Its officially that time of year. Battered by the Beast from the East, running low on energy, void of inspiration. The fridge is almost as empty as our bank accounts. Even Old Joe has (temporarily) given up the ghost. As the final few weeks of fourth year drag by, it’s easy to lose that necessary motivation. Class attendance has dwindled to laughable levels. I’ve run out of Friends episodes to watch and the only constants in my life are polite but steady rejections from job applications reminding me that someone, somewhere, has a better grip on final year.
What does this call for? #Selflove. You heard it. Find somewhere comfy, pour yourself a cup of tea and get ready to plan how you’re going to look after yourself over the next few weeks. Don’t panic – this isn’t a ‘treat yo self’ activity that threatens to break the bank, nor consume too much precious dissertation time. It’s simply the (very necessary) habit of remembering your worth. You could mock it as millennials wanting another excuse to hashtag their avocado breakfasts but there’s real truth in the importance of maintaining your mental health and wellbeing.
1. Take yourself on a date
It takes mere seconds to Google #selflove and see the wealth of information supporting this. But what does it actually mean? It means caring for yourself as the kind, hardworking human you are rather than attempting to be a relentless machine.
My friend and brilliant blogger, Liv, tweeted about taking herself on a date. Yes, it really can work magic on your mood and general life outlook. No, you don’t need to spend this date in an art gallery like Liv chooses (but come on, you really should give it a try).
Having recently graduated, she’s no stranger to the pressures of final year. Her advice? “It’s about giving yourself ‘you’ time and a treat”. So, stop making excuses and start becoming your own best friend. Buy yourself a bunch of flowers and don’t wait for someone else to champion your hard work!
2. Recognise progress
As well as setting those all important long term goals, it’s important to spend a little time reflecting on how far you’ve come. Perhaps it’s buying a super duper cute diary and writing in all your deadlines to stay organised, then ticking them off with a satisfying swoop. Visually conquering those demons, page by page. Maybe you’re someone who likes to plan in mini ‘breaks’ after exams, like heading home for a weekend of dog walks or being a typical millennial and having brunch (what else would we spend all our money on?)
When I’m having a particularly bad day, simply trying to list things which made me smile or things I achieved can help to reshape the day before I fall asleep in front of Netflix. Especially as someone who struggles with exam anxiety, my finals can feel like an inescapable nightmare. To combat this, I’m really making the effort to focus on what I’ve done each day and how this directly translates into progress. Each class is a productive use of my time and although it may not feel like it at the time, each stressful essay tutorial is a step closer to finishing the assignment. Simply making myself a nice herbal tea and reevaluating my week puts it all into perspective.
3. Be selfish
There’s a key difference between focusing on yourself, your happiness or mental health, and being a bitch. No, self love isn’t selfish behaviour but it definitely might feel that way in the beginning. If you’re a natural people pleaser like myself, you might find that some of your energy is being spent on things which are ultimately negative, just in the attempt not to hurt someone’s feelings.
Saying no to a friend so you can have a coffee by yourself isn’t weird if it’s the breathing space you deserve. Taking a longer walk so you can have an extra five minutes in the fresh air might be the change you need. It could be saying no to that extra project because it’s going to affect your work/life balance or cause unnecessary stress, even if you’re interested. Michelle Obama advocates her girls “investing in themselves as much as they invest in others”. If Michelle says it, I’m listening. Putting yourself as a priority doesn’t mean neglecting others; it’s simply making sure you’re being your best self to take on each challenge.
It’s clear that to some extent the issue of #selflove, for the majority of students, comes from a place of privilege, where our stress stems from deadlines and workloads rather than struggling to meet bills or provide for a family. People have real problems like this that affect their quality of life and they don’t have the time or desire to necessarily blog about them.
But what I’m seeing every day on campus is people pushing themselves to the limit, trying to live up to a standard they’ve set for themselves and forgetting to eat something for lunch or take a few minutes to reassess their situation. People who put themselves under this constant pressure might continue this behaviour into their adult working life as an unhealthy attitude towards what we can mentally push ourselves to. I won’t go into why the stigma against mental health desperately needs to be changed because I think I could probably write several dissertations on the topic but I hope that in reading this, you’re a little more aware of ‘checking’ yourself and your wellbeing.
Here’s a few ways you could start to celebrate #selflove during the intense marathon that is finals;
- Take a long, hot bath. Bubbles or bath bombs are a plus. Allll the bath time treats.
- Get some fresh air. Yes, it may feel like the longest winter ever but this does wonders for your mood and might be a nicer alternative than the following…
- …Do an exercise class. Endorphins are nature’s magic. I may not be converted myself but surely this many people can’t be wrong.
- Read a book that’s not for your course. Maybe a steamy Fifty Shades style novel is your choice, or perhaps you love a terrifying thriller – I won’t judge either way.
- Visit a museum, gallery, go to a concert, or simply indulge in a cultural activity you’d not normally spend time on.
- Spend some time with your friends doing non-alcohol related activities. Everyone loves a drink and a night out with their squad but constantly using alcohol to unwind can be exhausting rather than relaxing. Go for lunch, watch a cheesy film together, have a real conversation.
- Read an inspiring blog (other than mine).
Self love doesn’t need to be a chore or something else on a never-ending to do list. I think it’s simply changing your habits to appreciate yourself more and recognise that when working hard you need to take some time for yourself too. Of course, still meet your deadlines and apply for those jobs and have the same shiny enthusiasm as always. Just… remember that it’s ok to take a breather and focus on yourself and your happiness. Respect your mental health as much as you would monitor the physical. Learning to (and remembering to) love yourself isn’t an overnight process but there’s every reason to start.