The Strand’s EAs talk creativity, self-reflection, and recognizing when it’s time to take a break
Amidst the stress of essay deadlines, eating properly, and wondering why that guy hasn’t texted back, it is difficult to find time for self-care. Although I try to stay organized, I continuously leave assignments until the last minute and prioritize caffeine over a good meal. Clearly it will be a while before I can comfortably call myself an adult.
While many people emphasize meditation and healthy eating as the most effective forms of self-care, I don’t find listening to whale noises or munching on salads works for me. Instead, the moments I feel like I am taking care of myself are when I am writing at my desk. This may be the same place that I experience the most stress, but in spending time writing creatively here, it feels like I am taking the space back. Whether it’s a journal entry, poem, or terrible dad joke, by indulging in my desire to write creatively, I am doing something solely for myself.
I look at creative writing as my chance to step outside of my social obligations and focus on how I am feeling, rather than other people. This may sound harsh, but I find that self-care means being a little selfish sometimes. I often have to remind myself that it’s alright to stay home and write instead of going out, even if my thoughts turn into rants or meaningless ruminations. Writing is my version of meditation; but whatever works for you, embrace it—and be a little selfish every once in a while.
— Anna Stabb, “Indulging in creative self-care”
Until recently, I had relatively poor self-care habits for several years. I cannot sit down and meditate because of the anxiety that likes to flit across my mind; I cannot breathe incense and feel tranquil because the aroma is too strong. The biggest self-care achievement I could boast about was no longer biting my nails, but I often forget that practice the closer exams approach.
I have never been able to buy into “mindfulness” because oftentimes I can only be mindful of my worries. For me, self-care is understanding it cannot always be accomplished and growing from those attempts. Some days, self-care is eating two meals and catching up on readings from the week before. Other days, it is buying bubble tea with a friend and discussing poetry. Most days, self-care is reminding myself that a support system exists at university and beyond for academic or personal stressors. I enjoy using daily schedules and to-do lists to plan my day, and although I usually don’t complete everything, I can reflect on what’s left and how to proceed. A self-care act I’ve found to be successful is exploring the U of T campus, as the search for libraries and shortcuts through the masses of buildings is a strangely relaxing activity. In addition, self-care is ensuring I have surrounded myself with kind, caring people who encourage me to pursue my passions, and knowing that I will undoubtedly do the same for them. It is to be flexible—mapping out lofty, grandiose dreams one day, and finishing hour-by-hour chores the next. Healthy self-care is recognizing that some days, the most you can do is to take deep breaths, and remember that the joys of your life will counteract the pains.
— Georgia Lin, “No mind for mindfulness”
Self-care is impossible to define simply; everyone can find a different meaning for it and a different method for enacting it. For me, self-care is about focusing on what is truly important to me. Of course, school work and jobs are most important, but they can be taxing on your body and mind. When I think of self care, I think about sitting with my family, talking about our days, sharing stories, and laughing together. I think about sleeping in, forgetting about make-up and catching the latest train possible to get to school. I think about making sure, if I’m in pain, to address it and not ignore it. To spend as much time as possible with my girlfriend, and to make sure she knows that she is loved. Self-care isn’t always about what you can do for yourself, but spending time with the people you care about.
My family is massive, loud, complicated, and ridiculous at times. But there has never been a time in my life that I couldn’t go to my brother or sisters with a problem that they couldn’t help me solve. I understand that I have been absolutely blessed with a family that cares so much for me as I do them, and that not everyone has these people to rely on. Another way I find helps me, since I have chronic pain, is taking the time to meditate. In a library, in my room, outside on a bench somewhere—to just close your eyes and focus on absolutely nothing. It does take practice, but I find tutorials and reading articles on the subject help. Self-care is recognizing that you’re only human, and doing whatever you can to help yourself as well as those you care for.
— Renna Keriazes, “You’re only human: self-care isn’t just about treating yourself”
When I think about self-care, I don’t think about the moments in which it was easy. If it were, every bubble bath, “turn the volume all the way up” session, or nap wouldn’t be an act that needs prioritizing, but rather simply an act we would do. It seems self-care is a topic constantly on our minds, but often one that is rarely practiced—especially when essays, midterms, and readings march to the forefront.
However, what I’ve found helpful as I’ve grown is remembering how neglecting taking care of myself makes me feel, because, in my experience, almost failing one school related task has barely felt a sliver as bad as emotionally over eating or refusing sleep. So, in a broad sense, taking care of me is quite forcefully fueled by remembering all those times I forgot to.
Taking care of me is blasting an album I haven’t listened to in a while and letting the words take me to another world. It’s writing about my day and letting any pent up emotion flow from my pen to create that poem. It’s running until my lungs seem to have left my chest and sweat rains down the sides of my face.
And while the stress of university and maintaining a social life almost always turns plans on their head and makes it seem impossible to balance everything at once, the key to self-care seems to be making time. Whether it’s a night, an hour, or one minute, taking care of you will only be a reality if a conscious effort is made to do so. At least, that’s what I like to remind myself for motivation. So eat that cookie or take that walk underneath trees, because at the end of the day, self-care isn’t just about you, it’s about not losing yourself or forgetting who you are.
— Maddie Corradi, “What I’m choosing to prioritize in the midst of midterms”
Illustration | Yilin Zhu