Julia Rodriguez

Beta Psi, McGill

#treatyoself: A Self-Care How-To

Julia Rodriguez, Theta Foundation scholarship recipient

What do you do to take care of yourself? Brush your teeth? Exercise? Eat well?
When answering this question, most of us focus on our physical selves. We are taught how to take care of our bodies, but what about our minds?

With so much to keep up with in our busy lives, it’s easy to let taking care of one’s mental health fall to the wayside. I’ve gathered the following tips from my own experiences that might help guide you in taking some well-deserved “me time” this semester.*

What is self-care?

Self-care is anything you do to maintain your psychological health. You may have even come across this term in the past few months—there are plenty of blogs, Instagram posts, and “self-care challenges” littering the Internet—and rightly so. It’s important that we consciously take care of our mental health. If we get a cut, we put a Band-Aid on it. Mental injuries should be no different. Some of my favourite self-care activities are:

Me knitting away the afternoon last winter. See below for the final product!
  • Coloring
  • Knitting
  • Keeping a bullet journal
  • Taking a walk outside while listing to a podcast
  • Cleaning my room
  • Making myself a nice dinner and watching a movie

These are just my favourite self-care techniques, but there are many more! Try some self-care activities for yourself and find out what works best for you!

What if self-care doesn’t help?

While simple pleasures such as watching movies and painting your nails can do wonders for your mental health, nail polish can’t fix everything. Self-care is a state of mind, and sometimes you need to take more significant steps to ensure your well-being.

My junior year of college I had to juggle a full course load, living in a dorm as a first-year Resident Advisor, and a part-time job. Meanwhile, I was also planning sisterhood workshops for my chapter, just starting out in a new relationship, and trying to support my sister who was, at the time, in very poor health.

During this very difficult year, I consciously made time for myself. I knit a sweater, I forced a friend to take me to the gym once a week, and I watched TONS of movies. But, despite my efforts, I was not well. I was taking care of myself as best as I could, but still didn’t feel that I was emotionally stable.

Self-care kept me afloat that year, but what I really needed was a lifestyle change. In hindsight, I didn’t need a second job on top of my work at the dorm. I didn’t need to be taking five classes, and I didn’t need to take on more responsibility in Theta. I learned that there were some more significant things I could do, beyond relaxing and being mindful, to improve my mental health:

1. Just say no. One human cannot solve all problems, plan all events, or support every friend. The world will go on if you don’t accept every request that’s thrown at you, and you might even feel better if you just say no.

2. Quitting is okay! My junior year I quit something for the first time—I walked away from my responsibilities as an editor at a campus publication. At the time I felt anxious and guilty for leaving a commitment, but the magazine lived on and I felt so much better. Sometimes, we take on responsibilities that we ultimately don’t have the time for. If something is causing you persistent anxiety or makes you unhappy, it’s okay to back away from it.

Ta-da! This is the sweater I knitted last winter (featuring Hank, the unofficial Beta Psi mascot)

3. Re-evaluate what it means to fail. Each of us has a set emotional response to failure. It’s okay to feel demoralized and sad after failing, but we should not let ourselves believe that failing once means that we can never succeed again. Similarly, we should ask ourselves what it actually means to fail. During my junior year, while I was so busy and emotionally taxed, my grades began to slip. I told myself that I had failed, when I should’ve shown myself kindness. I still passed all my classes despite all the challenges I was facing – that should be an accomplishment, not a failure! Show yourself compassion! You don’t have to be the best at something for it to be worthwhile or for you to be proud of what you’ve achieved.

I encourage all of you to consciously practice self-care. If those practices don’t seem to be enough, don’t be afraid to take more significant action to improve your emotional state. Self-care is a lifestyle, not just the time we spend painting our nails.

*The information contained in this blog post is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

Theta Foundation is proud to support Sisters Supporting Sisters, Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity’s mental health initiative designed to increase the dialog concerning and support for all aspects of mental health, with the goals of creating a safe environment for members to discuss mental health issues, providing guidance for recognizing signs of and helping members with mental health challenges, and supporting members facing mental health challenges and disorders. For more information and resources, please visit Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity’s website.

This blog post is part of the Scholar Blogger series, showcasing four of Theta's leading women who are sharing their experiences, insight, and advice on topics relevant to all students. Learn more about the Scholar Blogger series and this year's bloggers here.