Self care doesn’t have to be bubble baths and scented candles, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

I am notoriously terrible at self care. Those memes that say things like *drinks one cup of herbal tea after chugging espressos all day* “I am a self care goddess”, yeah, that’s me.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot more ever since my Mum was diagnosed with a mild form of skin cancer, meaning I picked up a host of new responsibilities when she had her first (and hopefully last) operation recently. I had to miss some uni to head back home and help her out, so I obviously did the sensible thing and contacted my department and lecturers in advance so that they’d be able to support me.

Now, up until this point I had myself on the straight and narrow of helping my Mum and making sure everything was logistically in place to make sure her and my brother would be okay when I came back to Durham. I hadn’t really considered that, to put it bluntly, I’m now the daughter of someone with cancer, at the age of 19. Add on the fact that I’m caring for my Mum whilst juggling a degree, a year abroad, a blog, political activism, fitness, and a social life. Not exactly sure how I didn’t notice that this was going to be difficult for me…

Anyway, back to telling uni about all of this. To begin with I just figured it would be fine and I’d work it out when I got to it, but a few friends (thankfully) talked me out of this ridiculous mindset. I dragged myself to a college support meeting and rambled on for a bit about what was happening, it was going all well and good, until they asked “so, how are you coping with all of this?”.

If I’m honest, it was quite difficult to respond with anything other than “uhhhh…. fine I guess? Hadn’t thought about it.”. My actual response was hopefully something a little more concrete about the fact that, well, I have personal problems that make everything more difficult, and that the emotional strain of the situation I’ve been in would inevitably make my mental health problems worse. That meeting was literally the first time since the day my Mum called me about her diagnosis that I’d realised that I was allowed to find this difficult too, that I’m not meant to just solve everything, and that I’m allowed time to heal.

Since then I’ve been trying to do a lot better with self care. After emailing a lecturer about the situation last week and being told that I’m more than entitled to a deadline extension I’ve since asked for that extension, and had it approved (as an aside, I’m very entitled to these for my mental health – why do I refuse to ask????). I didn’t go to a lecture on Monday morning so that I could get a gym session in, because yes, for me exercise really is at the core of my self care, for a whole host of reasons. Tonight I finished up in the library at 5:30, headed home, made myself a (quite lovely might I add) huge bowl of homemade soup, and now I’m in bed watching Netflix and writing.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that it’s far too easy to get caught up in life and forget to look after yourself every now and again. Even before this all happened I was definitely guilty of doing that. I have a pretty busy life, often meaning that after a full day of classes and studying I’ll be out doing something with my friends or at a society event in the evening. I’m not saying that work and socialising isn’t necessarily an important part of life, but there’s no reason as to why it isn’t as important as having a few hours in the day to yourself. Sometimes for me it’s spending my Saturday afternoon curled up on the sofa watching the rugby (autumn internationals mean the start of a new season and I’m very happy about it), other times it’s taking the long route home to listen to the rest of my favourite podcast.

I guess now I’ve written a blog post about it I better practice what I preach, right?

-Megan, listening to Dorothy (what a mix between Southern rock, blues and hard rock)