Growing up, I saw how much time and effort my parents as well as other family members put into their jobs. While I noticed how their hard work was paying off and leading to more financial opportunities for my cousins, siblings, and myself, they rarely took the time to take care of their physical and mental needs. I was conditioned into thinking that spending countless hours at work would not only be financially rewarding but was a symbol of my hard work. This mindset of overworking myself was carried over into my adult life as a graduate student and elementary school teacher.
It was not until I had a teaching colleague give me the advice of not overworking myself. She told me, “You know Elia you will always be replaceable at your job, but for your loved ones you will never be replaceable. There will always be someone else that can do your job. Do not make work the center of your life.” There is a lot of research that shows how eating well-balanced meals, being physically active for at least 30-minues a day and doing activities that leave us feeling relaxed are beneficial for our mental and physical health. Although taking care of yourself can look different for everyone, there is one thing in common, and that is feeling recharged and motivated to continue going about your daily life.
That advice my colleague gave me stuck with me. Although I still find joy putting in a lot of my time and effort into my career interests, I now make it part of my to-do list to take care of myself. In that list, I include things like cooking, going on walks, working out, and spending time with my loved ones. It has not only helped me recharge mentally and physically, especially after a long day of work, but it has also supported my development as a graduate student. I feel a lot more motivated going into work and studying. By prioritizing my mental and physical needs, I am not only taking the time to take care of myself, but I am also taking the time to be a better version of myself as a researcher, evaluator, and person. When I think back on my journey with self-care, I never thought I would have the self-discipline to discover a better and newer version of myself. I look forward to continuing to discover other ways of self-care because I know that will lead to more self-growth.
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