Hello all, I am here to talk about the matter of self-care from the perspective of a PhD student as part of my PhD chronicles series. Self-care is subjective and differs from person to person but the ultimate goal is to ensure optimum health in all aspects. In this post, I share the 5 ways in which I personally implement self-care besides my faith and why I think it is important.
My number one self-care method is to rest! Simply trying to operate and do your work whilst running on empty with your battery drained will hinder your productivity and will not benefit you in the long run. As soon as I feel that my eyes and body are getting tired that is a personal cue for me to rest whether it means to sleep or taking a break from the work I am doing. I am at the early stages of my degree which has seen me be more in front of a computer as opposed to being the lab all the time meaning that I spend most of my day staring at a computer screen. However it is not by force to sit at the computer for six hours straight or even be in the lab for six hours straight late in the night. If you know that you’re not going to be productive then it is perfectly fine to take a rest at a convenient point and then come back to the problem/experiment when you are head less tired. I also feel like rest is also important as a way to fuel your creativity albeit for writing your thesis or for any creative ventures you may be doing at the side of your degree. When you are lacking inspiration or ideas on how to start the next subsection of your report sometimes taking a moment to reflect away from the problem an idea can randomly come to you that is perfect for you to progress with your project.
As of 2018, I have become a serious advocate for travelling to relax and have a break. It is the perfect blend of taking time for yourself whilst enjoying another setting! Seriously, take the opportunity whilst you can to explore the world whether that means going to another country or visiting another city/state in your country. Now as a student, I have been learning not to book holidays too much on a whim as I now have to consider my research schedule however having holidays planned throughout the year at convenient points gives me something to look forward to. Believe it or not, I am also taking up any given opportunities go attend conferences outside of Reading. I am seeing them as a chance to have a little getaway to explore another city once the itinerary for the day is done (I have an upcoming Physiology conference in Liverpool next month!). Even though you’re still in the same academic environment, you’re not doing your work so is it somewhat of a break. It is the perfect opportunity to see other PhD posters and network with those who are most likely within the same field as you. Additionally, I already have some trips planned for 2020 (Milan and Gothenburg) and I know I’m in the process of planning another potential girls trip to see myself into the new academic year, therefore, I know I’m going to utilise these breaks very well indeed.
Green Park, Bath
As well as travelling, also just going out to places in your city can be a good way to practice self-care you to relax. I know in particular here in Reading, the cinema costs £4.99 all day every day so I have utilised the opportunity to go to the cinema every now and again just to have a break from my work whilst watching films that I really want to see. Personally, going out by myself and having alone time is a form of self-care. I also love going out with my friends and going home to be around my family especially since I have moved to another city; catching up with them is always something I look forward to. Earlier this month, I went on a weekend trip to Nottingham with some of my girls to visit our friend who lives there and it was a really relaxed weekend. We didn’t go out and turn up as per se but regardless of that it was so chilled and needed. I thoroughly recommend you going out with your friends especially if you’re not super comfortable to go out on your own. Schedule a day or evening to go out with your friends or if you’re staying in another city, schedule in one weekend where your friends can come to visit you or vice versa to link-up, have fun and just relax.
Writing to me is a way for me to express myself and is also very much therapeutic (I started this blog with the motto freedom in expression). I know writing will be a way for me to gather my thoughts and keep sane during this exciting but tough academic journey ahead. I see writing as a form of self-care because I use it as an outlet for my emotions and feelings instead of bottling them up all inside. I know that the points of this year where I hit rock bottom mentally, writing my about my raw and honest feelings was a way out and I continue to stand by this. In conjunction with writing for my blog and other guest features, I’ve also been journaling in some of my pretty notebooks. I have separate notebooks for various important things such as my prayer/scriptures and my blog plans as another way for me to put my thoughts into writing. I want to briefly talk about the LSW Mind Cards that I have also been using as a prompt for me to journal. Each day, I pick a card at random from the categories Journal, Gratitude, Kindness, Ritual and Reflection where I have to do a task related to that category. The aim of these cards is to help promote mindful living whilst increasing your wellbeing and instilling new positive habits. So far, these cards particularly the journaling topics have been helpful as a part of my self-care routine and in overall a better way to focus my mind.
LSW Mind Cards
Putting Yourself First
Last but not least, one of my ultimate self-care tips is ensuring that I am prioritising all aspects of my health (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual). I am an advocate for taking time to reflect on situations and how exactly they are affecting you when no one is around. The quiet moments we have with ourselves away from the crowd and social media is a perfect time to unplug and really think about your life; the good, the bad and the ugly. Simply because it is imperative that we look after ourselves before we start trying to look after others. I believe there is a fine line between being downright selfish and occasionally putting your needs first and I see no problem with the latter. If you are not happy with something, take time to assess what is causing it and find a solution to rectify it. It is not by force to bear the brunt if a situation if it is bugging you in the name of compromise and looking strong. I know for a fact that with regards “love” life, I have simply decided I no longer want to entertain situations because right now I don’t have the time to do so alongside my studies. I want to do things that make me happy which include travelling, dressing up to look/feel good, experimenting with hairstyles and several other things. I know for a fact that this course I am on will try to take me out (my own supervisor said it will be a bumpy but fun road) however, I know that in the long run this investment in myself will benefit my future career whilst being a fun and life-changing experience. I want to be in a position to celebrate the small wins along the way and be at my best!
All in all, it is necessary during a PhD to have those times to relax whilst you are working hard trying to make things work. Your mind and body will love you for it when you aren’t forcing yourself to do work towards your thesis. Reigning my passions and also being on top of my mental and emotional health have been priorities for me over the past few months and I intend to continue with these everywhere I go. I have particularly found the LSW Mind cards helpful as each day I get to focus my mind on something to take around during the day and I’ve seen it as an add-on to my slowly but surely improving prayer life. Self-care is a conscious effort and you should do whatever it takes to help you ensure that you are doing this!
Until next time
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