As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we here at the Sword & Shield thought it would be an appropriate time to start a column on the topic of self-care. Yes, it may be the end of our 2017-2018 Sword & Shield season, but any time is a good time to start a column on something as important as self-care.
Self-care is a word that practically defines itself but has taken on many different forms in popular culture. Search #selfcare on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find no shortage of bubble baths with Lush bath bombs, charcoal face masks, and expensive candles. While that totally fits the definition, it’s a narrow way to look at it and has garnered criticism for making self-care seem like a privilege. As writer and feminist Audre Lorde put it—“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not a self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”
We need to expand on this spa-like definition of self-care. We need to include deliberate actions we take, not because they are necessarily the first thing we want to do, but because we know they will improve our mental and physical health. Take studying for AP tests as an example. I’m not looking forward to it. No one is looking forward to it. But I know that if I study ahead of time, I’ll gain confidence and walk into the Alliant Energy Center with a sense of peace. If I put off studying and instead take a bubble bath every night up until my first test (15 bubble baths), I’ll be a stressed out, anxious, lavender-scented mess by the time May 8th rolls around.
We’re at one of those crazy points of the year. AP tests are in mere days, end-of-the-year banquets and celebrations are filling up our calendars, finals are ready to welcome us with open arms, prom is a planning headache, college admissions need to be made and preparations begun… Oh, and I don’t know about you, but my motivation to do well in class is hanging on by a very thin thread. So with that in mind, here’s what you can do this month:
- Enjoy the spring weather with a bike ride
- We never know when Wisconsin will drop another winter storm on us, but for the time being, it looks like we’re in the clear. Go on a bike ride to get your heart pumping and fill your lungs with the fresh spring air. It’ll clear your mind and improve your mood.
- Create an AP study schedule
- At the time of this issue’s publication, there will really be very little time left until AP tests. Whether you’ve started studying or not, it’s a good idea to make a schedule. Sit down and block out what subject you’ll study on what day and for how long. Having a sense of direction in your studying will save you time and help you learn the material more effectively.
- Plan something fun to celebrate the end of AP tests
- Big accomplishments require big celebrations. You just took a three-hour long test (and many of you took multiple)! Schedule something fun ahead of time so that you can look forward to it. For example, a favorite band of mine is releasing a new album on the day of my last AP test – it’s a perfect reward!
- Give someone a compliment
- Doing nice things for other people makes us happier as well. And you’re brightening that person’s day, too, so it’s basically a two-for-one. Do it in person, or submit a compliment to the anonymous compliments page that our school has on Facebook.
- Start a meditation habit
- With all that’s probably going on in your life right now, learning how to empty your mind and reset will definitely come in handy. It only takes a few minutes each day, so don’t tell me you don’t have time for it. Try an app like Headspace or (my personal favorite) Insight Timer.
- Start your day outside
- Whether you go on a walk/run or simply eat your breakfast outside, try to fit in some time for fresh air before you head off to school. It’ll energize you, calm you, and give you a better start to the school day.