Winter break is coming, and it couldn’t come sooner! This past month I’ve been reminded of how it feels like to be a student and how I felt as a student.
I am very fortunate to have a career that allows me to connect to the younger population through the lines of health and education (and they are completely interlinked). Earlier this month I was asked to talk about Naturopathic Medicine as a career choice for students in a highschool health class. The question I was asked most? What can I take naturally for stress? Although bright-eyed and attentive, you could see the physical affects of stress on these kids. They suffer from back and shoulder pain, lack of sleep, lack of focus, emotional outbursts, and palpable anxiety. They don’t sleep, use stimulants to stay awake, and many times go without eating in order to have extra time to study and do projects. Of the basic health fundamentals – food, sleep, air, shelter, water – they are lacking basic building blocks of health, ultimately leading to their inherit lack of focus and concentration. Seeing these kids reminded me of myself as a highschool student – sacrificing basic fundamentals such as food and sleep in order to succeed academically.
And is that truly the way to succeed academically? Many students now take to memorizing rather than learning, so that they can recall facts for tests but not for life. They are learning facts, not lessons. Learning means to slow down, concentrate, and actually comprehend the concept. To process learning and cognitive thought, we need the proper nutrients and restoration to create an optimal environment within ourselves for learning (hence the link between health and education). This principle applies to “adult” life too. How many times have we sacrificed our basic health principles in order to “advance” further in physical accomplishments? Such as miss lunch to finish emails? Or forgo sleep to finish that project? How is that any different than the student mentality of everything important in life being grades (ie. how people view them, and putting a scale mark of approval to define self worth via accomplishments)? It’s analogous to the adult mentality that our worth is defined by what we have (our grade) rather than who we are (our learning). Being a professional student in my past life for over a decade, I can say with complete confidence that many times my grades did not reflect my learning. And the more I respected myself and valued my health, the more I truly learned and applied my knowledge.
I was reminded of this fact tutoring last week. After a week of 6am baby-waking, working, commuting and skipping meals (it was a week where I had to make sacrifices to get things done, “tis the season”, and hence I wasn’t my best self in health). Tutoring quadratics I had mistaken the quadratic formula (as I had memorized it, not learned it) and didn’t realize it until after the lesson (when I was able to have a moment to rest and process). Instantly I felt a moment of panic, couldn’t believe my mistake, and chastised myself for mistaking the well-known formula. I had automatically been transported back to my once familiar student mentality of self doubt and negative self thought. Where I had sacrificed my health and made simple mistakes because I had a lapse of focus, and only realized it when I had a calm moment. After forgiving myself for my mistake, I had a moment of gratitude. I relived what it was like to be a student and also was given a hard-knock lesson in self care. I was unfocused because I was uncaring to myself. So I went home, made my meals for the rest of the week, and took off the next afternoon to rest and recooperate.
The lesson in all of this is the importance of self care, and how it positively relates to health and education. Hence why it’s called “health care”. We care for ourselves, we see the importance of our health, and we are then receptive to learning the lessons presented us, to process them, and to grow from them. When we take care of ourselves and stop sacrificing health basic fundamentals for physical accomplishments, then our children mimic us and stop sacrificing their health for grades. Ironically then they learn more, about themselves and about the world.