Stop Running Yourself Into the Ground

As I type this, I have almost completely lost my voice, probably due to allergies or stress or yet another cold. I’d like to blame this on the fact that I’m constantly being exposed to new germs (and more people than normal) while in Europe, but the fact is that it’s at least in part because I haven’t been taking very good care of myself lately. (This post could probably just be a note to myself, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that if I’m going through this, so is someone else out there.)

So, here’s my confession for the week: I’m very bad at taking care of myself. My “self-care” practices are often jars of Nutella and several hours of television. Spoiler alert: That’s not great self-care because it’s not actually, you know, taking care of myself. No one, ever, is going to call sitting completely still for hours and eating Nutella straight from the jar healthy.

‘Self-care’ has become an almost nauseatingly overused term in the last few years. There’s some wisdom in it, behind all the jokes on Twitter, but what started as probably good advice has become almost meaningless. Lately, I feel like we’ve started to use this term ‘self-care’ to excuse a whole variety of guilty indulgences. Sometimes indulgences that are wildly unhealthy (like eating Nutella from the jar). I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I, at least, have got to stop this. In part because my jeans are not really fitting anymore, but mostly because my body is sending me a very clear message: This is not working.

A lot of late nights studying, not enough exercise, going out with friends, and hit-or-miss food choices is running me into the ground. And I know it, that’s the crazy part. I did this back in undergrad, when I had a part-time job and was taking more than a full course load and was doing photography on the side and and and and. Lots of stress and not sleeping nearly enough, is where that ‘and and and’ rabbit hole leads.

I haven’t actually tracked the time, but I suspect that working like that is actually less productive, long-term. I may get a lot done on the nights when I only sleep for four hours, but my body punishes me with worn-out vocal cords, colds, and entire days in bed. The time it takes me to bounce back from a mere cold (especially because I rarely give myself the full day in bed) is ridiculous. Is the trade off really worth it?

Self-care, especially for me now that I’m in grad school, has got to look more like going to the gym, or a museum, or watching one movie, sans Nutella. So, that’s my commitment for November (other than NaNoWriMo): Less Nutella, more self-care that actually takes care of me.What are your self-care practices like? Are you using ‘self-care’ to excuse bad behavior? Are you really just running yourself into the ground?

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