Self-Care is an important part of your plan for succeeding in graduate school. Graduate school is stressful – there’s no getting around that fact. The classes and homework alone can add up to sixty or seventy hour weeks. Throw a job, internship, or kids into the mix and you’ve got the potential for a pressure cooker situation. That’s where self-care comes in.
If you’re not familiar with the term “self-care”, it’s just what it sounds like – taking care of yourself. It’s setting aside a certain amount of time to give yourself what you need. Self-care looks different for everyone, because everyone’s needs are unique, but generally, it falls into the following categories:
1. Healthy living. Eating well, sleeping enough, and moving your body are forms of self-care.
2. Recreation. Carving out time to blow off steam, relax, and be creative are forms of self-care. Taking walks, gardening, seeing a movie or concert, indulging in a great happy hour, traveling, and creating art are just a few examples.
3. Spirituality. This could look like many different things, including meditation, religious services, or your yoga class.
We spend most of our lives running frantically from one thing to the next. And that behavior is reinforced by the culture in which we live. We’re rewarded for getting stressed out! It’s pretty crazy when you stop to think about it. Self-care is a CRUCIAL opportunity for us to slow down and consider what we really need. If you find that you’re often anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, or angry, there’s a good chance that you’re not getting in enough self-care.
The most important part of self-care is remembering it’s what you need in that moment. People tend to talk about self-care as things like journaling and bubble baths and massages, which of course are wonderful, but not if you really need to be hiking up a mountain or having a good cry. In order to determine what you need in the moment, quiet down, let yourself settle, and check in, internally. If you’re having a hard time identifying what your intuition is asking for, try offering two choices, and notice which one feels better.
“Self-care?” You say. “Ha. I have no TIME to take care of myself. Where am I going to fit this in?”
Actually, that kind of response is a huge red flag! The reality is you don’t have time NOT to do self-care, especially if you’re under this much stress. Ideally, we should carve out time for self-care every day. I can already hear the groans in response to this suggestion, but the reality is that most of us have time for at least ten minutes. Think about how much time you spent this past week numbing out in front of the television, compulsively cruising Facebook, or sitting at your desk pretending to look busy. Now imagine using just a small portion of that time to take a stroll in the sunshine, call a friend you haven’t spoken with, or go scream into a pillow to relieve stress (seriously, it works).
Think about it: how can you implement a regular self-care routine in your schedule? Do you need to start hitting that lunchtime yoga class a couple times a week? Do you need to step away from technology and get outside more? Where can you add more health and beauty into your life? What I often find is that the more self-care people take on, the better they feel, and the more productive they are in other areas of their life.