What Is Self-Care and Why Do You Need It?

Professors and Students Alike Stress The Importance of Time for Yourself

  • Graphic Aiden Locke

It’s Monday, and you just pulled an all-nighter finishing an essay due the next day.

The whole day goes by and you realize that you haven’t eaten since breakfast, and you need to get a shower in, but you still have to study for that upcoming final exam. As time goes on, you realize more and more the expression “There are not enough hours in a day” applies to you.

Who would’ve thought that there would be hardly any time to actually take care of yourself?

But being a student doesn’t always have to feel this way, and Denise Brend, a social worker and psycho-therapist, understands that. Brend is a professor in the social service program at Dawson College, is in the process of getting her PhD in social work. She believes that teaching her students about self-care for overall well-being is important.

“If you sit and write down how much time it takes you to care for basic needs like eating, sleeping, and hygiene, along with the obligations from school, commuting, and working, you’re already over the number of hours in a week,” said Brend. “Something’s got to come off the plate, and most of the time that ends up being self-care.”

“I bore my students to tears in the first couple of weeks of school going on about the importance of using an agenda to manage all your obligations,” said Brend. “If you look at your course outline and immediately write in all your deadlines, you’re able to fix your work schedule and social activities around due dates so there are no surprises.”

Alexis Lahorra, president of Jack.org Concordia and a Concordia student herself, understands this, and knows when it’s time to shut everything off.

“Often students have this pressure around them that we have to study a lot and not sleep a lot, but with doing that, we push aside our health,” said Lahorra. “I think it’s a matter of realizing that you matter before your GPA, even though it may be hard to realize.”

According to its website, Jack.org is the only Canadian charity empowering and training young leaders to promote awareness and end the silence surrounding mental health. Lahorra decided to launch the Jack.org Concordia Chapter as a mental health club three years ago due to personal experiences that disrupted her well-being when first starting university.

“Although from the outside I looked very happy and successful, I was crumbling on the inside,” recalled Lahorra. “I didn’t know there were services at Concordia until my friends told me that each student had 10 counselling sessions.” Getting the help is what really put Lahorra back on track with not only her studies, but also with her mental health.

Taking the effort to manage time, may be what saves students the time for themselves.

Graphic Aiden Locke

“If you struggle with writing essays and you go into an academic centre for an hour to learn, you’ll be able to use that technique for the rest of the essays you’ll ever have to write,” Brend said. “One hour will save you five hours when writing future assignments.”

Even though Brend understands that most students don’t have a lot of time for self-care, she thinks even picking a designated time of day to just disconnect from responsibilities and reconnect with yourself is vital.

The purpose of the club is to “lead people to the services available at Concordia” but to also teach students to end the stigma around taking care of themselves. Beyond the 10 free counselling sessions offered to Concordia students throughout their degree, there’s also a reduced student price at PsyMontréal that is covered by the Concordia Student Union health plan.

Each visit at PsyMontréal is $110, however, the CSU plan covers up to $75 of that. Additionally, in partnership with the CSU’s health care provider, PsyMontréal has created the Psychology Network which allows students to have live video sessions from their homes with professional psychologists at PsyMontréal if they can’t reach one of the offices in person.

According to GoodTherapy.org, “Depression can sometimes inspire loss of appetite or motivation, and a lack of energy which can impair the ability to care for one’s self.”

However, “oftentimes mental health issues are a combination between environmental and biological realities, we have more control over the environmental one when it comes to self-care,” said Brend. “Some people with depression take fantastic care of themselves because they know the mental health issue is what can be preventing them from caring for themselves properly.”

So, even though it might be difficult, it can give you more of reason to take control of your self-care. “Some of us are high-performance race cars that need a specific kind of oil, while others are another kind of vehicle that need special tires,” said Brend, laughing. “It’s just a matter of recognizing our strengths, challenges and what we really need to do to reach our goals.”

“Even taking 30 minutes a day to yourself by drinking tea, colouring, walking, or just talking to someone, you never have to be alone,” said Lahorra. “There are always services offered on campus that can help your self-care.” Her routine consists of taking walks, writing in her journal, and giving back to the community.

“Self-care is a human thing, we’re all animals, and just the same we need to be fed, watered, and taken care of,” says Brend. “I don’t think that students realize that for themselves.”

“If a friend from school comes up to you and says ‘I’m not okay’, let’s not tell them it’s ‘just a phase’ and say instead ‘I’m here to listen,’” said Lahorra.

She believes changing the language surrounding emotional health and self-care is crucial and can help end the stigma. It makes everyone realize, “it’s okay not to be okay and ask for help.”

From time management, getting help from a professional, to knowing what kind of self-care works for you, Brend knows that those are just some of the ways that taking care of yourself can be crucial for student success. “My definition of self-care is providing yourself with as many needs for wellness that you can,” said Brend.

“It’s important to disconnect for a bit to reconnect with the world and ourselves,” said Lahorra.

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