A few years ago, I had the opportunity to coach a Girls on the Run team at a local recreation center, and it became one of my favorite college experiences. Near the end of the season, the girls all run a practice 5k. They’ve been building up their endurance for weeks and the practice race is meant to not only prepare them for the final 5k but to show them how far they’ve come. Though I was a coach for a running team, I am not a runner. I would occasionally jog along with the girls, but I saw myself as the encourager and did my best to cheer them on.
For the practice 5k, each girl had to have a running buddy. Most girls brought their parents, a family friend or teacher from school, but there were a few who didn’t have anyone to run with. Though we thought we had a buddy for everyone, on the day of the practice race we found we were one short. So despite the fact that I hadn’t run seriously in a very long time, I suddenly found myself tasked with running a 5k that I was extremely unprepared for, both mentally and physically. But I couldn’t let my team down, so I tightened my laces and prepared for three miles of torture.
The girl I was running with, a fourth grader named Eliza, was one of the faster girls on our team. She was the one who would run for the entire time during practice instead of doing cartwheels or picking dandelions like many of her teammates. As I started to run with her, I immediately knew she was going to outpace me (I’ll say it was because she was young and spry, but I was really just out of shape). We ran for a while, but I knew I couldn’t keep up the pace – I had to stop to walk. We slowed down to walk for a while, then started back up again, and that was how we ran the race.
Eliza could have been irritated, she likely would have beat most her teammates if she hadn’t been paired with me, but instead she seemed perfectly content to go at my pace. We talked a lot while we recovered, and I got to know more about her and what her struggles were. It gave me the chance to encourage her about her life while she encouraged me about my running. As we crossed the finish line, we both felt satisfied because we knew it wasn’t about how fast we went, it was about finishing strong.
We weren’t the fastest, and we certainly weren’t the steadiest, but that 5k with Eliza taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in college; sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed back up.
As we near the end of the semester, it’s easy to get caught up in the million things on our agenda and the ever-growing list of deadlines. They can seem overwhelming, and often we charge full steam ahead in our attempts to make a dent in them. We don’t remember the last time we slept a full night, we live on coffee and naps and anytime our friends ask, “How’s it going,” we respond with some form of “I don’t even have time to think anymore.”
So often this seems like the only option. We have so much to do: homework, Gamma Phi events, work and the shreds of a social life. But often in the middle of this hectic mess, we lose sight of one of the most important factors – our personal well-being.
We hear the words “self-care” a lot, but few us are ever intentional about putting them into practice. We’ll tell our friends they need to take time for themselves, but never stop to consider that we might need the same thing. We say we’ll slowdown in the summer and we’re really doing just fine, don’t worry! But the reality is that if you don’t make time for yourself, you’ll burn out and be no help to anyone.
Before you charge full-speed ahead on that list for the week, take a few minutes to see where you can squeeze in some time for yourself. Maybe you can try one of the ideas from this list and dance it out or declutter. Or maybe you need some motivation from one of these TED talks. Whatever it is, don’t feel guilty for the time you take to advocate for yourself. Sometimes you just need to slow down to get your groove back so you can finish the race strong.
By Emily Mullins (Wichita State)
Emily Mullins is a senior studying Strategic Communications at Wichita State University. Since joining Gamma Phi Beta, she has served as administrative vice president and president, and has loved experiencing the many opportunities the Sorority has given her. She's excited to be involved in new ways during her last semester! On any given day Emily can be found drinking coffee like a Gilmore, checking out an armful of books from the library or finding a new recipe on Pinterest.