The Importance of Prioritising Self-Care

Sometimes, we can all get a bit carried away with saying yes to everything and everyone, in the fear that if we don’t, we’ll be letting people down. However, this can often be at the sacrifice of our own mental health.
Whether it be in school, work or relationships, the constant need to please others and stay on top of ever-growing commitments might mean that dedicating time to de-stress, and engage in much-needed self-care falls to the wayside. It can also be incredibly difficult to find a balance between complete isolation and an overabundance of social activities in the fast-paced society that we live in. What is really needed is a compromise – one where we learn that it’s ok to turn down invitations when we’re exhausted, but where we also dedicate time to spend with the people we love and company we value.
As an A Level student, being overwhelmed (which is a slight understatement) is a feeling that I’ve become all too familiar with in recent years. Homework, revision and the idea of actually having a social life (let alone maintaining one) can be a struggle, and this is all without even beginning to factor in mental health. However, it was not until very recently that I’ve been able to fully come to terms with the importance of taking time out for self-care, and I’ve also realised that it is ok and perfectly ‘normal’ to feel overwhelmed. In fact, most of us probably know this, but sometimes it can take tackling these sources of stress head-on in order for self-care to manifest itself. It’s one thing to simply acknowledge something and another to properly address it.
There are a few basic things that I’ve not only realised, but also begun putting into practice, and they actually have massively helped me cope with my stress and feeling overwhelmed. I hope they can help some of you too!

(I’d also like to add that self-care is something that is a long-process and personal to you – by no means have I mastered the art of it and I definitely do still have plenty of off-days. Self-care can be messy, unorganised and unplanned, (it’s not all Lush baths, painting your nails and yoga) but I’ve found that practising the simpler things has helped take some of the weight off when I’m feeling particularly anxious.)

1) Writing lists

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I know it sounds basic, but trust me, it can actually make the world of difference. I started by writing down a checklist of what I wanted to get done during the week. By setting weekly goals instead of daily ones, I found that I was putting less pressure on myself and would feel less guilty if I couldn’t get everything that I wanted done in just one day. Not only this, but physically ticking off the simplest of tasks can actually be really rewarding, especially when you look back at all of the things you’ve achieved by the end of the week!

2) It is not selfish to prioritise your mental health

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Reclaiming the right to say ‘no’ and exercising that right can make the world of difference. You’re not letting anyone down by admitting that you’re too tired or just not in the mood to do something, and it is perfectly fine to take time to relax. More often than not, rest days not only benefit your mental health but also your physical health, and can mean that you feel more prepared and energised when it does come to making commitments again.

3) Making use of meditation apps

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I love ‘Breathe’ and ‘Pacifica’, but there are also plenty of videos on YouTube that are amazing! Listening to sessions before bed has been really helpful for winding down, especially if you’re someone who struggles with over-thinking.

4) Embracing friendship

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As cliché as it sounds, I’m really lucky to have an incredibly supportive, understanding and caring group of friends, and I cannot stress enough the importance of surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you. Your friends should be the people that inspire, uplift and motivate you; if you find that you’re being weighed down by a friendship, it is perfectly ok to speak to the person and address the things that are worrying you. If things don’t change, it might just mean that you have outgrown the friendship and it’s time to move on to bigger and better things, not just for your well-being, but also for their’s.

5) Asking for help when things get too much

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Everyone says this but very few of us actually do it; speaking to someone can be really scary, but I don’t think I have ever made a better decision. The media can make us feel like our problems are miniscule, but the reality is that everyone has a mental health, and everyone should have the chance to look after it. It took years for me to finally speak to someone, but I would never look back now. It could be a friend, family member or even a teacher, but just allowing yourself the chance to speak to someone might actually mean that you come to terms with your worries. It’s likely that that person may also have experienced or be experiencing something similar, and you could share some advice on coping with certain issues.

With the prospects of Year 13, university applications and exams looming in the future, I’m sure that keeping up with some of these things might be a struggle sometimes. However, part of my self-care routine now also includes accepting that that’s OK too; it’s OK to let go of my need for perfectionism, it’s OK to struggle, it’s OK to get knocked back and it’s OK to find moments of solitude.

I really do hope that I continue to make progress with this as the year goes on, and I wish you all the best on your self-care journeys too!

Written by Ella Nevill

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