By Yukta Chand
“IT is not just about the grades,” Nancy Chol, a student from Western Sydney University, poignantly shared.
Nancy’s words, filled with her personal experiences, capture the essence of the constant tension between academic pursuits and the necessity for self-care, a journey many resonate with.
“When you are deep into studies, you often forget to breathe. For me, self-care is not just an act but a commitment. It is about ensuring that while I chase academic excellence, I do not forget to attend to my mind and body,” Nancy reflected.
She confessed, “There have been countless nights where the weight of academic expectations made me question everything. However, I always remember that every student has a right to health.”
“When I say ‘self-care’ and ‘the right to mental health’, I am not just talking about access to healthcare. It is about recognizing that our well-being is multi-dimensional; the mental, the emotional, and the physical aspects, which are all interconnected. As students, when we prioritize self-care, we are not just upholding our right to health; we are making a statement: we matter,” she elaborated.
“During those high-stress times, I lean on my routines like taking a walk, a short meditation, or just a few minutes of deep breathing. It is not about having hours; it is about those few quality moments with oneself,” she emphasized.
She remarked, “Institutions like Western Sydney University emphasize both academic achievements and the well-being of their students, providing services such as counseling and mental health support.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Self-care interventions not only empower individuals and communities to manage their well-being but also bolster national institutions by optimizing health resources, enhancing primary healthcare, and propelling us closer to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).”
By endorsing self-care interventions for every setting, WHO believes it can be a key route to universal health coverage, ensuring global safety and supporting the vulnerable, all while acknowledging individuals as the driving force behind their own comprehensive health care needs.
Similar testament was shared by Hitika Bhatia, Director and Clinical Psychotherapist at Blossoming Minds Therapy, “From a psychological standpoint, the importance of self-care in maintaining one’s mental health and overall well-being cannot be understated. Self-care is pivotal in establishing life’s structure and balance.”
“Clinically speaking, self-care creates space in our hearts and minds, allowing us to prioritize our thoughts and identity. It provides us the ability to set boundaries, which, in turn, helps us prioritize other life aspects that shape our present and future,” she said.
“When achieved, it leads to a sense of overall well-being, offering individuals the grounding they need in life,” she added.
“On a daily basis, I encounter patients who have not prioritized themselves. Such individuals often depend on others for care, leading to a toxic cycle of expectations and delivery in relationships. This pattern creates an imbalanced equilibrium, resulting in feelings of chaos, burden, and insecurity in relationships.”
“Contrary to popular belief, self-care isn’t limited to massages, spa days, or mere relaxation. It’s about quality time spent introspecting feelings and thoughts. True self-care means understanding your boundaries and discerning how much of others’ emotional burdens you are willing to shoulder. If practiced regularly, it provides clarity in interpersonal interactions and contributes to achieving personal goals,” she highlighted.
“Self-care is intricately linked with our right to health. Setting boundaries, for example, directly impacts our physical well-being. Whether it is physical, mental, emotional, financial, or spiritual health, the ability to set boundaries is crucial. For instance, financial abuse in domestic abuse scenarios is often overlooked. However, if one does not prioritize their financial health, they are more susceptible to exploitation, impacting other health dimensions.
“For incorporating self-care into daily routines, I advocate for therapy with someone you resonate with, setting clear life goals, practicing mindfulness, surrounding oneself with positive, growth-oriented individuals, and regular health check-ups. The right to health is fundamental, yet often overlooked. Self-care, an aspect of this right, is frequently misunderstood or trivialized. Addressing this necessitates a significant paradigm shift.
“In therapy, the topic of self-care is a daily discussion point. It is foundational to effective therapy and vital in shaping one’s identity. Societal pressures and cultural norms greatly influence perceptions and practices of self-care. With generational shifts, younger populations are prioritizing self-care more than their predecessors.
“A deficit in self-care can exacerbate certain mental health conditions. Without adequate self-care, conditions like anxiety, depression, and certain physical disorders, such as autoimmune diseases, can worsen.
“Promoting self-care as an integral component of the right to health requires awareness and policy inclusion. While books like ‘Ikigai: Finding Who We Are’ offer insights, therapy remains my top recommendation. In today’s digital age, though social media can be distracting, it can also serve as a powerful tool for self-care when used wisely.
“Acknowledging and practising self-care plays a pivotal role in an individual’s therapeutic journey. Therapy allows us to dissect our past and present, helping derive a personalised definition of self-care,” Bhatia concluded.
Speaking with Community Worker Sukhdeep Kaur, she shared, “One of the most beautiful aspects of self-care is empowerment. It provides individuals the autonomy to manage their health, equipping them with the strategies and knowledge to make enriching physical and mental health choices.”
She elaborates, “Empowering individuals with the tools and knowledge to manage their well-being is at the core of our mission. By championing self-care as a fundamental health right, we aim to reduce health disparities and enhance the quality of life through personal health choices.”
“In my role as a community volunteer, we play a critical part by guiding vulnerable groups whether it be victims of domestic violence, the elderly, or young students; to grasp the essence of self-care and assist them in achieving a balanced life,” she said.
“In collaboration with the organisation I work with, we have initiated workshops centered on stress management and mindfulness. We also actively disseminate articles, educational resources, and insightful videos that revolve around the principles of self-care,” Kaur mentioned.
True well-being is rooted in the nexus of self-care and recognising our inherent right to health.
Contributing Author: Yukta Chand is from Suva, Fiji. Currently, she is part of a student exchange program between the University of the South Pacific and Western Sydney University. Yukta is undertaking an internship at The Australia Today as a part of her academic and professional development.
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