The Importance of Self-Care
Self-care, a buzzword that’s been heavily circulating Facebook News Feeds, Instagram posts, Pinterest boards, and the like for the past year, has gotten my attention. What is self-care? There are pictures of women doing yoga on the beach, drinking detoxifying teas and veggie shakes, lighting candles, humming mantras, and trying the latest and greatest workout regimen.
Do they work?
While these are perfectly acceptable ways to unwind, none of them ever appealed to me. Here is my story of self-care, from an engineer’s perspective.
Sometimes you have those weeks where your assignments, extracurricular activities, and personal life seem to pick up at the same time. This is the part of college and post-graduation life that isn’t fun. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and slide into a full-scale meltdown.
I was becoming exhausted, and my perfectionist tendencies did not foster healthy reactions to stress.
I decided that it was time to get in control.
I wanted to change myself. Changing my mindset felt like a daunting task, and I felt mentally overloaded from my coursework. Therefore, I decided to focus on a physical change and begin working out.
Changing it Up
I started small by going to the gym once a week with a class at the UCLA Recreation Center. It was insanely difficult. During my first class, I left halfway through the course. I ended up being extremely sore for the following two days. As soon as I recovered, I went back for another beating. What started out as a sporadic workout steadily evolved into a consistent routine.
I was going to the gym three or four times a week. I noticed substantial physical and mental improvements. My body felt better, I slept better, and my mental resilience to stress drastically improved.
This change did not happen overnight. The process occurred over a span of two years.
Nothing sustainable comes easy! It takes discipline and consistency.
You would think I would have learned this from my chemical engineering courses on batch reactors, where we discussed the parameters required to maintain a sustainable and efficient process. However, as a student, batch reactors were an abstract concept, and this real-life analog was far more tangible. I started with a physical transformation but ended with a mental transformation by building myself up slowly from the beginning.
Here are some actions you can take to master your thoughts and achieve your maximum potential.
1. Recognize that if you have trouble practicing mindfulness or meditation, you can start by taking care of your body as an effective alternative. Anything works, so pick an activity you love. I dabbled in running, sports, group fitness classes, and yes, even yoga
2. Realize that it’s better to fully commit yourself to one change at a time and start slowly. Do not overcommit. Consistency is key. Efficient code is written methodically, with numerous steps day-by-day, not in one mega-swoop. Chemical engineers design plants section by section. In the same logical and consistent way, you can design your transformation. Build yourself in a sustainable way.
3. Think of your self-care journey as a long-term process and be patient. Going to the gym once a week for 8 weeks straight is better than going 4 times a week for 2 weeks, and quitting shortly after. Be honest with yourself about what you are willing to do, and where you are at.
4. It is 100% OK to mess up along the way. I did. Coding, machines, and engineering processes, for the most part, get better in a linear process, but emotions are a completely different animal. We go up, down, sideways, and we all grow in different ways and timelines.
Sometimes we have dark days and, even though we know better, we take the wrong turn. That’s normal and expected.
Mistakes are inevitable. This is when you put your engineering hat on and remember that delays do not mean an end can’t be achieved, it just means it may take longer complete.