If I had a dollar for every time I told someone to “take care of themselves” when I needed to follow my own advice, I would never have to work another day in my life. It is easy not to listen to me when I say “take care of yourself” or “mental health is just as important as physical health” because I don’t practice what I preach. I will be the first one to tell you to take time for you, and then I will go days without sleeping because there is “too much work to do” or “not enough time.” I will gladly tell you to practice self-care, and then I will actively do the opposite for myself.
I am not alone in this. Everyone can name a person in their lives who is just like me. A person who keeps going and going and giving so much of themselves, but they never actually stop to breathe and care for themselves. But can you blame us?
When you’re in college, everyone is asking the world of you and then some. Get a good GPA, work a job or two or three, be involved in extracurriculars, build your resume with an unpaid internship, stay healthy, go out with your friends — oh, and by the way, take care of yourself.
Nothing feels more impossible than taking care of yourself when it seems like you just cannot find a balance in your life. Every day is a new challenge of getting out of bed, going to class and functioning like a “normal” person. You go about your weeks at Xavier filled with joy and love for the place you get to go to school while struggling to put a smile on your face because it has been a week since you’ve slept and you just feel so exhausted.
Caring for yourself is a proactive way to take care of your mental health. Taking time to practice self-care is a stepping stone toward developing more balance in your life and strengthening your self-love. It is so easy to pretend like everything in the world is more important than your mental health, but if you were bleeding and needed stitches, would you just keep working?
We live in a world where taking a break is considered weak. We have grown up in an environment that teaches us that you have to work to earn the life you want and that you are worthy of your success if and only if you work yourself to death to get there. But no matter what society says, our generation can change that — and it begins on Xavier’s campus.
Mental health and wellness services are not just for those who are diagnosably mentally ill. Just like working out to keep your body healthy, resting, taking time to relax and focusing on your own growth to keep your mind healthy can help you stay well. It is easy to lose control of the time you have by allowing yourself to be inundated with demands from the world around you. Believe me, I have been there and will probably be there again.
But self-care is not a one-and-done. Self-care is a journey. Learning to love yourself and listen to your mind and body when they are begging you to rest is hard. Learning to say “no” is self-care in and of itself. And don’t get me wrong, it is goddamn difficult. The road to self-care and love is winding and long, but it is worth it.
We have to support one another. As men and women for and with others, we need to meet our friends where they are and encourage everyone around us to take care of themselves. We need to help the people who stretch themselves the thinnest to recognize their worth.
Practice self-care in your way. Self-care is going to bed rather than studying until 5 in the morning for a test. Self-care is hanging out with your friends because you’ve worked the last four weekends and you don’t need to pick up an extra shift. Self-care is reading your favorite book just because you need to decompress. Self-care can be bubble baths and wine nights or merely listening to music.
Do what makes you feel good, because only you can.
Brianna Ledsome is a junior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and international studies double major. She is the head organizer of Mental Health Awareness Week and a guest writer.