The Journey of Learning Self-Care
Last year I graduated into a world of uncertainty. My life at the time was not looking the way I wanted it to look. I couldn’t find the coveted full-time job. I had just gotten out of a long-distance relationship.
I was nowhere near ready to face the world without school in it.
I spent most of my time listless, trying to create a schedule out of what I perceived to be nothing. Instead of relishing in my accomplishments, I became consumed with my failures. I kept asking myself, What is wrong with me? I wished my life could be more like my friends who had emerged like butterflies after school was finished.
I spent more time wishing than doing. I spent more time hoping than living. It was easy for me to continue in this cycle. Job rejections made it even easier to give into negative thoughts.
At the same time, I didn’t think I could tell anyone about my morose feelings. People knew me as the happy-go-lucky one. I was the first in my family to go straight to a four-year college. I spent most of my college years with a high average and bouncing around from one activity to another. I fought to maintain my grades by wading through late nights in the library and early morning commutes to my college campus. I was an honors student and took a full class load on top of working part-time.
If anyone was going to get it right after graduation, I thought it would be me.
What made matters worse was that I hated relying on others. For some reason, I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness. I kept the feelings of inadequacy to myself. I avoided and skirted around questions of “How are you doing?” and “Aren’t you so glad to be out of school?”
It wasn’t until late December when I started to reexamine how I could make things better for myself. I wanted to take initiative, but I just didn’t know how. During this time Buzzfeed featured a Mental Health Week. Reading through articles, I realized that not only was I not taking care of myself, I wasn’t even trying to get to know myself.
I had spent the majority of my college career basing my identity on what goals I could set and what I could accomplish. I made no room for hobbies that didn’t bolster my resume or GPA. Every bit of my time was devoted to things that made me busy, but not necessarily whole. I had never learned how to be alone with myself.
So I made the conscious effort to make small changes. I wanted to act instead of waiting for life to happen to me.
It took weeks, but I finally began to practice self-care. I started by taking myself out to lunch around my part-time schedule. I picked small corners to write or read a magazine in. I didn’t shame myself for not inviting a friend, and I began to see my alone time as valid. I used apps like Calm or Breathe when I was feeling overwhelmed with applying to jobs. I used an app called Vent when I needed to get things off my chest but couldn’t reach any friends to do so. I listened to the Happiness Podcast by Gretchen Rubin, and I tried to practice some of the lessons from it, like making pro and con lists to improve the decision-making process and creating small photo galleries of loved ones to boost my happiness with a simple glance. I ate more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and dairy. I started a gratitude jar, an idea from Pinterest, where I made a note of at least three things a day that made me grateful. I went to church more. I prayed.
The more I practiced a fluid self-care routine, the more I wanted to stick with it.
Everyone’s self-care will look different. For some, this may include counseling, bullet-journals, or yoga. For others, self-care might include podcasts, massages, and wine. Every self-care practice is valid so long as it is building you into a healthy person, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Figure out what’s best for you. Take it day by day. Allow for life to ebb and flow and know that you aren’t alone in this journey.
[Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.]