Self-Care While Abroad: IT EXISTS!
MARISA CAPONI- To be honest, this week I had both nothing and everything to blog about. I began to write and decided each topic wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t passionate enough about it and so I held my middle finger on the backspace button over and over again until something (honestly could have been the somber post-election vibes) motivated me to write about self-care.
So 9 times out of 10 when people talk about the abroad experience they say something along the lines of “it’s a life changing experience” or, “you will grow and learn so much about yourself.” I never really took that advice seriously until I realized just how to accomplish it. Existing and living and participating in a totally different culture often forces you to think deeply, perhaps even overthink, in the moments where you almost least expect to and when you don’t notice that you did so until after. I find myself constantly questioning social norms, putting pressure on myself to overcome the language barrier and be myself in Spanish, and making tons of cross-cultural comparisons. All of these natural, daily occurrences have made me a more curious and observant person; not just to the constant buzz of the vibrant city I’m in but also to how I fit in to this society and what I can take away from it. While it’s so easy to be caught up in a routine that seems to have gone from 0 to 100 (real quick), I have been able to find solace in becoming more introspective and I wanted to share some of my tricks for anyone who’s interested in learning how to accomplish this.
Shout out to Genesis for always encouraging us to be kind to ourselves, because this has resonated deeply with me and is something I have tried to adopt in the way I respond to my own thoughts and actions. Most of us who come from hard working families and attend prestigious liberal arts colleges such as Tufts and Skidmore know that this combo often yields a ton of pressure to perform, excel, and succeed (like at least 98% of the time). And when that’s not the case for whatever reason, we freak out, shut down, and usually get sick (am I right). But I learned how essential it is to your happiness to STOP DOING THAT. When I mess up something in Spanish, sleep more than I wanted to one day, or get on the metro in the wrong direction, the first thing to do is just breathe. Ask yourself, why did I do that? First step, fix it. Vow that you won’t do it again, but if it happens again, same thing. Put in effort to change it, seek out a friend or someone familiar. Set alarms, change the song in your headphones to one that always puts you in a better mood, and just catch the next metro – maybe there will even be some good live music entertainment if you’re lucky.
Exercise is so important and helps clear the mind. I’ve become motivated to take advantage of the extracurricular reimbursements, and changed my lifestyle in the smallest of ways just to incorporate more walking – taking the stairs on the metro and in my apartment building instead of opting to press the super tempting elevator button. Stop making excuses, especially the classic “there’s no time!” and change some things around. Go on the weekend. Skip the metro and walk. Do yoga or Pilates for an hour, they count too!!
Also embracing the concept of the siesta is a great way to engage in some much deserved self-care. Give yourself an hour each day, nothing more, before going to bed or before dinner, to sleep, recharge, think, write, draw, Facetime family/friends, be alone. This has made a huge difference in my experience here because practicing the traditions helps me to understand them better (thus embracing that become-a-local mentality), and I’ve internalized the importance of winding down and regathering thoughts, moods, and mindsets. I hope if you read this you can take something away from it, or just humor me because my inner psychology major needs a quick ego boost before I go back to ignoring its existence for the rest of the semester ☺
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