Life can get incredibly busy. As you get older you may become more involved in different things, take on new responsibilities, begin relationships, and face challenges that seem to lead to more challenges. If you’re someone who can prioritize their responsibilities and get it all done without stress, you’re a superhero, but you may have let a crucial responsibility slide in your list of priorities.
Take a moment to write out a list of all your current responsibilities. Read over it and prioritize what needs the most attention or what may need attention first. Now, looking at your list, where did you put your personal health? What rank on your list of priorities did your mental health land? Is it even on the list?
I remember reading a question a while ago that really stuck with me: what would you tell your younger self? I thought it over in the moment, going through all my experiences, all the things that had not lived up to expectation, but what seemed to affect every aspect of my life, specifically when I was in university, was the fact that I didn’t make time for myself.
I constantly pushed my limits to reach my own incredibly high expectations, but in the end I sacrificed my health for things like grades that may or may not be seen by anyone outside the university staff. I remember my perfectionism getting the best of me as I worked overtime on projects, only allowing myself 21 hours of sleep total in the span of nine days and living primarily off granola bars and fast food because it was food I could eat without having to stop working.
As I entered my final year of university I began to realize that I had sacrificed my mental health, and in turn, my physical health to get other tasks done. Not only did this sacrifice impact me negatively, it also impacted my relationships, and my abilities to do good work! I had told myself that I was exchanging my self-care time to do my "best work," but by the end of my degree I had started devoting time to my health and separating my work from my self.
Once I started nourishing my body with good, nutritious foods, getting more sleep, and putting time towards calming pastimes, I actually found that my grades rested at a decent average. I felt good about the work I was doing and I no longer felt the need to ignore my own needs in order to get things done.
University culture tends to glorify the overworked student. The “True Academic” is the one who forfeits sleep to work more. The “Perfect Student” commits all their time to working on projects, opting for the fast-food meal rather than taking the time to make good, nutritious food that will fuel them.
I think it becomes hard to justify spending extra time or money on ourselves because we become conditioned by the messages or experience on a daily basis. Seeing a repeated idea, like that of the “True Academic” ingrains the idea that if we are not pushing ourselves to the furthest extreme, we aren’t doing enough. This is not true.
Perhaps it’s time to re-prioritize that list and allow yourself to spend a little extra time and money on yourself. Your health shouldn’t be something you cut corners on. Commit some time and energy to taking care of yourself, even if it just means resting for a while.
Written by: Megan McKague