2020 has been a tough year for us all. As it comes to an end we here at Reclaim the Campus have taken a brief break from the commitments of running the campaign. However, over this time, we have still been sharing self care resources for survivors, those supporting survivors and just anyone who needs a reminder to take a step back and look after themselves.
Self-care isn’t just another buzzword floating around Instagram to not really invest in the true meaning of. It isn’t something to list as one of your New Year's resolutions that you know all too well you’ll have forgotten about by the end of January. We’re going to share some insight into one aspect of why exactly self care is so important, so that - if you haven’t already - you don’t have to find out the hard way.
The reason that words like self-care have become so prominent and necessary nowadays is because the modern world is designed to stop us from taking the breaks our mental and physical health so desperately demand. Too many of us relate to feeling so guilty for taking an evening off knowing that there are ‘more productive’ things you could be doing, that said evening off becomes pointless anyway because you let the worry linger too long to really switch off. And too many of us relate to stretching far beyond the 9-5, even when it’s not really necessary, just because the idea that you should push yourself to perfection is championed in regards to work and education.
However working and living in this way can be detrimental to your wellbeing. Not practicing a healthy work-life balance and letting deadlines or the idea that you could be doing more just because there are more hours in the day loom 24/7 becomes a slippery slope that could lead you to burnout. Without me even noticing it, it took me from legitimising my hours spent in the library and increasingly turning down spending time with friends to focus on my studies and achieve my best as just the ambitious and hard-working traits my friends had always seen in me, to sitting crying to a doctor, trying to understand why I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t concentrate, and was starting not to be able to think about anything other than deadlines.
Burnout is a condition characterised by emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. It’s much easier to find yourself in than to get out of, so it’s a wonder that it isn’t discussed more amongst university students. Caused by an extended period of stress or not practicing self-care over an extended period of time, burnout leads to symptoms like the inability to feel motivation, inability to concentrate, constant mental and physical exhaustion even after doing small tasks, inability to relax, irritability, sleep disturbance, dizziness and muscle aches and pains. Therefore, a vicious cycle occurs in that if you aren’t spending time relaxing and are pushing yourself too hard, you’ll actually find yourself in the long run with the inability to relax or work productively anyway. This is a frustrating, difficult and confusing place to be which is why burnout has shared symptoms with, and is linked to the development of anxiety and depression which have their own set of additional symptoms.
This is why you need to put real time and effort into programming yourself to be able to really switch off and take the breaks that will allow you to function at your best. It is something that requires effort if you’re finding it difficult to properly switch off naturally and you may need to look into or try out some things that may work for you. In particular, taking time off social media, ensuring you have a good routine to wind down for a good night's sleep, and scheduling you days so that you can aim to get some small tasks done are really helpful. Whilst we’ve shared resources and information regarding self-care and stressors associated with being a victim of or supporting those who are victims of sexual assault or harassment, we just wanted to stress that everyone is at risk of deprecating their wellbeing if they don’t make an effort to really understand and practice self care.
Happy Holidays, take care of yourself and here’s to a brilliant new year for us all!