When Self-Care Is Not an Option

This semester, I’m taking 18 credit hours, working on my senior capstone, running two different groups as co-president, working on a campaign, looking for jobs after graduation, and doing my best to be an active member of WILL. I’m very fortunate that my partner Robyn is working two jobs at 70 hours a week so that I can focus on my studies, but my lack of a job has left me broke and with no income of my own, and with nothing in savings. I’ve also been dealing with a debilitating leg injury for the past month that has left me home-bound for every part of my day that doesn’t involve my classes or extra-curricular activities.

After explaining my predicament to others, especially to feminist-minded individuals and those who hold values similar to WILL’s, one of the first questions I’m usually asked is “What are you doing for self-care?”

Now, this is not something you should avoid asking someone. It can be extremely validating and a great reminder to most people that they should be prioritizing their emotional/physical/mental health and well-being first and foremost, and it is definitely a question that is keeping in congruency with our WILL values. Self-care is important, valuable and necessary.self-care-yoga1Look at this bullshit that came up when I typed “self-care” into Google Image. Self-care is not only good because it allows women to perform feminized emotional labor for others, you piece of shit “inspirational” photo.

That being said, when someone asks me this question (and knowing with all my being that they ask it only with the best of intentions), I can’t help but feel like someone is trying to add more tasks to my already engorged to-do list. It gives me the same gripping anxiety that I feel when I’ve completely forgotten an assignment with an upcoming deadline, or when I wake up late for class, or when I’m assigned 400+ pages of reading to do over the weekend, or when I wake up in a panic from one of my weekly nightmares I have of doing any of these things. It feels like more work that I need to worry about doing when I’ve already got so much else I’ve got to get done.

I’m not sure exactly why this question elicits such a response. Maybe it’s the way it’s worded. “What are you doing” seems to demand more work from me, more doing that I need to get done. Maybe it’s the vagueness of the phrase “self-care” that leaves it up to me to figure out and list all of the things that I think would qualify as self-care, and that I also think are implementable within my limited time frame. Maybe if it were worded differently, but with the same intention of care, it might not feel like another anxiety-inducing task. “How are you handling everything so far?” “Are you doing alright with all of the demands of this semester?” “Do you feel supported and equipped to handle your work load?” “Why does capitalism demand so much sacrifice and productivity of us, even in more feminist-oriented classes and spaces?” Maybe these aren’t the right questions to ask either, but I don’t necessarily have the answer to this.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’ve completely given up any and all agency over the situation of my physical/emotional/mental health. I’ve tried compiling lists of what I usually (read: used to) do for self-care before this hectic semester:

  • Go on hikes and spend time out in nature
  • Buy myself small treats
  • Spend time with friends and loved ones
  • Spend time with animals
  • Read non-class related books
  • Fae faith/spirituality related rituals
  • Shop at farmer’s markets
  • Learn/practice Welsh
  • Play video games
  • Sing
  • Draw/illustrate

Right now, almost all of these things are either impossible for me to do or are extremely limited due to my lack of time, my amount of homework, my leg injury, the cold weather, and/or my lack of money and resources. Though I do as many of these things as I can, I’m not able to do them in enough quantity/quality for them to actually have much of an effect on my overall well-being. To pencil these activities in on my calendar gives me an amount of anxiety that I shouldn’t have about doing these activities, because I know that they are taking away time from something else that I need to be doing. When I’m doing these activities in the sparse amounts that I am actually able to, I can’t get rid of the constant nagging worry in the back of my head that reminds me of how much work I need to get done, and that I really don’t have the time to be doing these things. This causes the actual positive effect these self-care rituals would normally have on me to be cut in half, so not only am I doing these activities less, but they’re far less effective than they would normally be, and are causing me to worry more.

qnWPcawSource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w8Z0UOXVaY The song starts around 6:10, but the whole video is actually really funny, and looking up humorous videos on the internet is another good way to practice self-care.

All of this being said, what can I actually be doing for self-care? Am I just going to have to deal with having poor physical/mental/emotional well-being? Do I have to reconsider my list of what I normally do for self-care? Are there other things I can be doing that would have similar effects that my normal self-care rituals have on my well-being? Is it possible at this point to reduce the amount of work that I have for this semester? Are there any commitments that I can cut back on? What should be my biggest priorities right now, and is there any way I can re-prioritize?

I’ve been asking myself these questions all semester, but to no avail. Right now, I’ve come to the conclusion that framing these questions around self-care is not giving me the answers and relief that I need. Instead, I’ve found myself asking, “What can I do to get through the rest of this semester?” The two answers that have given me the most comfort are “Do what you need to get done in order to survive” and “Look towards the finish line.” What I need to do to survive is eat enough, get enough sleep, pay my bills, do my homework well enough to pass all of my classes, and maintain my commitments to my extra-curricular activities. The finish line is April 30th at 2pm, the day that I graduate, and I can’t wait to cross it.


Jack Crofts (they/them/theirs) is a second year WILLer and 7th year senior studying Graphic Communication Design and Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies. They’re tired and can’t wait for this semester to be over.



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