Me First!: Importance of Self-Care

Remember when you were a kid in elementary school, and the teacher would ask a question or tell the class to come to her desk for a treat? You and your little friends would take off to her desk, eagerly raising your hands and awaiting her surprise, as you scream “Me first, me first!!!!

Today, over 20 years later, some would probably say that a “me first” mentality is down-right selfish and rude. But as a graduate student who has struggled with putting myself first (as many others have), I’m here to tell you that I approve, support and am a part of the “Me First Crusade”.

I really embraced this frame of mind this weekend when sickness hit me like a ton of bricks. A few days ago, I was sitting in Starbucks with some friends doing some writing, per the usual, when all of a sudden my body grew cold and I was shaking because I couldn’t get warm. Then, I began to have muscle aches. Contrary to my body telling me to go home right away, my mind told me that I needed to stay just 30 minutes longer and finish up what I was working on. Needless to say, I listened to my mind and gave my body the boot…in more ways than one. I went home, eventually got into bed, and my chills went away. My body aches subsided. Luckily, I knew I did not have the flu. (I was not claiming that!) But later in the week, I contracted a terrible cold that really got me down. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think straight. I was coughing every night which interrupted my sleep. I was miserable!!! But all I could think about was the amount of work I had to do, my long list of tasks. I was having a conversation with the sickness gods. “I am a graduate student! I don’t have time for you!” Well, they thought otherwise. As a matter of fact, they weren’t the sickness gods who meant me harm. They simply wanted me to slow down.

Yes, slow down. As I laid on my couch agonizing about my sickness, my aha moment came quick. I had been running so much, and my body just could not take it anymore. So getting sick was the way that I would be forced to rest. I learned my lesson. Sometimes…lots of times…I have to put myself first! And not only put myself first, but be ok with that. With so many obligations, both academic and personal, we can so easily get lost in the mix. So we have to take those moments and do some self-evaluation. Know your limits! If you have to say no, say no! And be unapologetic about it. Challenge yourself to take care of YOU first, because if you don’t, you will be no good to anyone else.