Self-Care Matters

Published: Tues., Oct. 5, 2020

Graduate school provides many opportunities and challenges. As a graduate student, it is always a good practice to have a support network of friends, family and mentors to provide assistance when you need them. However, sometimes that “support” may start with you. As you are developing your professional life are you taking care of yourself? You may want to step back and review what practices you are engaging in that help you maintain a healthy environment for yourself.

What is self-care? There is no single definition for it because there are many factors that may contribute in individual lives. It is usually described as taking action to improve your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Put simply, it means you are relaxing and recovering in order to be your best. It may mean scheduling time for yourself, just as you schedule events or tasks with others. This doesn’t make you a selfish person. It is a chance to recharge. The following are a few ideas:

Sleep - Are you sleeping enough? Along with making sure your diet is healthy, the amount of time you sleep impacts your mental and physical health. As you start your day, don’t jump into the electronics immediately. Give yourself some time to ease into the day’s demands. If you find yourself having trouble sleeping, it may help to meditate or do relaxation exercises before bed. Watching TV or looking at your phone can also affect your body's rhythms so you may want to have a technology break before bed.

Relaxation – There are a variety of ways to take short breaks. A 2 minute stretch break or a 10 minute yoga or guided meditation session will help clear the mind and ease that muscle tension you may be experiencing. This may mean creating a place in your home that helps you make the mental and physical break needed. Take time to do some reading or listening to non-academic literature. Some spend time journaling to record and work through the events of the day. Journaling may give you a chance to record the “well-done” events you need to give yourself credit for. If you enjoy cooking, try a new, healthy recipe.

Diversions – Get out of the apartment or house. Go for a bike ride or 10-15 minute walk. Schedule social events (harder with COVID restrictions, but still possible) such as socially-distanced car meet ups. If you have an SUV, lift that rear lift-gate in your car and visit with friends in the circle of cars.

Support Networks – This topic was covered in a recent Graduate Connections article so we hope you gained insight from that about the importance of support from friends, family and mentors. In short, make sure to seek and build on your relationships. Even though you may not be seeing people in person, their support is invaluable.

Give yourself credit – Suggestions have been made to include a way to give yourself a “pat on the back” during the day. It is easier to do now that we have voice electronic devices that are able to be programmed for specific messages. It doesn’t need to be verbal. Post a message on your mirror or refrigerator that affirms your worth. Because you ARE worth it! Sometimes people in your support network can also serve this purpose and remind you that you're doing a good job!

Say no – Sometimes the best self-care is to say no. You can’t do everything or be there all the time for everyone. Don’t over-commit your time so that you stretch yourself thin. If you don't want to commit to something right now, but might have time in the future-- learn to say not "no", but "not right now".

In all of this, find what works for you and give yourself the chance to develop your own self-care practices. Change them up if you like variety. It is important to care for you so that you can achieve your goals and be healthy in the process. If you need help, Big Red Resilience and Well-being has well-being coaches and other services to help you.


O'Neal,M. (2019). "20 Simple and Real Ideas to Add to Your Self-Care Routine", Success Magazine, Retrieved from