Writing by Isa Strother // Photograph by Ida A
Taking care of yourself is hard work. It’s hard to remember to eat and drink or take a night off from whatever you’ve been working on. It’s hard to remember that you’re just as important as the people around you, and that you need to come first sometimes.
Taking care of yourself when the people around you are falling apart is especially hard. You want to take care of them and make sure everything is okay, but sometimes you can’t, because you can’t handle it and that’s okay. It’s okay for you to need a break and look after yourself; it’s not your job to keep your friends together even if sometimes you feel you have to.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t take care of people, make sure they’re doing alright and if you’re feeling up for it go out of your way to help them. On the contrary, I think this can be amazing for your health (and several scientific studies agree!) to help out a friend when they need you, but it’s quite bad for you (and likely for them too!) if you try to offer help when you’re not in a position mentally to give it.
Taking care of yourself can be scary. Reminding yourself to eat even when you’re busy or don’t want to. Making yourself do things like eating a healthy meal and sleeping enough can be really hard, especially when you feel like you don’t deserve it, but it’s important to remember that you certainly do deserve it!
Taking care of yourself isn’t just the big things like going to the doctor to make sure you’re healthy, or making sure to clean your cuts and brush your teeth. It’s the everyday things like making sure you eat enough, sleep enough, get up and walk around, or study in moderation before your exams instead of all night the night before.
It can be little things you do to make yourself happy; being happy is an important part of being healthy (scientific studies show a lot of correlation between physical health and mental health).
Think of things that make you happy, like drinking colourful tea or wearing your pjs all day once a month; little things like that are just as important as the big things.
You don’t have to be an adult to start taking care of yourself. Sometimes other people won’t be able to help you, and you just need to stand up for yourself; remind yourself to shower, to get some breakfast, to study, and a billion other little things that all fall under the umbrella of “taking care of yourself.”
I’ve learnt that taking care of yourself is a really hard task that involves doing things you don’t like for your own greater good; sometimes you won’t want to get up and move ahead with yourself.
Sometimes you’ll forget to do something like study or take a break, but it’s important to take it in stride. Make sure you listen to yourself and what you need.
Here are a few little things that you can do to take care of your physical and mental health:
Clean your room!
A clean work space/sleeping environment is good for a clean headspace. If you’re like me, you’ll not notice that your room is a mess and it’s affected your mood. Getting rid of your old stuff, donating old clothes and books, fixing broken things or throwing them out, and organizing your closet and bookshelves are all good ways to make your room much cleaner.
It’s important to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need on an everyday basis; if you aren’t, it will likely affect your physical health and therefore your mental health negatively. If your acne is especially bad, you are having more mood swings than usual, or you feel more fragile/prone to illness and injury, you might not be getting the right nutrients in your meals. Ask your doctor or health care professional.
Drink some tea!
Tea does wonders. Like your mother may or may not have said, the fact remains that drinking a calming hot drink is always a wonderful way to sit down and clear your mind.
Stay in now and then!
Sometimes going out every night just isn’t the answer to feeling better. Staying in every now and then, turning down your friends and hanging out with yourself is a good way to feel better if you’re over tired or feeling overwhelmed. They say “no pain no gain,” but really, sometimes you just shouldn’t force yourself through something hoping you’ll learn to get better.
Ask for help!
There isn’t any shame in asking for help studying, cleaning out your house of things you don’t need, or finding someone to go to a medical consultation with you. Your friends probably want you to be your best self and would be happy to help when you’re struggling! It’s important not to rely on them too heavily though because then you might end up hurting them even if you aren’t trying to.
Get out your art supplies!
You might not be Picasso or Da Vinci, but sitting down with a colouring book requires no skill and is quite good for relaxing. It’s a fun activity and a good way to give yourself a break while still being “productive.”
A final bit of advice would be invite your friends over and just have a really chill time. Cuddling is great for mental health; human touch is really cool like that.
Take care of yourselves and remember it’s not always total win or absolute lose. Sometimes you lose a little and win a little and in the end you win and the same goes the other way. Just try your best, and remember there is no shame in asking for help![share]