Developing Your Self-Care Plan(s)
The term “self-care” is widely used to refer to activities and practices that are engaged in on a regular basis to maintain and enhance a person’s short- and longer-term health and well-being. This is the sense in which we use it here.
Although it may seem (at this point anyway) that your gaze is locked on the future and your goal is to get through the program and acquire that degree, the truth is that getting through graduate school is a journey not simply a destination. The nature of this journey (which is your life, after all) matters. It matters both in and of itself and also because it is important to your success in reaching your goals. Here’s one way to think about it: Developing a self-care plan for your time in graduate school can give you an annotated guide for your journey, a roadmap with planned vehicle maintenance, travel activities, and rest stops along the way. Learning the practice (and habit) of taking care of yourself now will help you in your future professional life as well, when you will need to practice self-care at least as much as you do now.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” self-care plan. Each of us has to develop our own plan because each of us has our own unique life history, we each face our own distinct demands, stressors, and challenges, and we each have individual goals and aspirations. These factors influence the kinds of challenges we confront day-to-day, as well as how ably we manage them. Each of us also tends to have our own “go-to” activities and strategies to manage stress. In some cases we developed these coping strategies consciously and intentionally; but often they are unexamined habits, some of which may be less than optimal for our long-term health and well-being. These are also examined in developing a self-care plan.
Despite the uniqueness of our individual self-care needs, there are objectives common to almost all such plans: taking care of physical health, managing and reducing stress, honoring emotional and spiritual needs, nurturing relationships, and finding balance in school and work life. To reach these objectives each of us needs to identify what we value and need as part of our day-to-day life (maintenance self-care), and also the strategies we could employ when and if we face a crisis along the way (emergency self-care). The process starts here with Developing Your Maintenance Self-Care Plan. The other materials listed below are described and worked through, step-by-step, on that page.
Mindful and consistent self-care is central to preventing or reducing stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue and also – importantly – to maintaining and enhancing your well-being during graduate school and in your future career.