We all ponder about the things we wish we knew when we were 19, 20, 21 and even the ever-popular 22. We wish we knew that eating dairy is the devil, having a job title does not make or break your post-graduation life, and that you should probably save those refund checks from college. Personally, one of the biggest things I wish my 20-year-old self understood was the importance of self-care.
But before we get into the why, let’s get into the what. Self-care is generally defined as an intentional action taken to care for your overall health–mental, physical and emotional. It’s a daily thing that you have to keep in mind. And your self-care is just that, YOURS. It’s not up to anyone else to define your self-care routine, because as the saying goes, no one knows you better than yourself. I wish I could go back in time and shake my 20-year-old self and sit her down and make her do self-care, even for five minutes. Although I can’t go back in time, I can help those coming after me.
My advice? You should begin to practice regular self-care in your early 20s.
Your early 20s are a weird time. If you thought your teenage years were crazy, it’s got nothing on age 20. You’re out of your teens but can’t legally drink, and if you’re in college, you’re probably preparing for life after graduation. For some, it’s probably a straight shot to grad school. For others, it’s the wild hunt for a job that will pay just enough to get the student loan folks out of your iPhone. These are trying times.
I’m not trying to scare you; I’m just setting the scene. These situations are why self-care is extremely important. It’s like guarding yourself before going into a house of small children, all running around and banging into things and generally making a mess. Sure, you could avoid the house, but you’ll also avoid the fun.
Guarding yourself with self-care doesn’t ensure an automatic magical time in life, but it centers you and gives you a moment to not think of anything. Your self-care can be anything; it could be something big, like traveling or going to brunch or the movies by yourself, or small, like watching an episode of your favorite TV show, drinking a cup of tea in silence, or having your own dance party to the musical stylings of Beyoncé. Your self-care routine should be special to you, and it also has to be important to you. You have to make time for it, and not berate yourself for wanting to make time.
If you’re struggling to decide what’s part of your self-care routine, I suggest making a list of all the things you love to do. Don’t think about it too hard, just a list of things that make you happy, bring you joy and calm you down. Then, do one thing on that list a day. And if you’re feeling up to it, do two or three things a day.
Trust me, your no-longer-20-year-old self will thank you for it.