The Soul and The Self

Colette Juran, Editor in Chief ’17

In high school, students frequently are told to practice self-care by well meaning teachers, counselors, and other adults. Although the term “self-care” is evocative of overly saccharine, New Age spiel, self-care is a crucial and natural part of many individuals’ routines. In essence, self-care refers to practices that preserve one’s physical and mental stability. This entails engaging in a healthy lifestyle and taking time for oneself. While conceptually self-care sounds simple, with the advent of mindfulness and journaling, even relaxation can feel overwhelming.  Regardless, it is imperative to pursue self-care.

This advice may seem somewhat intuitive considering that the hallways at any given high school are teeming with a mixture of anxiety and insecurity. Despite the ubiquity of adolescent apprehension, “self-care” is a relatively new phenomenon. Teachers during the Cold War did not espouse mindfulness or meditation. In the past, investing time into introspection was often viewed as self-indulgent and purposeless.

As time has progressed, science has informed us that the strain which was previously seen as consequence of a normal lifestyle can contribute to dangerous health conditions, including heart disease. Moreover, self-care is essential for a more productive and fulfilling lifestyle. Without establishing balance between work and relaxation, school can be incredibly overwhelming and one’s focus is easily lost. In order to achieve one’s goals, it might be beneficial to forgo consecutive study periods in the library and instead take occasional breaks.

Although it is indisputable that stress is detrimental to one’s overall being, some remain skeptical of self-care, viewing it as an opportune movement that has latched onto the compelling hazards of stress. It is easy to charge some of the more excessive self-care routines as placebo, but self-care is, at its core,  a personal process. There is no uniform system that will improve everyone’s mood. Thus, whether it’s as simple as taking a long bath or a more involved method like keeping a gratitude journal, anything that reduces stress or improve one’s moods constitutes “self-care”.

In order to further analyze the efficacy of these processes, I looked to the St. Luke’s community. Relating to stress, the student body of St. Luke’s provides a fairly representative sampling of students. Most participate in rigorous academics and some other intensive form(s) of extra curricular activity. Pressure is unavoidable. In particular, like the phases of the moon, the stress level of the community waxes and wanes with the beginning and end of the semester. During the pivotal moments before a snapshot grade, it is not uncommon to see a hoard of bleary-eyed students huddled around the Library printer.

So how do the students of St. Luke’s combat stress? The St. Luke’s administration has made significant efforts as of late to help students remain sane during long stretches of consecutive deadlines. For example, the tables in library (a hotbed for frustration and stress) are lined with paper and colored-pencils for mindless doodling. Additionally, Dr. Bramlett has been hosting meditation sessions in the blackbox theatre before school on Thursdays. Participating in any of these activities requires very little effort, but can greatly improve one’s mood temporarily. When done more frequently, they can encourage serenity and help establish a positive temperament.

It’s safe to posit that most students practice self-care unintentionally.. Most go through the motions of their average day by adding in some activity to unwind. A casual example of this would Jack Hobbs ,’17, who takes walks on of St. Luke’s idyllic nature trails during his free periods. Walking is an ideal illustration of self-care as it combines exercise with the soothing powers of nature.

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One of St. Luke’s ample scenic routes

Other students, however, are more intentional and regimented  in their approach. Mary Zech,’17, said this about her self-care sequence, “I need to have everything very calculated. My morning is scheduled down to the minute. I prioritize morning activities that set myself up for the rest of the day.”  With this routine, Mary ensures that she listens to a podcast as part of her routine to relax and educate herself.  

These students can serve as an inspiration for the St. Luke’s community to emphasize relaxation especially during periods of undue stress. Above all else, please prioritize your health, both mental and physical.

Artwork and Photography by Mary Zech ’17

 

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