This month is Mental Health Awareness Month here at Pubs and Publications. In this vein, our committee is talking about the best steps for preventative care – our self-care routines! Self-care means radically different things to different people, and our committee’s diverse responses demonstrate that. Here are our tips, if you’re looking for some self-care routine inspiration:
My ultimate self-care strategy is a whole exercise / bubble bath / skin care ordeal, and it may sound a little extra, but it’s what works for me, considering that even when I’ve managed to have an ultra-productive week, I still sometimes feel undeserving of a break or unable to truly relax into an evening off. Sound familiar, fellow postgraduates? So, my strategy is to push through a tough workout, which absolves me of any guilt from sitting at my desk all day. Then, I stretch and cool down while listening to a podcast (usually something from the true crime genre, which doesn’t necessarily fit the relaxation narrative, I know), and lastly, I enjoy a nice bubble bath complete with more of the aforementioned podcast, a sugar scrub and a face mask. It’s safe to say that this isn’t a daily self-care routine, but it’s one thing that always helps me to shut off from all of the stresses of PhD life.
Let’s face it, doing a PhD can burn you out, especially in challenging times like these. And instead of pushing yourself to the point that recovering from all that mental exhaustion is too difficult, you should just listen to your needs and switch it off when you feel it is time to. I have learnt this the hard way: practicing some self-care sooner than later works miracles! When I am just too tired of reading or writing, and I am staring at that screen in my home office without any hope of productivity, I just switch it off. I get out of that chair, clean my desk, take a shower and come back to my room without any other intention than taking care of myself. This includes putting up my favourite playlist, burning a scented candle, and indulging to the vanity of a skincare routine. Does this sound silly or too mainstream? Well, stop reading now, because – I am telling you – my next step is to put on a movie… possibly a Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks/Marvel one. What can I say? Basic remedies.
PS: meeting or calling your favourite people works as well.
My self-care strategy is to kind of dependent on the weather but working in the sunshine instantly boosts my mood! So, even if it is chilly or the sun is only forecast for the morning, I try and go outside with a coffee. And I do all sorts of PhD tasks outside: answering emails, writing chapters, procrastinating…Yes, I may look a bit silly in my giant sun hat on my zoom meetings but in Scotland you have to soak up any sun when you get the chance! So, if you can, get outside. Pro tip: Google ‘cardboard box laptop glare’ to make a crafty visor for your laptop so you can read the screen even in bright sunlight!
For me, self-care is mostly about routine and consistency. So, my best self-care advice is to find the things that make you feel the best and consistently find time for them. For me, this includes regular exercise (recently, I’ve taken up roller-skating, so find me at the local outdoor rink practising my moves and jamming out to some music), as well as regular time to cook. If left to my own devices, I would probably just eat toast for every meal, so to avoid scurvy, I try to make sure I have a good repertoire of healthy, quick meals to cook. Finally, my last self-care tip is to religiously use my planner. When I have all my meetings in one place and a manageable to-do list for every day, I feel much calmer and more organised. None of these tips are too exciting or luxurious, but I find that these are the core elements I need to have in my life to keep things balanced.