argued that self-care has become more about the physical, tangible ways we can look after ourselves as opposed to being about the betterment of mental health.
Yet, in the narrative of self-care, one crucial component is missing in the way we determine when, why and how we practice self-care. An essential part of mental health is self-awareness.
Self-awareness is vital to connecting and tending to our needs. During a time of year when student stress levels and sleep schedules revolve around studying and meeting midnight deadlines, it must be asked, are we checking in with ourselves?
Often practices of self-care happen when we reach a point where internal combustion is imminent if we do not take a break and relax. If we do not go outside and take a walk or seize the opportunity to sleep more than six hours a night, our mental health, as well as our schoolwork, takes a significant hit. While it is a great societal improvement that we are understanding that taking care of ourselves results in considerable health benefits, we are still falling short of monitoring how we are doing on a daily basis.
For example, the other week I decided to meet my friends for brunch. That morning I had been pretty stressed out and not in a great mood. There was still an extensive amount of writing that I needed to do and truthfully, I was not eager to spend $30. But in order to enjoy something outside of my school and employment obligations, I went as a practice of self-care. However, realizing that the only way for I was going to be productive that day was to have some enjoyment was an act of self-awareness.
Dr. Tchiki Davis describes self-awareness as “monitoring our inner worlds, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs.” In practicing it, she says, we can become more attentive to what it is that we need in advance of difficult situations and gain the ability to better deal with situations that are challenging. Being self-aware can lead to increased confidence because we are examining “who we are and what we believe,” which is empowering.
In the article “How to Make ‘Self-Care’ Actually Feel Like Self-Care” for The New York Times, Tim Herrera writes that identifying how we are truly feeling is the most effective measure in creating a self-care routine. In doing so, you can develop a method that genuinely addresses your mental state. It could be as simple as reading a book or meeting up with friends for a weekly trivia night. Figure out what works for you.
As we reach those final hurdles toward the end of the term, pay attention to how you are doing. How do you feel right now? Are you tired, hungry or sad? Connect to that, explore it. Maybe you aren’t eating well, you haven’t drunk enough water, or you have isolated yourself while preparing for exams. Examine how you are feeling and try to recognize contributing factors in order to decide how to best practice self-care.
Self-awareness is important to self-care, but it is also an important way of being kind to ourselves. We constantly ask others how they are doing and attentively listen to their responses. It’s time we showed ourselves that same courtesy.