YOU COME FIRST! by Abotchie-Agbanu Dzifa Abla

When it comes to putting yourself first, there should be no compromise. It is rather unfortunate that the default assumption when you practice self-care is that you are selfish. This could not be farther from the truth. Self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s health, wellbeing and happiness. Today I will be sharing ways that will enable you to improve your life by giving you some relatable tips as well as basic reasons why you must be intentional about your self-care strategies.

First of all, self-care does so much more for your mind than you can imagine. Just as you schedule an appointment with your doctor for a general check-up concerning your physical state routinely, your self-care habits complement that and simultaneously cater for your mental health. Per my research, often, general check-ups do not include psychological analysis. You must come to the understanding that your brain is your body’s engine and must be properly catered for. When your ‘engine’ develops a fault, the whole ‘device’ will malfunction. With this in mind, be intentional when it comes to planning your self-care routine. This fills you up and allows you to give off your best. Try as you might, you cannot give off your best when you are empty. That is just not possible. No matter how generous someone is, they are in no position to give what they don’t have. Being intentional about your self-care routine involves setting some particular days aside to do certain things that centre solely on your wellbeing. This allows you to adequately plan for those days, and because of the precision with which you plan, you will place more value on these routines. Moving on, we will now talk about some things to consider in your self-care routine.

One thing to consider when it comes to your self-care routine is to have ‘Do Not Disturb’ periods. By this, I mean specific days on which you put your gadgets on ‘Do Not Disturb’ or Airplane Mode. Believe me when I tell you that just this single action of knowing you can put the outside world on hold for a bit will give you mental empowerment. Apart from that, it gives you time to be at peace with your thoughts as well as actual face to face interactions. A research done by The Egyptian Journal of Internal Medicine and an article by Gurmeet Singh Saria, Excessive Use of Electronic Gadgets: Health Effects, uncovered that reduced human interactions which is a characteristic of individuals who use gadgets excessively tend to negatively affect the social interactions and relationships of such individuals, therefore impeding their happiness and wellbeing as well as those of people around them. It is no secret that such thought patterns are detrimental to one’s mental state and emotional intelligence because friendship and family bonds are important elements that keep every human grounded in a way that promotes psychological health. So spend time away from your gadgets and more time in the physical world, so to speak. Be in the presence of loved ones or even in serene environments by yourself to read or introspect. While we’re on the issue of gadgets let us talk about taking regular breaks from earpieces and headphones. According to a publication by the American Medical Association, the use of earphones has led to a major increase in hearing loss among adolescents. Generally speaking, any sound that is 85 decibels and above is considered harmful. So listening to music should be done at a maximum of 70-80 decibels. How to calculate that? I have no idea. However, removing your earpiece at least for 5 minutes within each hour is also advisable. Or better yet, take a fortnight break from it occasionally Even though there is no recorded evidence to prove that the electromagnetic waves produced by earpieces can cause brain damage, it is common to find brain-related problems in daily users of earpieces, most especially the long term users. So if you experience sharp pains in the ear or have to constantly keep the volume up to hear, put a complete stop to the use of your earpiece and see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist commonly called an ENT.



Now let us take a look at sleeping habits. As law students I know it would be mortifying to say that you should get at least 8 hours of sleep. Nevertheless, you need to have adequate rest, so let us make it the barest minimum, that is 6 hours of sleep. Believe it or not, your brain works more efficiently when you’ve had good sleep. During your sleeping hours, your body repairs damages to your heart and brain. Sleep deficiency is linked to heart and kidney diseases among others. Even though some may argue that they still perform well during exams without ample rest, research proves that sleep is imperative to memory consolidation and the absence of it leads to memory loss, poor coordination as well as slowing down your body’s internal clock. If you happen to be doing well despite all this, imagine how much better you would perform if you slept well and consistently. I know this is easier said than done especially during exams periods, but, the least you can do is have healthy sleeping habits on regular days so on those important occasions where you are compelled to sleep less, your body is not overwhelmed and burned out. Take advantage of the pandemic to reset your body and be sure to stick to it as much as possible. Research by Study International on The Impact of Sleep on Academic Performance also showed that having not just ample hours of sleep but also a regular sleeping pattern was important. So consider having a particular time range within which you sleep, this way your body will be accustomed to it. Most importantly, avoid using your gadgets before bed. The light from gadget screens, the worst being blue light, tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime thereby halting the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin which helps you wind down. By doing this, you may have just found the cure to your insomnia or sleep deprivation. If you are honest about it, the messages you want to reply or movies you want to watch can wait till the next day.

I’d like to finally encourage you to give yourself treats. It is not easy to live a well-ordered life that centres on your mental, physical and emotional health because doing so is considered a luxury rather than a necessity. So if you are gradually making the effort to develop a self-care routine in a way that is altered to suit you, minimizing how often you use gadgets and their accessories as well forfeiting trivial things in order to have enough time to sleep, you are doing incredibly well. So treat yourself with a spa day or go to the beach. If you prefer, visit a pastry shop for a treat or two, or better yet, go to a fancy restaurant to enjoy their palatable cuisine. You deserve it.