Self care is a far too often overlooked aspect of Year 12, and highschool in general, and it’s undoubtedly the most important thing to focus on. This blog will aim to give you some good tips and tricks for taking care of yourself, as well as hopefully emphasising just how important it is.
What is Self Care?
Let's start right back at the beginning, health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” – self care in a nutshell is taking active steps to promote your health, weather that is mental, physical or social, with each being as important as each other. I like to think of it in terms of the classic quote, You can't pour from an empty bucket. Self care is where you take some time for yourself, spend time enjoying your hobbies or with your family (we’ll talk about good examples & tips soon) to fill your bucket back up. No one can, or is expected to, be productive every minute of every day during school. You don’t have to always fill your time with things that are “productive” , whether that's study, work, sport, music, helping out around the house, or anything else that's seen as high yield. In fact there comes a point where it’s too much, and you begin to be counter-productive. The idea of self care is that we want to avoid reaching this point, we want to be thriving and taking something positive out of everything, rather than just surviving and going through the motions or struggling and feeling like you’re drowning in the stress and pressure of life.
So what does Self Care look like?
Self care looks like different things for different people, but at its core, it's about taking active steps to dedicate time to doing things that make you feel good about yourself. There are a few things that are good for everyone, and then things that will be personal based on your own interests and hobbies.
Every good day starts with a good night's sleep. High School is such a huge time for both physical and mental development, and your body physically cannot keep up with your full schedule if you don’t get the recommended 9 - 9½ hours of sleep each night. I cannot stress this enough, sleep is absolutely the most important thing to prioritise during school. Period.
But what if you have 3 hours worth of study left on your to-do list and it's already 10pm?
The thing about self-care is that you’ve gotta schedule it in. Aim to have a consistent time that you go to bed each night, and try to stick to that. If that means maybe cutting an or two hour off your study and doing it the next day, then I would absolutely recommend that. If you’re in a really good study mode then maybe keep going, but odds are you’ll be tired, you’ll be stressed at how late it’s getting, you’ll start getting questions wrong or forgetting ‘easy’ things which will just make it worse, and you’ll be counterproductive. Obviously this won't perfectly apply to everyone, or all the time, but the takeaway point here is that there’s absolutely no reason to feel guilty for prioritising sleep, and more often than not it will be way better for you in the long run.
Eat and Drink Healthy
You’re putting your body and mind through a lot during year 12 –study doesn’t just take brain power, it can also be physically exhausting– and when you factor in sport, exercise, and for males especially who may still be growing, fueling your body well is super super important. The obvious result of eating well will be that you have more energy, but eating a balanced diet and drinking lots of water has innumerable health benefits that you will both see and feel. You’ll be happier, more productive and much healthier, aka thriving.
You deserve to treat yourself to some ice cream after dinner, KFC after the footy, a coffee in the morning, and for those of you over 18, a couple of drinks on special occasions, but you don’t want to slip into bad habits, so moderation and timing is key.
Regular exercise is great for the mind and the body, and whatever your capacity is, it’s a great thing to get out and moving. For some, that might look like 5 team sports a week, or hours of swimming 2 times a day, and for others it may be taking your dog for a walk, or kicking the footy after school. In any case, your sleep, mood and mental and physical health will improve hugely. You’ll be more productive when you need to get work done, and you’ll feel great.
Another great thing about exercising is it lets out a LOT of steam. Everyone gets overwhelmed towards the pointy end of school, and it’s really common to be running with a pretty low social battery, which can lead to you saying/doing things that you might regret later. Getting that built up tension out by going for a run and working up a sweat feels amazing, and you’ll thank yourself for it.
Spend time doing things that make you happy
This is what will make you the happiest (obviously), and it’s so so important. Absolutely do not feel guilty for setting time aside for yourself to do things for you. I get it, if your weekly schedule looks anything like mine did, you might feel like you can't afford to take a night off to just watch a movie, or go to three 18th’s in a month, but you don't have to earn time to feel happy. School is meant to be fun and you want to make the most of your time there, which means that you shouldn’t be constantly sacrificing the things that make you happy to stay home and redo that worksheet your chemistry teacher gave you in week 3 last term from some obscure textbook. Don’t get me wrong, using weekend plans as a motivation to be productive during the week is great, and realistically you will have to make sacrifices to achieve whatever your goals are because the truth is you just can't do everything, but if one thing sticks with you from this blog let it be this;
Absolutely nothing in life is worth sacrificing your mental health for, and that includes your ATAR.
So let yourself spend time with the people who make you happy, and spend time doing the things that fulfil yourself. Pursue your passions and watch yourself improve at those difficult skills and hopefully reach your goal. It's fun, it’s rewarding and it’ll give you something else to turn up for each day rather than just the monotonous grind of study study study.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I know I’ve said it before, but this is of utmost importance. If you feel like you should be reaching out to someone, whether that's a friend, family or professional help, then you should. The people in your life love you, they want the best for you, and they will help you in any way they possibly can. It’s a taboo topic, but it doesn’t need to be, and there are far more people than you would expect who are currently seeing professionals for helping to manage their mental health.
Hopefully this blog has given you a bit of insight into some strategies to take care of yourself and look after your mental health. I can’t stress this enough, looking after your mental health and keeping an eye on the people around you is the number one priority in life, and hey, it’ll make you happier and you’ll be having way more fun.
Written by KIS Academics Tutor Ned Woodgate. Ned is currently studying a Bachelor of Medicine/ Bachelor of surgery at JCU and is well on his way to becoming a doctor. You can view Ned's profile here and request him as a tutor.