COLUMN: Self-care is not a luxury. It is a necessity.
Self-care is the practice of taking action in preserving or improving one's own well-being and overall happiness.
When talking about self-care, I like to use the story of a teapot.
You are a nice and caring person with a big teapot full of tea, and you like to share with your friends. Say one day your best friend is going through a rough breakup at school, so you pour her a cup of tea from your teapot to make her feel better. She takes the tea and thanks you for the drink.
Then say that evening, your coworker approaches you at work and tells you they are being harassed by your superior. You pour her a cup of tea to calm her down while she talks to you about it. Later that night, your sister comes into your room, and she tells you that she’s failing two of her classes, so you pour her a cup of tea to cheer her up.
You look down at your teapot and realize that it is completely empty. Now you have to take a break and boil some water, steep the tea and let it cool before you can give anyone else tea, because you cannot pour from an empty teapot. The same concept applies to self-care.
In order to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself first.
Learning to say “no” to things that overextend you is an important yet very difficult part of self-care. It is not selfish to say “no” to something at that very moment. A simple, “I can’t do that now, how about I get back to you later,” is always okay.
Remember, you cannot pour from an empty teapot. If you cannot be there for someone 100 percent, just say no. More often than not, they’ll understand.
Another important part of self-care is setting boundaries for yourself. Don’t stay up until 2 a.m. studying for your linear algebra midterm--trust me, it’s doing more harm than good at that point.
Don’t work yourself to death. Set a deadline for yourself to be relaxing and in bed by a certain time every night. If something is not done by your deadline, it can wait until the morning. This will also help you to prioritize your tasks and be more productive during the day.
With a deadline, cut yourself off. That means don’t check email, don’t go on Blackboard--put the phone on "do not disturb" for the rest of the night and focus on decompressing after a long day.
No two people have the same self-care routine. What works for one person might not work exactly the same for the other. You need to figure out what works for you. To do this, try new things. Try journaling, taking naps, going to the gym, crying it out into your pillow--try anything until you find something that helps you relax and feel better about yourself.
How do you realize when your teapot is empty? When you start to feel exhausted and numb. Saying things like, “I can’t deal with this right now,” or, “I don’t care, it doesn’t matter,” are warning signs that you are burnt out and just need to take some time to refill your teapot.
Self-care is not a luxury. It is a necessity. Take time to love and take care of yourself, so you can love and be there for others.