Editorial: Practicing self-care

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It’s hard to resist the tempting smell of gooey cheese sitting on top of warm tomato sauce and crispy crust, a hearty burger patty nestled between two toasted buns, and sizzling French fries waiting to be doused in ketchup and mayonnaise. These foods beckon us and make us want to ditch the broccoli we were planning on having for dinner. And although delicious, we know these foods are not by any means healthy.

The New York Times reported that about one-third of children and teens in the United States eat fast food or pizza daily. Adolescents receive about 17 percent of their daily calories from fast food, while children get about 9 percent.

Even though we know these foods aren’t good for us, we consume them regardless. For some, though, it may not be a matter of choice. Often people under financial pressure can’t afford healthier food options, which is generally more expensive in comparison to fast food. Fast food is easier to grab and eat when on the go, as opposed to taking the time to make a meal when busy.

In college, students consume unhealthy food because it is in front of them. When we’re in the dining hall and have an abundance of food at our disposal, we may be easily swayed into choosing the tastier and fattier options over the healthier picks. Even when students live off-campus and aren’t relying on the dining halls, convenience comes before nutrition.

With the pressure of impending four o’clock exams, it’s easy to drop healthy habits because of academic stress. When the pressure is on, exercise and healthy eating tend to be the first things we comprise. However, it is important to prioritize self-care, because in the long run, we’ll be better off for it.

We all get busy. And when we do, usually the first thing to go is our hour-long yoga session in exchange for other priorities. But it’s these seemingly good decisions that may hurt us down the road. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise improves overall health and well-being. That yoga class may be just what we need to relax, collect our thoughts and regroup for the pressures we’re facing in our lives.

How you eat also affects your attitude, according to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Although comfort foods like macaroni and cheese may seem like the best option when stressed, it often makes people feel lethargic and unable to deal with stress.

Of course, not everyone has constant access to healthy foods and a place to exercise. But as students at Lehigh, we’re fortunate enough to have these options. We have access to a gym and healthy options within our dining halls. It’s important to recognize how important these resources are in taking care of ourselves, even when it may not seem easy.

Oftentimes we fall into unhealthy habits when under pressure, such as trading in sleep for late nights at the library. Although the drive to do well in school makes us believe that studying as long as possible is the best decision, we’re actually harming ourselves. Health.com reported that one of the many benefits of sleep is that it improves your memory. And when we’re sleep deprived but faced with the option to go out to a party, sometimes it’s better to choose to stay in and miss that one night out, regardless of the role that drinking might play in Lehigh’s social culture.

It’s easy, but damaging, to forgo our health. While grades, a social life and extracurricular obligations are important, self-care is what enables us to be successful in those spheres of our lives.

When in an environment like Lehigh, there’s a myriad of pressures that cause students to care about our well being after everything else that seems more important. But when caring more about other things starts to harm us in the process, we have to remember to put ourselves — and our self-care — first.

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