If you are a student in higher education, you have likely uttered the words “I don’t have time for self-care” or some variation of that phrase. You have probably scrolled through countless Buzzfeed posts and TikToks that list ideas of how to take time for yourself throughout the day and rolled your eyes, thinking “yeah, I have a million assignments to do. I don’t have time for a candlelit bubble bath.” Sure, you might impulsively online shop during a phase of procrastination and call it self-care, or the eloquently-entitled “retail therapy”, but you (likely) almost immediately go back to feeling stressed once you read the words “order received” and are once again faced with your seemingly endless to-do list.
So, why don’t you feel better?
Self-care is a misunderstood concept. While self-care can look like candlelit bubble baths or even frivolous shopping at times, it is the purpose served that is the most important. It is important to consider self-care as filling the gas tank in one’s car. Self-care is more than making a person feel good, or relaxing in the moment. It is about filling your tank, about meeting your most basic needs. It is not about doing what is most aesthetic in that moment or what influencers are promoting on Instagram. Sometimes it’s something like making sure you take intentional time to have a nutritious meal or actually allowing yourself to enjoy a shower that isn’t rushed. It's about not falling asleep with your makeup on so that you don’t wake up with dried mascara on your pillow. It’s about setting aside time to do your laundry so that you have clean clothes to wear for that class presentation that you’ve been preparing for a week.
Self-care is about prioritizing yourself so that the later version of you does not have to worry.
When you catch yourself thinking, “I don’t have time for self-care”, just remember those times when you’re running late for work and you notice your car’s gas tank is empty. You always stop for gas, even if you do not have time in that moment. Why? Because, otherwise, your car may run out of gas and make you even later than if you had stopped for gas. Your body is no different. If you do not fill your tank, you will run out of gas. In other words, if you do not allow yourself to take breaks for self-care, your body will take one for you.