Much of our self-care is relegated to the weekends. We think of sleeping a bit later, moving a bit slower, maybe even treating ourselves to some small indulgence. But during the week we just rush through the motions as we strive for peak productivity, thinking there is never any time to stop and take a deep breath. We tend to understand self-care as something time-specific that must be relegated to a period outside of working hours.
I call bullshit. Are you really taking care of yourself if you treat self-care like a bookend, only to be used at the beginning or end of a day or week? I suggest that we expand our idea of what self-care means. Sure, it’s nice to treat yourself to something special or take the day off (and you should definitely do it), but self-care should also be routine, and part of your everyday life. “How can I do that when I have no free time?” you might be asking. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat healthy meals
- Stretch throughout the day (sitting still for too long is not good for you!)
- Make a schedule and stick to it (so you’re not stressed because you have no idea what you should be doing or because you’re overbooked).
- Say no
- Take some time for yourself, even if it’s only five minutes
There are many ways to take care of yourself, and it’s up to you to figure out what you need the most. What I won’t tell you is that you should engage in self-care because it will make you more productive – even though I think it will. Instead, you should take care of yourself because it’s the right thing to do. Of course self-care has multiple benefits, but valuing yourself and your well-being should be motivation enough.
Making self-care a priority means that at the end of the semester, you won’t crash and burn from operating at full speed for the past 3-4 months. It also means that you’ll be in better health than if you skip meals, sleep less than you should, and generally ignore your body’s signs to slow down. But remember, self-care doesn’t always mean you have to slow down or put off your work. Instead, it means being mindful about creating an environment in which you can do your best work.