Student Voices: Self-Care is Survival | Work of Arts
Student Voices: Self-Care is Survival | Work of Arts

Student Voices: Self-Care is Survival

Small things go a long way to mental health and well-being

Self-care seems to be a trendy topic these days. If you ask Uncle Google about it, the first link that comes up is often something like this one here, with options for self-care like “go cloud-watching” or “get down and boogie” (I admit, I laughed way too hard at that one). While all of these are great ideas, and definitely something to try out, I find that many of the types of suggestions well-meaning folks give for self-care just don’t translate for post-secondary students trying to make ends meet while pumping out papers and wondering how much Kraft Dinner is too much Kraft Dinner. For Indigenous self-care — which I had to special ask of Uncle — there are options for organizers and professionals based on Medicine Wheel teachings, or scholarly articles. Hmm.

I have struggled with my mental well-being for as long as I can remember, and I have no qualms admitting that. I think most of us have, at one time or another. Being honest about it has helped me and, in turn, has helped others who are going through similar things to know they are not alone. Hearing advice to “build a life you don’t need to escape from” is seriously not helpful. How can I deal with the weight of this skin and all of its colonizations by building a different life that isn’t mine, isn’t part of who I am? Can I escape myself? I don’t want to, and advice like this should be taken with an entire salt lick. I know some of you out there have licked one too. No regrets.

“Sometimes I just need a day to do nothing, which actually translates to doing small things that are healing for me.”

While I am no self-care expert, there are certain things that, for me, have actually made a difference. Sometimes I just need a day to do nothing, which actually translates to doing small things that are healing for me. When I take a mental-health day, it makes me a better student, a better mother, a better partner. If it goes beyond two days, I reach out to a friend or a trusted person in my life and let them know what’s up. It’s normal to fear reaching out, but trust me, it can be the best thing you ever do. Try the folks in the Aboriginal Students’ Services Centre or chat with Lori Myers, the Aboriginal Students Advisor for Faculty of Arts. They are easy to talk to. They want to help you.  

Here are some self-care ideas:

Never underestimate the self-care power of brushing your hair, or taking a shower, or putting on clean clothes. You know how Halls sometimes has encouraging words on their wrappers? I once had one that read “ress yourself today” and I have always hoped it actually said “dress yourself today”. It’s important. Eating a piece of fruit or a vegetable is always a good option. It doesn’t have to be a salad. Just eat one berry or one carrot. It’s better than no berry or no carrot. Connect with your culture. Do what you have to do to take care of yourself, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem, and reach out for support. Self-care is survival. Here’s to a semester of small steps toward mental well-being!   

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.


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About Brittany Johnson

Brittany Johnson

Brittany Johnson is a Métis PhD Student in English and Film Studies. When she isn't busy with grad student life, she is a singer/songwriter, burlesque dancer, creative writer, wifey and mom to two kiddos. As a trained Indigenous full spectrum doula, she aims to encourage traditional teachings about bodies and sexualities and to support folks however necessary. Her song "Making Bacon Naked" can be heard on CFWE, and she is always down for jamming and creating some sweet, sweet music. She is currently writing a novel, and hopes to have it published relatively soon. Social media: @brittcath