Self-care is giving yourself some care, love and attention outside your work life. Self-care could be of different types such as, physical, emotional, social and spiritual. I believe everyone has its own way of self caring and has different meaning for different people. For some, it could be about establishing discipline, getting therapy, reaching out for help, diet, exercise and meditation etc. And for some, spending times with friends, going to a bar or having some personal time could be a self care.
During my first year of PhD, I was not even aware of this term "selfcare" and it was not part of my life. I was overpacked and stressed with my studies, applying for the grants, writing up my proposal and making several courses assignments. I have had long sleepless nights, disturbing days, lack of phsyical activities and somehow cut-off from my friends and family for many weeks. I skipped meals, ordered food from outside, stopped going to the gym, and was sitting in the library for long hours because the work was always pilling up.
Today, if I could change something from my first year of PhD, I would replace my "stress" with my "self-care" plan.
"Stress is the enemy of self-care".
After a year, I realized that, eventhough I love to work on my PhD studies and related tasks but I also love to do other things which I was sacrificing - for example, self-cooking, spending time with friends, calling to my family living abroad etc. These little sacrificed darlings were actually a huge part of my life and of my personality. I told myself to face "what I am". I am a family-oriented and socialize person and at the same time, enjoy my personal space. I love to explore new things, places and learn new activities (e.g. knitting, swimming, gyming etc.). Thus, the 100% workholic version of mine did not work well during my first year of PhD. I may be a person of 60% selfcare and 40% work :)
During my second year of PhD, I have come up with my own selfcare plan and sticked it to my notice board at my work table. The plan consists of the things I love to do. The things that makes me happy. And they give me the motivation and energy to work better on my studies.
The top 10 activities in my selfcare plan are the followings:
I like to take care of my hairs, which I have spoiled by ignoring them compeltely from my care routine before. And I also like to do some DIYs for my skin care such as, homemade herbal masks etc.
I have added jogging, basic workouts and basic yoga to my weekly routine.
Interestingly, I enjoy watching some Indian and Pakistani serials and have added those into my to-do list on weekends.
I love making sweet healthy desserts and trying new recepies. Energy bars, oats and dates recepies, jaggery desserts, traditional Pakistani desserts etc.
Since childhood, I have had a habbit of writing/making drawings in my personal dairy. I do write my thoughts, plans and feelings in my personal online dairy (DayOneJournal) every night. It makes me feel good and relaxed.
Calling to mom and dad, to my siblings and their children and to my close friends make me feel extremely happy. It made me feel that I do care for them and there are some people who care for me.
I love getting ready by wearing traditional Pakistani dresses and jewelery and I do that at home, just for myself. Just to feel happy.
An online app "MindChat", provided by my university, has helped me to consult the psycholgist online - for sharing and discussing my problems. This was a good initiative during covid-19 pandemic when mostly working from home was stressful.
Even writing blogs makes me happy, so I consider it a part of my self-care plan.
Spending some time with myself is a key to my selfcare plan. Sometimes, I do go for a walk on river or sit in a cafe alone with my mobile switched off and without my laptop carrying with me.
In short, I would say to myself that:
"Doing what makes me happy - is a source of energy to both my personal and working life"
"Self-care should not be something that I should do when I have time, but should be a constant part of my everyday life"
"Do not kill your darlings! Do not sacrifice your hobbies because of the work load. Work will never end, but your life will end one day. So, live your life fully"
"Self-care is not a time-waste - which most of us think it is"
I wish I have had someone telling me to do selfcare when I was in my first year of PhD studies.
Anyway, my selfcare plan is flexible and likely to change as per other external factors. I hope this blog have succeeded in presenting my personal selfcare plan and have encouraged you to make one for you and follow.
Put yourself at the top of the to-do-list every single day - and the rest will fall into place :)