Self-care is an ongoing task. You can’t just “do” self-care one day and say that you’re good for the next few months. Instead, you should integrate self-care activities into your routine and make them a reward for accomplishing your short-term goals (whether your goals were related to research, writing, or anything else).
Start by listing all your regular responsibilities, in addition to your school work (this will allow you to look at the full demand being placed on your time and energy). Review the list and figure out which items can wait (like organizing the garage), which can be delegated (like walking the dog), which you can completely let go of (like going out every Friday night with the guys/girls), and which you can outsource (like getting a gardener to free up those hours spent on yard work every weekend). This should provide some clarity regarding your priorities and where you need to be spending your time and effort on a regular basis.
After taking stock of your outgoing energy, you need to establish how you’ll keep your emotional bucket filled. Make a list of about 20 items or experiences you really enjoy. Ideas might include an afternoon at the movies, a guilt-free serving of your favorite dessert, time alone in nature, or an extra hour at the end of the week with someone special.
Set small goals for each week (based on your newly established priorities), and pair each goal with one or two rewards from your list. Even if you don’t always meet your goals, try to engage in at least one item from your list each week. Believe me when I say it will make a world of difference with regards to your persistence and overall mental health.
Even if you don’t always meet your weekly goals, allow yourself to have fun and happy as often as you can – no one has ever reached the end of their program and thought, “I spent way too much time taking care of myself.”
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