From self-sabotage to self-care: My journey as a mature student

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Mental Health Nursing student and co-president of RGU’s Peer Support Group Wendy Chihi shares her emotional journey to find peace in self-love. As a mother, wife, and mature student, Chihi has been through a lot to come to the conclusion that real strength comes from looking after yourself.

Hear more about her experience and get inspired to start your own self-care journey this Mental Health Awareness Month.

I’m a mature student. At 41 years old, I find myself back at university and it’s difficult. Social acceptance, balancing study, socialization, work…

University is a fountain of knowledge, an endless, infinite, unrestricted opportunity to become anything we want or envisioned. Especially in a prestigious university such as RGU. Beyond the battlefield of juggling studies and work life, there is more, so much more.

“I was giving bits of me, and not the best of me.”

I am a mother, I have responsibilities at home, several animals, a husband, I am also a sister, a friend and a daughter. Where may I ask do I fit in? In such a fast paced world, where do we stop, pause and breathe?

Pressures of life can be difficult, sometimes all consuming. As humans, we excel in giving advice, not so much at taking it!

Now, as a mature student, I cannot stress how important self care is. I am studying Mental Health Nursing and mental wellness is something I am very passionate about. Taking a time out, to just be.

We sometimes become so focused on fitting so much in, being so productive and getting things done, here and now. We end our days frazzled, mentally and emotionally, and often physically drained. Often, we go to bed early hoping for a good nights sleep, lots to be done tomorrow! Well, I certainly do.

I toss and turn, wake several times, wake up early, still exhausted then do it all over again. This has been my routine for many, many years.

Believe me, I am talking from experience, having first attended university 15 years ago. You notice you have no time to sit and watch your favourite TV shows, or read a book you enjoy. You have so many plates to balance, they are starting to wobble. I had young children, I was working, recently married, moving house and studying.

During this time, I noticed I wasn’t giving my studies the best I could, or anything else in my life for that matter. I was giving bits of me and not the best of me. I was snapping at everyone, constantly feeling like I never stopped. Man, I was exhausted! So much so, my mental health started to affect my physical health.

“Strength comes from self-love.”

Then, I became ill. I was forced to give up my studies, slow down and take a breath. Smell the flowers, if you will. Being forced to spend time away from studies and home pressures, albeit in the hospital and not ideal, I started to take care of myself, to build myself back up. I found my true strength and I thought being so busy and trying to stay on top of things was being strong.

I have probably made so many stupid decisions that I have at least learned a little. Strength comes from self love, self awareness, delegating and prioritising what is important: you.

When you are stressed, worn out, you are not giving anyone or anything your best self. Take a moment, breathe, ask yourself, what’s important and can’t wait. Who can help take some of the load off when it gets too much? You are not invincible, you are just conditioned to believe self care is weakness and somehow selfish.

“For those few days, I am not a daughter, mother, wife, student, I am just me.”

Once a month, I have a mental wellness “me” night. I turn off my phone, I have a very long, very hot shower. Sometimes I read in bed, sometimes I watch a film, other times, I chill to music, but that’s me. Everyone has their own way of unwinding.

Now, my children are almost young adults. I make it a mission and have done for a few years, to have at least two nights away a year, with either my friend or my husband. Sometimes, I take two breaks and do both.

Don’t get me wrong, at first I felt so selfish. I was abandoning everyone, I thought they needed me, presuming they would all fall apart without me. Funnily enough, although they missed me, they were alive and healthy!

For those few days, I am not a daughter, mother, wife, student, I am just me. I have no chores to do, responsibilities, except to please myself and do whatever I want. I return refreshed, relaxed and almost ready to take on the world. Plus, it gives me something to look forward to.

Now, I am in no means suggesting you up and leave your life. Just pause, baby steps. It doesn’t all need done today.

“My feelings and mental wellbeing matter.”

In 2024, why are we not screaming LOOK AFTER YOURSELF?

We are screaming, “it’s okay to not be okay”, but why are we waiting until we are not okay to take care of ourselves? Now, if a friend, relative or someone close to you told you the same story. What would you advise? Look after yourself? Now ask yourself, why do I not do that to myself enough?

Your “me” time could just be ten minutes a day, when you can. It could be a morning, a snatched hour here and there, or taking five minutes longer in the shower, feeling the hot water and relaxing. It doesn’t matter what you do in this time or for how long you can do it. What matters is that you do, do it!

If I learned anything from my previous years at university is that I matter. My feelings and mental wellbeing matter and until I look after myself, I am giving no one the best of me, and I deserve better.

Please remember. If you give and give, eventually there is nothing left. Just stop, take a moment and breathe. Your mental wellness and self-care matters just as much, and it deserves as much dedication that you pay other parts of your life. You are important. You are worth it too!

Wendy Chihi

Related blogs

RGU Peer Support Group – Here to talk about mental health

My Mental Health Journey at RGU

Taking a Mindful Approach

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