Think of self-care as what you need, not just what you want

Magaly Maldonado Lopez

Whenever I was really overwhelmed with school, it was guaranteed I was going out to 6th Street or a party. Friday night, I would blast some loud music, put some lipstick on and head out to 6th. 

The alcohol made me feel on top of the world and so happy to be alive in that moment. I would dance away every Friday and Saturday night. It all made me feel free and in control of my life. It felt as if after all of that studying and nonstop homework I deserved to enjoy that free time. 

However, the next morning, all my problems from the night before were still there. Nothing had changed. I still had to study for my midterm, write my paper and do my discussion board. 

The only thing different was that I was more behind and more overwhelmed. That meant more cramming and less — or no — sleep on Sunday. 

We like to think it is funny to have to pull an all-nighter, but there is nothing healthy about causing yourself mental instability — it’s psychotic, if anything. 

After a few months of continuing this weekend cycle, I decided to stop causing myself mental distress. I took control of my actions. 

Thankfully, as a social work major, self-care was something we always talked about. I decided to start listening to everything I had learned. 

Social media and capitalism have led society to associate self-care with face masks and wine nights. However, it is so much more than that. It means taking care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.  

To me, self-care means doing what is best for you, even if  it is not what you want to do. The easiest way to explain self-care is by thinking about it in the sense of needs vs. wants. 

For example, I wanted to go out and disassociate from my schoolwork reality, but what I needed was to face my reality. Not doing so only caused high anxiety and mental exhaustion. 

Self-care is also about loving yourself with your imperfections, both inner and outer. There are so many people who are not happy with how they look, but from here, you only have two choices: love yourself for who you are or better yourself for who you want to be. 

By not doing so, you are only hurting yourself and your self-esteem. So, choose to love yourself.

Sometimes, all it takes is having a positive perspective. I encourage you to have positive inner and outer thoughts about yourself. Before leaving your apartment, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I am __________.” 

When my self-esteem was really at a low and I was feeling very insecure, I would look at myself in the mirror and say, “I am brave and bold. I am a bad a– b—- and I will conquer.” 

This may sound silly, but after constant self-reassurance, I started to believe I was a bad a– b—-. I became bolder and more confident in myself. It is the little things that create self-love.  

If you get a bad score on your midterm, reframe the way you think of the exam. Remind yourself that a number does not define you. 

Remember, it took Benjamin Franklin more than 3,000 tries to invent the light bulb. If you fail once, give it another 1,000 tries and you can succeed.

Self-care is also knowing when to ask for help. If you can’t sleep, go see a professional. If you sleep too much, go see a professional. If you are grieving, go see a professional. If you are freaking out about postgrad life, go see a professional. 

The incredible thing about UT is they give you free individual counseling sessions — take advantage of them!

Choose to include self-care into your daily routine. Choose to better yourself. You owe it to yourself to be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.

I am leaving you with this: Self-care is needs vs. wants, being proactive, ignoring instant gratification and self-love.

Lopez is a social work alum.