In many evaluations throughout my career as a PhD student, I have been given the feedback that I need to practice better self-care. I have been given suggestions as to how to have self-care, such as exercise, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, doing things I enjoy, etc., etc. Now, I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that I am not the only grad student who has been told to work on their self-care, especially within the field of applied psychology.
The assumption here, based on the suggestions for self-care strategies, however, implies a deficit, or lack of skills needed to engage in self-care. No-Siry-Bob! I know exactly how to engage in self-care. I would start the morning at the spa for a 90-minute, hot stone massage, followed by an early lunch with an old friend where we would gab and catch up on the good ol’ times. After that, of course, we would go shopping. After hours of retail therapy, we would leave the mall with a handful of bags, it would be off to dinner, and, perhaps if we are not too tired from our day of relaxation we might just go dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
Obviously, I know how to plan an amazing, relaxing day full of self-care; however, when I look at my weekend schedule, I have three papers to write, a psychological report to finish, lectures to prepare, upcoming comprehensive exams, and a little thing known as a dissertation to finish. So when I hear that I need self-care, I have two reactions. My first reaction is, “Duh.” And my second is, “Maybe if I didn’t have all this work to do, I might be able to have some self-care.”
All joking aside though, self-care is in fact really important, and the sad truth is is that if you are in grad school, you will likely not have the time for self-care. Now that is not an excuse for you to abandon all efforts of taking care of yourself; rather, I am saying that you need to make time for yourself. As we often say in the helping profession, if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of others?