As college students, we are bombarded with a lot of messaging — about managing our mental health, eating right, and not stressing too much. Through this type of messaging, I was introduced to the concept of “self-care.”

I initially thought self-care was just about buying bath bombs and sweet-smelling soaps from Lush. But in my time at UR, I have been exposed to several different definitions of self-care. It makes me question what self-care actually is: Is it just participating in an activity that makes you happy or calm? Does it mean putting your life on hold for a couple hours? Or does it mean getting an expensive spa treatment? 

According to Instagram, self-care either involves putting on a glittery face mask while bumping Rihanna and making funny faces at the camera, or getting off of Instagram. According to “Psychology Today,” self-care is simply taking care of oneself. 

There are hundreds of self-help books out there, each with their own unique recipe for improving one’slife, one catchy title at a time. When watching movies or television, I find that plot-driven media leaves little time for a character to practice self-care. Imagine watching Rachel take a nap during an episode of “Friends.” Sure, it would probably be helpful for Rachel, but that’s boring on television. With all of these options and a lack of examples, where does that leave us?

For me, I believe that self-care is occasionally stopping. Imagine you’re walking on a busy sidewalk, surrounded by a crowd of people all hurrying somewhere, eyes forward, mind focused on wherever they’re headed. Self-care is stopping in your tracks and actually taking into account how you feel. It involves asking questions — am I happy? Am I satisfied? Am I tired? And why do I feel this way? 

I find it easy to escape my own thoughts. Reader, have you ever had such a busy day that by the time you found yourself in your bed, you realized you didn’t remember a single coherent thought you’d had the entire day? It’s easy, especially at our university, to get lost in the exams and deadlines, or even in the various club meetings and endless emails. Stopping all that momentum to take stock of your situation isn’t easy. 

That’s why I think the advice for how to take care of oneself is so varied. Some people benefit from buying colorful soaps and foamy bath bombs, and they use their bath time to reflect. Some people benefit from outdoor activities like biking or hiking for the clarity that being out in nature brings them. For me personally, curling up with a good book clears my mind, and I always have a moment after I stop reading when I can look inwards. 

Self-reflection is not easy, and finding what helps you best will probably take time. It is an intensely personal process, and that’s why it is difficult to portray in media. A magazine article may lay out the top 10 self-care tips, but it doesn’t know you — and knowing yourself is half the battle. Reader, I wish you good luck on your self-care journey —  all the best! 

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