Many people describe Grinnell as a bubble, and that’s exactly what it is. A bubble filled with people. A self-contained group of individuals who have chosen to follow their passions. Therefore, it’s kind of impossible not to be surrounded by people in classes, in the dining hall, in the natatorium. We’re also plugged into society; our Facebook feeds pulsate with news, our Snapchats with photos, and our phones with text messages. Even if we aren’t in the center of the universe, it’s easy to find out exactly what’s going on with everyone else, and it’s even easier to get bogged down in the crowd.
In fact, we revel in a crowd. We brag about the pressure we’re under or the sleep deficit we’ve incurred through the week as if it’s a competition. We love being surrounded by other people. People who crave singularity are typically stared at or ostracized. Sometimes we’ll sit in groups just staring at our phones, surrounded but alone. Weekends are spent doing homework and weekend nights are a barrage of parties and events and concerts. This can be fun, but there are times when it can be a drag and you’re pulling yourself out of bed, sustained only by coffee and the fear of missing out. Some weekends, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve made a lot of friends at Grinnell, and I love hanging out and adventuring on weekends. But there are times when it’s important to practice self-care. To unplug yourself from the world around you.
As important as it is to stay connected, it’s equally important to take time for solitude, and focus on your own mind, body, or soul. Every day, I go for a run. It’s a solo event for me; I step on the treadmill and seize half an hour for myself. With a few prime songs from my iPhone blasting in my ears (and let’s be real, the unwilling ears of everyone around me), I lose myself in a world where the only things that matter are my feet pounding away. There’s a booth toward the back of the dining hall. It’s small and quiet, far enough away from the main dining. On occasion, when I need a break from everything else, I sit there and eat with a notebook or a novel, focusing on dinner or lunch. Some Saturday nights, I stay in rather than going out and catch up on homework or reading or research. I ignore the posts and invites for different events at Gardner or Harris.
There’s an idea that self-care is something that takes up an entire day. That you have to unplug everything and light incense and just sit, relaxing and existing. And sometimes self-care can consume an entire day. But self-care can be an evening or even just an hour that you just spend focusing on your own needs. Everyone needs to take some time for themselves. Self-care is one of the most important ingredients for mental health. Even if it’s not as discussed as much as a weekend concert.