Being intentional about making time for yourself
This essay written by Alexandra Wiseman, a student in social work, is part of a series featuring graduate ambassadors' approaches to maintaining their mental wellness and prioritizing their self-care.
As a graduate student taking 2 classes per semester, spending 16 hours per week in placement, and working 30 hours per week, balance is key to supporting my mental wellness. In the Master of Social Work program, mental wellness should be a top priority, and it’s ironic to admit that sometimes it falls by the wayside because we too are human.
While there is a lot of inspiration in defining “self-care” it is truly specific to each individual student. Much like other responsibilities of a graduate student, I schedule time for myself into my calendar and hold myself to it just like I would any other deadline. I often will choose a few activities which I know are nourishing for my soul and come that time slot, I will choose one that best aligns with my mood and interest in that moment. Some examples will include yoga, journaling, guided meditation, taking my dog for a walk, physical activity, journaling, or phoning a friend.
By honoring your time and doing something beneficial for you, you are reminding yourself of your worthiness. The more we engage in self-soothing activities the more we decrease our stress-response. In turn, working with an optimal level of stress (yes, stress can be good) will allow us to be productive rather than feel overwhelmed, anxious, or irritable.
Sometimes we get so caught up in deadlines and expectations that we run on autopilot; not realizing how we spend our days. Make a list from sun-up to sun-down of all the different activities you fill your day with ranging from showering, preparing food, answering emails, studying, etc. Next to those items, identify which are nourishing and which are depleting; some may fall into both categories. If you have more depleting activities than nourishing activities this is instant feedback that you aren’t spending enough time on yourself. You don’t need to carve out a huge time-commitment, perhaps it’s 15 minutes here and there for an activity that soothes and serves you.
Another great tool is utilizing affirmations. Find quotes, mantras, lyrics, and keep them in a note or affirmation app on your phone. Identify words of wisdom that you can easily access when you need a little pep talk to remind you of the hardworking, goal-driven, and incredible person you are.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the benefit of talking to someone. Do not be embarrassed to ask for help. You are not a burden and your feelings are valid. If your car needed a tune-up, you would likely bring it to a mechanic. Why do we treat our mental wellness differently? Sure, there are some things we can navigate on our own but there are many professionals who are well-versed in many of the struggles you might be experiencing. Do not feel ashamed or stigmatized and remind yourself it is okay to not be okay.