Why everyone should practice self-care


Self-care focuses on supporting personal, physical, and mental health through sleeping, staying active, eating well, and relaxing, according to health.harvard.edu. Without these factors, many students suffer from sleep deprivation, and, in turn, become less productive, according to The New York Times. This past March, Sacred Heart Greenwich faculty members conducted a study to gather data about students’ sleep habits and productivity, hoping to use this information to make changes to course loads in the future. This observation, as well as other studies, has raised awareness about the importance of self-care, highlighting the idea that students should value mental and physical health equally, according to licensed psychologist and author Dr. Guy Winch. 

American companies lose billions of dollars annually due to sleep deprivation among employees. Courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

Sleep patterns are vital to maintaining self-care routines. Inconsistent sleep patterns can impact a student’s memory, weight, learning, and mental and physical performance, according to amherst.edu. To develop healthy sleeping habits, students must create a sleep routine, waking up and going to sleep at approximately the same time every day. 
With sleep, the human brain can recharge as well as repair muscles and memory, according to apa.orgSleep professionals recommend students rest between seven and nine hours each night, according to sleepfoundation.orgHowever, only 15 percent of teenage students reach this goal, according to sleepfoundation.org.

To prepare teenage students for college and adulthood, high schools can implement self-care into their health curriculums to teach students about sleep patterns as well as mental and emotional health.
Sacred Heart recognizes the need for self-care in schools. After noticing students struggle with sleep deprivation, faculty members formed a group to conduct a survey that observed how much time students spend on homework per night this past March.

The group included Upper School Math Teacher and Chair of the Upper School Math Department Mr. Joel Padilla, Upper School Academic Dean, Network Exchange Coordinator, and Director of Summer Enrichment Mrs. Jennifer Bensen, Upper School Spanish Teacher and Upper School World Languages Department Chair Mrs. Montserrat Garcia, Upper School English Teacher Dr. Cristina Baptista, Upper School Science Teacher Dr. Saffron Castle, Upper School Science Teacher and Chair of the Upper School Science Department Dr. Kristina Gremski, and Upper School Math Teacher Mr. Robert Cushman.

“The purpose of this initial survey is to get a snapshot of the life of a sophomore [and junior],” Mr. Padilla said. “Throughout this process, we will be looking for ways to ensure students have a well-balanced academic experience in the Upper School.”
Supporting the survey, School Psychologist Dr. Lisa Schwartz, who is filling in for Dr. Melissa Otero while she is on maternity leave, advocates for students’ increased sleep.

Dr. Winch speaking to an audience at Linnaeus University in Sweden. Courtesy of ted.com

“Students can plan in advance and budget their time,” Dr. Schwartz said. “[They] can also reduce screen time at night, which can cause sleep disruption.”

Sleep is just one aspect of self-care. Dr. Winch supports integrating the science of emotional health into our daily lives, workplaces, and education systems, according to guywinch.comIn a Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) lecture at Linnaeus University in Sweden, Dr. Winch argued that people should take emotional health as seriously as physical health, according to ted.com

“By taking action when you’re lonely, by changing your responses to failure, by protecting your self-esteem, by battling negative thinking, you won’t just heal your psychological wounds, you will build emotional resilience, you will thrive,” Dr. Winch said, according to ted.com. “A hundred years ago, people began practicing personal hygiene, and life expectancy rates rose by over 50 percent in just a matter of decades. I believe our quality of life could rise just as dramatically if we all began practicing emotional hygiene.”

Featured Image by Sydney Gallop ’20