See if this sounds familiar: last Saturday night, I had a final paper to write, a final presentation to prepare, and chapters to read for Monday class.
What I actually did: I put up my Christmas tree while watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
When I posted about this on Facebook, I was shocked by the overwhelmingly positive response from my classmates, family and friends. When I got to class on Monday, some of my classmates told me it helped them step back and evaluate how they were operating. It reminded me how powerful it can be to take time for yourself.
In my first post back in October, I talked about the steps to practicing self-care, and I hope it was helpful. But even when we practice self-care regularly, there’s something about this time of year that makes it really hard! Many people feel stressed about the holidays coming, and then as students, we have the added stress of finals. We feel like we are being pulled in so many extra directions, and it is easy to let other peoples’ priorities overtake our lives. So what extra steps can we take to take care of ourselves this season?
- Be extra-aware of your own needs, and put them first. I know that putting ourselves first can feel tough; but especially during the season of giving, it can feel selfish. But it’s not selfish to take care of yourself, it’s essential to your well-being! Taking care of yourself makes you perform that much better at the other things you have to do. If you pull an all-nighter for a final, how do you think you will feel when you’re taking the test? Will you be rested and performing at peak level, or will you be exhausted and barely able to write one sentence? It’s worth it to do what will help us feel prepared for the tasks ahead.
- Remember what really matters. In a busy season, and especially with finals, we can feel like one paper, one exam, one meeting, one present, or one party is the most important thing in the world. We can worry about getting it right, obsess over the small details, and get angry when something doesn’t go our way. But in reality, how much does that one thing matter? Will this one paper impact what happens for the rest of your life? In most cases, we’ll probably forget about that paper the second that the semester is over! That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to do well and put our best efforts towards it. But it’s helpful to keep it in perspective.
- Procrastination is the opposite of self-care. If someone has a final on Monday but decides to see a movie on Saturday night, are they practicing self-care, or are they procrastinating? From the outside, it can be tough to tell. The difference is all in a person’s intention.
- If I’m practicing self-care, I’ve decided that I need some time to recharge before this final, and that seeing the movie will help me relax and put me in a better mindset for the exam. I’ve decided it’s OK to not study for the night, and that I’m okay if this means I don’t know absolutely everything on the exam.
- If I’m procrastinating, I still want to do well on this exam, but I’m putting off the studying that I feel I have to do. I may feel fine when I’m at the movie, but I’ll probably start feeling really stressed about the final the next day, or I might start stressing when I’m at the movie, so I won’t enjoy it as much!
They key difference is that with self-care, we make the choice to put things in perspective, and we accept the choices we make. With procrastination, we don’t change our perspective on the task, and we can feel even more stressed because we have to do the same amount of work in a shorter timeframe.
So as we plow through the rest of this month, let’s take some time to step back, breathe, and decide what really matters. Let’s give ourselves permission to take time for ourselves, and instead of stressing, let’s enjoy a little bit of the season!