Tempus fugit: time flies. It was a year ago this month when most of us really began to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in our lives. Classes moved to virtual; many employees began working remotely; and we were asked to stay home, to only socialize with people we lived with and to wear masks. At that time we thought it might be a few weeks, maybe a couple months, and things would be “normal” again.
It’s been a year. Tempus fugit.
At Mercer University, community and service are significant parts of our mission, and they should be. But what we should not lose sight of is the importance of taking care of ourselves. “Self-care” has become a pop culture buzz phrase that I fear has lost (or perhaps never had) much meaning. “Self-care” is what we say we’re doing when we’re binge watching Netflix, but spoiler alert: there’s not much care for yourself in that. And in a year that has been full of challenges for all of us, the need to practice real, meaningful self-care is more important than ever.
To me, self-care is an active investment you make in yourself. It includes activities you engage in that make you better — physically, emotionally, spiritually — both today and in the future. And the bottom line is these activities take time away from other things that may feel more pressing: school, sports, work, family, friends — things that need your attention right now. In a world where so many of us feel overscheduled and overwhelmed, and just plain busy, adding more activities in the name of self-care just doesn’t feel possible. Who has time to meditate, exercise, cook meals from scratch, go for a walk outside, pray or read a good book? I hear too often: “I’m just too busy right now. I’ll exercise/lose weight/practice yoga/write poetry when I’m not so busy. When this project is done. When the semester ends. When I get into grad school. When work slows down. When I have tenure. When my kids are older. And so on.”
But here’s the thing: you’ll always be busy. You will always have pressing obligations that demand your attention right now. And taking time for self-care will always mean time not spent doing something else.
But I think it’s worth it. I think it’s worth the time right now to exercise, meditate, cook for yourself, pray and write poetry (but perhaps not all on the same day). Taking time for yourself is investing in your health. Investing in your health is also investing in your family and your community. When you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to care for others. Self-care doesn’t even have to take much time, just 15 minutes a day is a great investment to start with.
Tempus fugit. This year will go by as quickly as the last. Don’t wait to take time for yourself. Your future self will thank you.