Columns, Opinions

Okin ’19: Let’s change the way we think of self-care

By
Staff Columnist
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

My most resolute commitment this summer was to dutifully neglect my glasses as much as possible. I read, I scroll, I write emails, yet — against the constant pleading of my mom —I disregard the brown frames that sit somewhere in my room.

When I first got the prescription for my reading glasses freshmen year, the optometrist revealed to me that there is a connection between fatigue and not wearing your glasses. You use energy performing those weird squinty gestures when you aren’t peering through the altered lens. It makes you tired. I was tired a lot of the time.

Meanwhile, I spent much of my time catastrophizing everything that comes after College Hill. A particularly dark image includes me, a fifty-foot cliff and only my English degree to soften the fall. I read (articles about the job prospects for liberal arts students), I scroll (Handshake job openings), I write emails (to all the BrownConnect contacts in the directory). Most of the time, I do these things sans glasses.

It took all summer, but ultimately I came to understand the necessity of living life through my lenses, and it’s already alleviating my fatigue. Yet, there is an irony apparent in my simultaneous glasses-neglecting and future-tripping: I’m neglecting something that could improve my current well-being while obsessing over how to guarantee a happy future. Now, I don’t intend on using this column to debate the value of over-thinking life post-Van Wickle Gates or that of dismissing the present for worries about the future. Rather, the irony I found actually presented a new conception of self-care, one that I can confidently get behind this year. What if we stopped thinking of self-care as a break from pursuing our goals and instead saw it as a vital ingredient in our overall success and well-being?

Self-care, as it currently stands, represents the idea of taking moments of escape from stressful situations to preserve one’s well-being. A quick Google search associates the term with the active endeavors of “stepping back,” “taking the time,” and engaging in a “daily practice”. It’s no wonder that the suggestion of self-care on a SciLi night stacked with assignments is typically met with an eye-roll: How can we reconcile the time demands of self-care while ignoring the pile of work in front of us that needs to get done?

It took the very literal example of remembering to wear my glasses while searching for jobs online to realize that we should revamp our conception of self-care. Rather than a break from striving toward our goals, caring for ourselves should always been seen as an inextricable step in achieving them. Endeavors such as eating healthier and getting more sleep are not separate from our efforts toward becoming successful CEOs and industry leaders. Instead, they are a part of getting us there. By understanding self-care as a essential component in the process of achieving our aspirations, we allow ourselves the chance to actually realize our dreams.

This isn’t to say we should indulge in a Netflix binge whenever we have a big work night ahead of us. In fact, we need to dismiss the pampering notion of self-care in order to take it seriously as a necessary element of our work. If we differentiate the concept of taking care of oneself versus overindulging (which is certainly okay at times), perhaps we will be more willing to recognize its critical importance.

Simply, permitting “self-care” a substantive place in our to-do lists toward our goals means that we approach them as healthier and more attentive individuals, ones who might accomplish and thrive even more in those positions. While we cannot prepare for the exact obstacles that might come our way, we can prepare our future selves by developing abilities to handle these situations. In slowly implementing vitalizing moments of self-kindness into our schedules, we fortify ourselves with the necessary mental and physical stamina to overcome challenges.

Rebecca Okin ’19 can be reached at rebecca_okin@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.