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Make it a self-care semester

| Tuesday, August 18, 2020

We’ve all been there. Homework is piling up, and you have three meetings in two hours plus a huge event to plan for hall council. Drowning in stress, you cancel your workout, skip your dinner date with your best friend and reschedule your weekly FaceTime with your mom — just to get everything done.

Even during pandemic times, I find that I have a million things on my to-do list. As a self-proclaimed list fanatic, my planner is constantly full of my chicken-scratch handwriting penciling in interviews, assignments, emails, chores and even spending time with friends. Often, I lie awake at night thinking about all the things I have to do and stressing over when I’ll have time to relax — when I’m supposed to be relaxing. 

That’s where self-care comes in. I don’t know about you, but for years, when anyone said the phrase “self-care,” I pictured a middle-aged woman in a claw-foot bathtub drinking wine with a face mask (the skincare kind) and cucumbers on her eyes. To me, taking care of yourself was something aspirational and, quite frankly, unattainable; a practice for people who already had their lives together, not insanely busy college students honestly just trying to get through the day.

College is often seen as the time to “do it all” — ace your classes, kill your extracurriculars, get a part-time job, stay in shape and have an active social life. Where in the day are you supposed to fit in a 30-minute wine-and-bathtub situation? Also, who even has a bathtub in college? 

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college, when I was going through a particularly rough time and definitely not taking care of myself, when a friend helped me realize that self-care isn’t just for the bourgeoisie — it’s for the mere peasants like me, too. All jokes aside, self-care means that you deserve to do things that make you happy, just because they make you happy. You don’t need another reason. 

I won’t claim to be an expert on self-care. In fact, there are lots of days where I get so caught up in the responsibilities and stress of everyday life that I forget to make time for myself. But I do know that taking care of yourself is important enough that it’s a process, one in which it’s okay in invest time and effort. If you’re forget, there’s always tomorrow. 

Self-care looks different every day. Some days, caring for yourself is going to Starbucks in the morning for a hit of caffeine before an insanely busy day or making time for a ten-minute walk in between homework assignments while blasting One Direction in your headphones. Other days, it means eating salad and veggies for dinner and going for a run. Still others, it’s skipping your workout and spending all day in bed watching romantic comedies and TikToks. Yes, these are some of my favorite ways to relax, but they don’t have to be yours. The best thing about self-care is that you get to decide what it looks like for you.

Now, it’s more important than ever to take care of ourselves. We’re living through “unprecedented times” (precedented times, I really freaking miss you) — a global pandemic combined with a tenuous political situation, all on top of a college semester like no one has experienced before. While it’s tempting to put your mental and emotional well-being on the back burner and just try to get through the day (without contracting COVID), it’s important to remember that your mental health, now and always, is deserving of the attention and love you pay to your physical health. There’s no shame in asking for help, whether it means pouring your heart out to a good friend or going to therapy. 

So this semester, I give you permission to prioritize yourself. A simple way to practice self-care if you’re a beginner, like I still consider myself to be, is to do one thing every day that re-energizes you and brings you peace. 

Spend time with close friends, while following health and safety guidelines, of course. Rewatch New Girl for the 500th time. Go for a run — or skip your workout and sleep through your alarm. Treat yourself to your favorite kind of ice cream. FaceTime your friend from home, or do something else entirely that floats your boat (COVID-safe, of course). 

Most importantly, listen to yourself and your needs. Here’s a secret you need to know: taking time to care for yourself will make you happier, healthier and more likely to kick butt in classes, at work or in extracurriculars. And whether that self-care means drinking wine in a bathtub or watching dumb YouTube videos during your study break, recognize that you are worthy of the love you would give to your friends and family. You deserve this! 

Now enjoy your self-care semester, and, as always, don’t forget to wear a mask.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

Contact Claire