You are your number one priority

Perhaps you haven’t heard, but not taking care of yourself is now very trendy. At least, that’s the way it seems. Every day I’m surrounded by fellow Sharks who, according to them, don’t sleep and don’t eat. While I sit appalled and terrified by such claims, my friends and fellow students laugh, sometimes brag.

I’m not sure how it happened, but the college generation has become engrossed in a culture of self-deprecation and poor self-care. Social media and small talk has become a contest to see who is doing the worst job at taking care of themselves. People talk about not sleeping for two days and see if anyone has a story that can top it. For many, it’s cool to forget to eat for the entire day and attribute it to being a mess. It’s not. It’s sad and, honestly, disappointing.

I hear a lot of people tell me that they don’t have time to take care of themselves, that they have goals they are trying to meet. As if sacrificing health and wellbeing will somehow bring them all they’ve ever dreamed of. As if every hour they take from sleep and every meal they rob from their stomachs adds some kind of credibility to the work that they put in here. But shouldn’t a soon-to-be doctor eat and sleep the same way they’d advise their patients? Shouldn’t a future business owner be able to function during daytime hours without complaining to their customers about how tired they are?

The millennial and centennial generations are touted as being the most educated. We’ve engaged in the most schooling and had unprecedented access to information. So, it shouldn’t be that hard for us to understand the basic needs we must meet in order to function. Abraham Maslow lays it out in every psychology class. His theory of the hierarchy of needs states that in order to reach your full potential, you must first meet physiological, safety, love and self-esteem needs. You cannot achieve your goals and dreams if you are not meeting your most basic needs first. In other words, you can’t take care of anything else without first taking care of yourself.

As annoying as the “hot mess” culture is to listen to, it’s even scarier to think about. Our wellbeing is not an autonomous trait. We have to work to maintain it or it goes away. Eventually, if all these young individuals are not putting in the necessary maintenance to care for themselves, they will break down. Maybe they won’t be able to handle stress any longer. Maybe their bodies start to revolt against its mistreatment and they become very ill.

Sleep deprivation can hurt mental cognition and memory. It is also linked to high blood pressure, depression and stroke. Not eating and poor nutrition can lead to vitamin deficiencies, low blood sugar and dangerous weight loss. Suddenly, it won’t be fun and exciting to not take care of yourself.

We have to stop pretending it’s OK not to care about ourselves. It’s not. No matter what the reason is that our generation thinks skipping meals and not sleeping is acceptable, we have to change the narrative to protect ourselves and our futures. You are your number one priority and, if you start acting that way, everything else will fall into place. Brag about that.

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