Lately we hear the word "self-care" a lot. A look at Google Trends reveals that the term spiked during the pandemic and since then continues to be a hot topic in academic research, news media, and pop culture.
So what exactly is self-care, and why does it matter?
Self-care is the practice of prioritizing one's physical, mental, social, and spiritual health and well-being, particularly in our current era of information overload and constant demands on our time.
Although self-care is important for everyone, it can be especially important for high achievers, who tend to push themselves to their limits and beyond in terms of academic and career performance.
High achievers struggle to prioritize self-care because they view it as a distraction from being productive. This can lead to stress, burnout, and longer-term physical and emotional health problems.
So if you consider yourself a high achiever or perfectionist, pay attention: In this post we'll look at five self-care techniques that you can apply to your academic, professional, and personal life for greater health and happiness, starting today.
1. Schedule Time to Celebrate Your Achievements
High achievers often spend too much time focusing on all the things they haven't achieved yet rather than stopping to acknowledge and appreciate their accomplishments.
Whenever you set a new personal, academic, or career goal, get in the habit of scheduling a mini celebration or reward for when you accomplish it. Your reward could be as simple as spending a solitary afternoon indoors relaxing and recharging, or it could be a nice dinner with friends and family.
Not only does this practice help you get more enjoyment out of your accomplishments, it also motivates you to follow through on your goals.
2. Get Comfortable Saying No
You've heard your friends preach "YOLO," and pop culture continually highlights the benefits of being open to new opportunities and experiences. When taken to extremes, this "yes" mentality can go too far, and you can end up overextending yourself.
For high achievers, learning when to say no can be equally – if not more – empowering than knowing when to say yes.
If you're guilty of being a yes man, here are a few areas in your life to start saying no:
3. Stop Thinking of Leisure Time as a Means to an End
High achievers are goal oriented, and that's usually a positive thing. However, it becomes a problem when you start to feel guilty about taking time for rest and leisure because you feel everything has to have a productive outcome.
For example, maybe you love reading historical romances in your down time, but you don't want to "waste" your day off, so instead you choose books about improving your academic or career performance. Although there's nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself, a healthy mindset recognizes that leisure time and work time are two separate things and gives each its proper due.
So don't feel guilty about your guilty pleasures. Do what you enjoy for the sake of enjoying it, with no other outcomes attached!
4. Set Sustainable Health and Fitness Goals
It's unsurprising that health and fitness are an important part of a holistic self-care program. However, high achievers sometimes fall into the trap of viewing health-related goals in one of two ways:
Similarly, if you struggle to maintain an active lifestyle, don't feel you have to go from zero to 100 for your efforts to count. Ease into it with short, simple exercise routines – pick a guided five-minute workout on YouTube or try a fun yoga app like Down Dog. Focus on consistency over volume until the habit sticks.
5. Block Time Off from Your Mobile Device and the Internet
In a digital environment rife with push notifications and instant messaging apps, it's easy to forget that our mobile devices are there to make our lives more convenient. As a result, we've begun to feel like being a good friend obligates us to be on call at all hours of the day, even when we're not in the mood for a conversation about the weather.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by digital noise, it can help to create an ongoing digital detox policy and communicate it to your friends and co-workers. (I let my friends and family know I don't carry my mobile device all the time so they know not to expect an immediate response.)
Most text messaging systems and apps also have a handy "Away" feature that you can activate when you want to focus or if you just need to disconnect for a while.
Another thief of our best time and energy is social media, particularly infinite-scroll apps like TikTok. Plenty of research has been done on the negative impact these websites and apps can have on your productivity, not to mention your self-esteem. If you often find yourself wistfully bingeing TikTok into the wee hours of the night, it may be time to take action.
A social media habit can be tough to break away from, but your mental health is worth it. Here are a few apps that can help you kick the habit.
If you're a high achiever, it can help to think of self-care as an ongoing process (like eating or breathing!) rather than yet another item to check off your to-do list. I hope this list encourages you to pause and reflect on those areas of your life that need some TLC, and how you can make it happen.
Chloe Brittain is a passionate lifelong learner and student. She is currently studying Irish flute and guitar online and blogs about music e-learning at CreateSail, which keeps a running list of online courses in music production.
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