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  • Hadley Roberts-Donnelly

What Self-Care Means to Me

(me in korcula, croatia--lovin life while traveling europe with my mom!)

Self-care has been somewhat of a hot topic recently, which has been exciting for those of us who are passionate about mental health and self-love, but some of the posts regarding self-care have been troubling to me. I have found that many of the “self-care guides” on the internet may feel constricting to some people, since there is no one way to tell people how they should be caring for their bodies and minds. On my journey of learning to love and accept myself for who I am, I have found that my self-care routi ne may be different from that of others. As a twenty-year-old college student with an anxiety disorder, post-concussive syndrome, and a lot of privilege, I have different priorities when it comes to caring for myself than others might have. I am sharing what self-care means to me with the hopes that whoever reads this can see that self-care can be so unique to who you are, and although we may all need it, we might need it in different ways and at different times. Here are ten of the ways I practice self-care:


The “normal stuff,” meaning the things that we have been told to do time and time again to make ourselves feel good. This includes therapy, good diet and exercise, medication if necessary, etc. I have been going to a therapist for a long time and can attest that it is extremely helpful in terms of sharing my thoughts with somebody completely unbiased; but, I also understand that therapy is not practical for everybody in terms of time or money. Nonetheless, these “typical” self-care practices help ground me and I will continue to practice these techniques.


Something that I discovered a while back is that bottling up my emotions does not serve me in any way. This links back to the above practice of going to a therapist, as this is the main outlet I use to release my emotions. By saying that I let myself “feel it all,” I mean that if I feel an emotion, I will engage with it. If I am feeling sadness, I’ll let myself cry. If I’m feeling anxious, I’ll sit with it for a minute before trying to fix it. I have found that letting myself feel these uncomfortable or unsettling emotions aids me in the long term. I then have a better understanding of the cause of these emotions and how to prevent them, rather than just pushing them away.


As a young adult, I have begun to feel the pressure to have my whole life figured out and be the best I can be. For a long time, I thought this meant doing as much as physically possible. At one point, I was taking a full load of classes, running a club on campus, playing on a soccer team (with multiple injuries), being active in my sorority, working, and trying to be socially active all at the same time. In hindsight, I know this was not going to last, especially with my susceptibility for migraines with overwork. All of this crashed and burned, and caused me to do worse in my classes than I should have. What I learned from this was that I need to set boundaries for myself and be okay with saying “no,” whether for my mental or physical health, or because I simply don’t have the time. Accepting this has been quite freeing.


As important as it is to be up to date with what is going on in the world, it can be really hard, especially now, to hear and believe everything that is happening. My heart broke during the 2016 election, and it has yet to recover. I won’t get into politics in this post, as I would be ignoring my own self-care guidelines by doing so, but what I will say is that it is very upsetting for me to live under a leader that I do not trust and do not believe has the desire to love all of the people in this nation. So, to protect my mental health, I sometimes need to shut it all off and let myself live in the present moment before taking the necessary action to protect my and the people around me’s rights.

5. ART

I had never considered myself a creative person until coming to college. I never just sat down and painted or drew, until I separated myself from my identity as an athlete. I can thank my sorority for forcing me to acknowledge my love for creating art, and it truly has become an important part of my self-care practices.


Relatively recently, I discovered that I am a true introvert. Although I love being with people, I ultimately need time alone to recharge. I have been trying to set aside a couple of hours each day when I am just with myself, and it has made a huge difference in my energy levels and my ability to analyze my emotions.

(some of my amazing, silly, and beautiful friends, from left to right: Lili Mourier, Chelsea Supawit, me, Madeleine Jones, Anya Stajner, Jasmine Curcio, and Shira Tikofsky)


Although I need my alone time, I also need time with those who make me happy. I am extremely lucky to have such kind, loyal, and empowering friends in my life, and I never ever want to take that for granted. Even if it’s just taking out twenty minutes between classes to sit in Chelsea’s bed to chat about nothing, being around my amazing friends reminds me of how beautiful my life is.


I am a girl who loves her fair share of TV, from crappy reality shows to Shark Week, I will literally watch anything. But, I have a special place in my heart for shows like The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Broad City, Saturday Night Live, and more. These shows never fail to put a smile on my face no matter how awful I feel. I actually learned in my Health Psychology class at UC Davis that watching comedy shows or clips regularly can have a positive effect on our overall health. So, keep bringing on the TV!!


Having fun is something that I always thought was a form of slacking. I thought it was unproductive, irresponsible, and wouldn’t get me to where I wanted to be in life. I thought this true until coming to college and learning that without having something fun to look forward to, there was little to no chance of me getting through my plethora of tests and papers. I have since made “having fun” one of my top priorities, and I don’t see it being dethroned anytime soon.


It can be hard to remember that my impact on the world matters. Sometimes it feels like I am just another college student hoping to make a difference, but not really doing anything yet. But then I remember the ripple effect, and that every small action means something in the grand scheme of things. Every time that I correct somebody’s language regarding mental health, or challenge my elders’ ideas of the world, I am doing something. That something may feel miniscule, but for now, it will have to do.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to read about my self-care practices, and I hope this urges you to think about what self-care means to you. I hope you have an amazing winter filled with sweets and the solidarity of enjoying your own company!



​(represents my beautiful friends and family)

Follow Hadley's adventure here.

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