After a semi-busy week of chaperoning/staying overnight with a summer enrichment camp AND battling a bad cold, I thought it would be good to reflect on self-care (like I always do). As a Student Affairs professional & new grad student, it becomes a challenge to focus on myself in the midst of a chaotic week. After looking forward, I realize that August is going to be a million times busier AND I will be starting grad classes on the 28th. Since I have some time to myself today, I thought it would be good to reflect on self-care while re-centering my brain.
It is not selfish to focus on myself.
I have to tell myself this every time I want to take a break or spend time reading alone. It’s a challenge to remind myself that self-care is not selfish or lazy. In a chaotic profession, it is even more crucial that we try to find more self-care time in the midst of our busy lives. Since I was so sick this week, I decided to ask for 3 hours in the morning on Wednesday to recharge & rest during sessions that I wasn’t required to attend. Taking that time was so helpful to my physical & mental health, & I felt more recharged than I had in days.
It is not lazy to relax on my day off.
As someone who is constantly up and moving, I have to fight to tell myself that there is no harm in relaxing on my day off. This morning I slept in, made breakfast, & had numerous cups of coffee. I spent some time on social media & worked on organizing & updating my planner. I have so many things to do (i.e. oil change, returning a library book), yet I needed this time to myself this morning. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to clear our schedules for an extended period of time when we don’t have time-sensitive obligations. The “adulting” can wait for later in the day or tomorrow.
Napping does not make me lazy.
I am a huge advocate for naps. A lot of people think that napping is a sign of laziness or depression, yet I find myself trying to make a few minutes of nap time in my routine schedule. Napping was crucial to my undergraduate college experience. As long as I’m showing up on-time & completing my tasks, I don’t see any harm in taking a 30 minute power nap to recharge my brain.
Schedule Self-Care Time.
Something that I’ve been doing is scheduling my self-care time. This is going to be especially crucial once classes start and the students return to campus. I find that scheduling yoga classes in advance forces me to practice self-care when I feel like I am too busy. I also make sure that I take walks every evening around the same time. When you put your self-care practices into your daily agenda, it becomes just as routine as work, class, & other tasks.
Eat Healthy & Stay Hydrated.
Something that I struggle with is staying healthy in the midst of a chaotic schedule. Working in Residence Life makes this even more challenging because there is free food everywhere. Sticking to a healthy diet & staying hydrated throughout the day not only helps me to feel better physically, but mentally as well. The more I take care of my body, the less depressed & anxious I am. I find that using a Fitbit & the Fitbit app help me to stay on track with these goals.
Overall, self-care is a challenge for all of us. If you have the free time in your schedule, focus on you. Remember that your self-care practices (i.e. what works, what doesn’t work) is completely up to each individual person. Although it’s a challenge, it is also important to try not to allow others to hinder your self-care practices. We all have to build each other up in order to make the world a better place, so please support those around you in taking care of themselves. And of course, PLEASE take care of yourself first before taking care of others.
Today I took some time to take a solo walk on the Johnstown Flood Trail (located near my new home). Sometimes taking time to appreciate nature & silence is all it takes when you’re having a rough week. Remember to appreciate the little things in life, find peace when you can, & focus on your self-care! And as always, keep in mind that spending time with yourself is not selfish. The world can wait while you take time to center yourself & find your peace.
Sometimes it is ok to not be ok. As someone with Depression and Anxiety, I have been struggling a little more than usual recently. I have a tendency to focus on the past, the things that have hurt me and continue to affect me to this day. To get out of this mindset, I have to remind myself of the good things in my present life and what my future has in store, which is why I have decided to blog about the things I am #thankful for today:
I love my work as a Hall Director. Although I am sad that this is my final year at Saint Mary’s College, I have so much to be thankful for from my experience. I have grown so much as a confident female leader, a role model, and a person. I have been inspired by so many incredible women, have gained so many wonderful friends, and have shared so many awesome life experiences that I would have never shared if I did not decide to move away to Indiana 3 years ago.
I am so fortunate to have the support system that I do. Never in my life would I have expected to find such a caring, supportive, loving boyfriend who reminds me how important it is that I take care of myself. He also wants to learn about my mental health conditions and always remains patient with me. I also am blessed to have the family that I do. I talk to my mum every single day, even if it is just to say “hi” in the mornings. I know that a lot of people aren’t this fortunate. Although I have the greatest friends here in Indiana, I’m really looking forward to moving back to my family after being away for so long.
I learned how to knit recently (yes, I know I sound like an old lady). This hobby makes me SO HAPPY because it has been a great way to combat my anxiety while making a ton of super awesome scarves.
Although my food allergies sometimes get the best of me, I am thankful for my health overall. I need to remember that a lot of others aren’t this fortunate.
Upcoming Life Experiences
I am blessed to have a lot of awesome things on the horizon, such as a beach vacation and tickets to see Mumford & Sons in the spring. I need to remember the good experiences that I have had in the past as well and remember those when I’m having a difficult day mentally.
I got into grad school and will be attending this fall. Not a lot of people have the privilege of attending Grad school, let alone Undergrad. This experience will allow me to grow personally and professionally so that I can move forward in my career in Higher Education.
I would be nowhere without my friends, especially my support system here in Indiana. I’m lucky to have such a supportive and fun group of people to spend time with.
When you are having a difficult day, I encourage you to sit back and remember what you are thankful for. Sometimes we have a tendency to overlook our blessings in life and always focus on the negative. In order to find the positivity in our lives we must take time to actually reflect on the good things and make more room for the good in our lives.
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
– Fred Rogers
I like to think that I have everything going for me in my life: a good job, a loving family, a caring partner, awesome friends, etc. Despite all of this, I still find myself struggling with self-confidence & self-worth from time to time. As a young woman in 2017, I know that I’m not alone in this. We live in a world where the rights, beliefs, ideas, pay wages, and physical appearances are constantly critiqued, invalidated, and questioned by our society. On a personal level, I have found that past relationships have contributed to my consistent struggle with their mentally abusive tendencies and hurtful words that were spoken. Yes, I’ve come so far since then, but every now and then like everyone else I am still haunted by my past. I consistently have to remind myself of my self-worth, my awesomeness, my strengths, and my accomplishments, which is why I’ve reflected on some of the key things that I have to keep in mind:
I am enough.
I have to remind myself that I am enough as a person. I constantly struggle with my confidence in my appearances, my capabilities, and overall who I am as a person. I have a habit of always worrying if I’m not pretty enough, outgoing enough, or thin enough when it comes to my relationship (my wonderful boyfriend constantly reassures me that this is not the case). I find myself hesitating to speak up or offer ideas at times because I’m afraid I’m not smart enough. Again, although I’ve made progress I still have to find ways to advocate for myself and remember what I’ve accomplished. I find that when I’m in these moods, taking a walk to reflect or doing some journaling helps.
The past is in the past.
As I said above, I find myself struggling with some of the painful things that have deeply affected me and my life. Yes, these things have unfortunately shaped a lot of my decisions and have been difficult to overcome, but I need to recognize that they are not repeating themselves. Again, I have a habit of worrying about things that aren’t true or aren’t going to happen (yay for living with anxiety). I need to work toward rationalizing my thoughts, recognizing that things are going well, and appreciating the blessings in my life.
I am stronger than I think.
Motivating myself to work out, complete nagging tasks, and deal with other daily challenges is a struggle, especially when I’m having a bad week or my depression is present. I have a tendency to go take a nap to forget my problems in an attempt to “make it all go away.” I need to recognize that I’m mentally stronger than I think I am. I need to push myself to do something positive in order to overcome those tasks. I need to recognize that I am capable.
No one said that working toward self-care and self-love would be easy. We all have bad weeks when we just want to hide from the world. Remind yourselves of the awesome things you’ve done when you are having these weeks. Practice mindfulness. Go do something healthy for yourself. In the end, it’ll all inevitably work out.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you would know that it’s not fun. Ever. Panic attacks come in different forms for different things. For me personally, my panic attacks range from experiencing what I call a “perpetual brain fog” that numbs all emotion and causes me to forget a lot of things that are said to me in the moment to having a full “meltdown-esque” panic attack where I start hyperventilating and crying. It differs for all of us who live every day with anxiety.
In student affairs, we often find the need to bury personal mental health concerns because there has been the consistent belief that by having anxiety or depression, along with many other mental health conditions, we are weak and cannot help others. The same goes with introversion and extroversion. I wish I had a dollar for the number of times that someone has told me that “[I] don’t act like an introvert.” Just because I recharge by being alone does not mean that I can’t be the energetic, charismatic, and quirky leader my students need. It does not mean that I’m a socially awkward recluse, which essentially has unfortunately been the consistent perception of introverts throughout the years.
Why is it that these perceptions exist? Don’t get me wrong, the negative stigma around mental health has been slowly decreasing throughout the years, but there is still that awkwardness that comes from a conversation about mental health. Why can’t we talk about anxiety and depression like we talk about a diabetes or celiac disease? They are all things that affect our overall health and well-being. They do not define us, but surely they are a part of who we are. It also becomes frustrating when people try to tiptoe around those of us with depression and anxiety. Yes, we need to be supported as coworkers, relatives, partners, and human beings in general, but we don’t need to be coddled. For many of us, we know what our support looks like and we will ask for it when it is needed. Personally, I simply say that I need to get off-campus or leave the room when I am having a panic attack and many people respect that. That doesn’t mean that I need to walk away every single time that a conflict or stressful situation arises.
At this point, you may be asking what I’m getting at with this post. I simply ask you to reflect on how you can be open about anxiety and depression in student affairs or conversations in general. Maybe that means something simple, like having a program or doing a mental health bulletin board. For me, I have personally disclosed my depression and anxiety with a few students who have disclosed it to me. The point of the conversation was not to simply undermine their concern or to talk about myself. It was simply a gesture of solidarity. A moment to let them know that mental health is something we can talk about here and that their condition is not something to be embarrassed of because a lot of us struggle with it. It was an opportunity to give them a safe space.
I also ask you to reflect on how you can support your partners, coworkers, and family members who struggle with depression and anxiety. Simply ask them how they want to be supported. Don’t coddle them or assume that you need to text them every 5 minutes to see if they’re okay. For many of us, we have it under control. We may simply need a supportive listener or someone to check in when we walk away from a panic attack. Overall, we need to just work together to reduce the negative stigma that still exists when it comes to mental health. We need to stop judging others for their conditions and accept that we are all human beings who deserve the same respect despite the different battles we are all going through.
“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived”- Eleanor Roosevelt
I like to think that I’m living a happy life at this point. I am content with where I am, who I am, and what I am doing with my life. Despite my current state of contentment, I decided to pick up the New York Time bestseller The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. The book delves into Rubin’s decision to fulfill a year of finding happiness by experimenting with the practices recommended by scientists, philosophers, popular culture, and others. What I love about this book is that Rubin was already content with her life; she just wanted to maximize her experiences to make sure she was “living life to the fullest.” In the first section, Rubin takes advice from the great Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, who established a list of virtues that would help to guide him toward his fulfillment of happiness on a daily basis. Rubin decided to create a list of “Twelve Commandments” that she would adhere to daily, and so I have decided to do the same.
The Twelve Commandments of Angela
Okay, so I definitely stole this one from Rubin. I think that it’s essential to refocus and to remember to be myself in all that I do. I need to embrace my flaws, my strengths, my quirks. I need to run with my passions and embrace my creativity. I think this is something everyone needs to keep in mind in a world that makes it easy to doubt yourself and to struggle with self-confidence. Being you is a good thing so embrace it.
Find beauty in the simple things
Recently I’ve made a personal commitment to walking at least once a day outside, rather than just working out in the gym. I’ve been embracing more early morning walks and appreciating the nature around me. The late October leaves have been incredible, especially as the sun starts to rise every day. I find so much peace when I observe and appreciate the simple beauty of our world: a heart-shaped leaf on the ground, breathing in a fresh cup of coffee, finding a moment of silence in the midst of a hectic day. Appreciating these things completely changes my attitude.
Let go, Let God
Sometimes it’s easy to think that I can control everything in life. As a type-A perfectionist, I have a tendency to overanalyze everything that crosses my path. I’ve learned that some things are out of my control and completely in God’s hands. I need to understand the value of living in the moment, being the best that I can be, and understanding patience.
I find myself saying “thank you” on a daily basis (thanks to the awesome manners I learned from my mom). Sometimes I don’t think about it as I’m saying it, which is a problem. Do I really appreciate what that person has done for me? Am I being genuine enough? And am I appreciating more of ordinary gifts that have been provided in my life? When I take time to actually think about what I am thankful for rather than just saying it (#mindfulness), I find that I am more genuinely appreciative.
Find time for reflection
I find that I am most at peace with myself and my world when I self-reflect. I have learned to evaluate my past experiences (and current ones) through reflection. These are the times when I grow the most and understand the best decisions to make. Self-awareness is something that we can all benefit from (although it doesn’t come easily) so that we can embrace our flaws, strengths, and passions.
Find time for self-care
No this is not a joke. Yes, I do know I am a Hall Director. Self-care time is essential to being a successful, healthy, happy human being. In today’s world, it’s easy to get caught up with emails until midnight, to take on more projects than we can handle, and inevitably, to easily burn out. Taking time each day to read, walk, bake, or do something else for myself helps me to lower my stress, gather enough introvert time to “be social,” and to find balance. I also value getting 6-to-9 hours of sleep every night, which is sometimes impossible in the Student Affairs world. Despite this challenge, I strive for it daily. My super cool Fitbit also yells at me when I don’t sleep enough, which is really helpful.
I need to be genuine in everything I do and in everything I say. We build relationships from being genuine to others. People connect to others who legitimately care about them, share common interests, and legitimately want to talk to them. If you’re genuine in your daily life, you’re going to connect to others in a deeper way.
“Do small things with great love”
This absolutely fabulous quote from Mother Teresa is one of my favorites and I strive to live by it daily. Doing small acts of kindness can change our world. Every week I send achievement notes to residents who have been recognized by their RAs. I have had so many residents come to my office to thank me for the notes. It’s such a blessing to know that I am helping to bring a bit of joy to someone’s day.
Remember to breathe
I find it necessary to remind myself to breathe before entering a challenging situation, a difficult meeting, or answering emails at my desk. Taking a few extra seconds to collect my thoughts goes a long way.
Live with an open mind & an open heart
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I try to go into every situation with an open mind and heart so that I can fully understand where someone is coming from. Often times we will never know exactly what someone else is dealing with in life, so it’s important to embrace them and to support them no matter what the circumstances are.
Find your peace
When I was younger, my mum always taught me never to go to bed angry. I remember sitting up and talking through family arguments with her and my sister (until after midnight sometimes) so that we would be able to find our peace before falling asleep. It’s important to find peace with those you love, as well as those challenging situations with others that may be nagging you. Or if a challenging situation isn’t possible to resolve, find peace within your heart and hope that the other person finds peace within his/her heart as well.
Talk to your mom every day
I talk to my mum every day, often times 2-3 times a day. It doesn’t matter if you’re 23 or 43, talking to your mom makes everything better. If you’re not close to your mom, find your go-to confidante. It’s important to know that someone has your back at all times.
It is important to continue to better ourselves every day through personal reflection and growth. I am going to personally commit to my “Twelve Commandments of Angela” when I face a challenge or simply need to get through the day. Although it’s much easier to fall into the mundane, I find that I appreciate life so much more when I go out of my way to make the normal days extraordinary. I think this is something we can all strive for.