11 Tips for Fall Semester Self-Care

by The Ebony Tower Contributors

Somehow it’s the end of August again, and soon we’ll be back to the daily grind of classes, meetings, too little sleep, and too much caffeine. If you happen to be like me, a close companion of anxiety and the back-to-school excitement/jitters, the transition back to campus may bring you a little joy and pain, sunshine and rain. Here we go, here we go…

Now that you have Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock stuck in your head (you’re welcome), The Ebony Tower wants to offer you some tips to maintain your sanity this Fall and to commit to your most important assignment of all: Self-Care.  

Hold up! Before we get to the list, maybe you’re wondering: What exactly is self-care? Who has time for that? Can I engage in self-care while also writing this dissertation? Does self-care make me selfish?

Self-care is the process by which you engage (OR NOT) in activities/acts that bring you peace, joy, rest and relaxation, energy, love, etc. All the warm, tingly feelings that your mind, body, and soul require so that you’re actually equipped to achieve the goals and tasks you set for yourself.

Self-care is often discussed by educators and therapists (like me!) as a remedy to the dreaded burnout. Burnout is physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion often associated with the high-stress and demanding aspects of work and life. While first responders, teachers, and health workers are usually at higher risks of burnout given their job demands, anyone can experience burnout. As graduate students, researchers, and early career scholars, we are obviously #blessed to be pursuing our passions, but this does not mean our lives are all rainbows and puppies. School is great. Academia is grand. But the struggle (competition, self-defeat, imposter syndrome, far from family/friends, limited cash-flow, internal/external pressure, deadlines, loneliness, etc) is real.

Who has time for self-care? You do.

Can I engage in self-care while also writing this dissertation, paper, syllabus, etc? Yup.

Does self-care make me selfish? Hell no.

11 Tips for Fall Semester Self-Care

  1. Get enough Sleep. 7-8 hours of sleep is typically recommended for adults. This doesn’t mean two, 4-hour naps either.
  2. Eat regularly and as healthy as you can. The go go go of grad life can definitely throw off your eating schedule. But it’s hard to be productive when you’re running on empty. Try to purposefully plan out your meals for the day and pack things (carrots, apples, water, etc.) that you can transport easily. Your school’s cafe may be convenient, but fries everyday will catch up with you when you’re falling asleep at your desk.
  3. Plan out your day. Okay so bear with me. Planning your day probably doesn’t seem like a de-stressor, but a few minutes spent each morning or the night before mapping out your day can help you stay organized and on task. A daily plan, that’s written down on your phone, calendar, or journal, can help you stay on track, get you to meetings on time, and prevent that overwhelmed, frazzled feeling, or like you’re forgetting something. A few of us at The Ebony Tower started Bullet Journals and they’re everything. Planning your day can make big things seem more manageable, and can put your grand goals and tasks into perspective. Can you really write that methods section this afternoon? Do you need to? If so, can you move that phone chat to Thursday? Plans also allow you to…
  4. Schedule Breaks.  Break to read something for pleasure, veg out in front of the tv/computer, play a little Sudoku on your phone, chat with a friend, send goofy/love texts to your partner, or even nap (see #8).
  5. Exercise. How is sweating self-care? It just is and you know it. Taking care of your body is just as important as taking care of your brain. If you ever feel guilty about breaking to do “nothing” (but you totally shouldn’t!) the treadmill/elliptical, or joining a sports league,  can help you do nothing while also doing something. Everyone says yoga. If you like yoga, hit the mat. If not, find the yoga-like thing that works for you. Hiking, swimming, biking, cartwheels in the grass…
  6. Get Social.  Spend time with others. Go to lunch, make dinner at home with friends, go to the movies or a museum (what up student discount?), say yes to that date, go out or stay in with your partner, take a Zumba class! Or if you don’t get your energy from lots of people at once…
  7. Get Snuggly. Take a bath, read something non-school or only slightly school related, watch all those YouTube tutorials you saved but never watched, video chat your best friend, drink some tea, eat your favorite meal, finally listen to Blond(e) or that audiobook/podcast everyone else has heard but you.
  8. Take a nap. No seriously. Take a nap. Schedule it if you have to. 4 hours isn’t a nap by the way. It’s half-sleeping. Naps are short, bittersweet periods of rest between the other things you have to do. And they can be great in moderation.
  9. Get a hobby. Do that hobby. Spend some time doing things that you enjoy besides school. Thanks to sites like Groupon, for pretty cheap you can take a photography or cooking class. Why not join an improv group? Or go back to dancing or martial arts, sing your heart out, pick up an instrument, start blogging ;), take up running and/or running for charity, get crafting, or discover a hobby!
  10. Start and keep a journal. Journals are good spaces to get your rant on, to trace your goals and dreams, track your moods, or just express yourself. Sometimes getting it down on paper or on your laptop can be soothing.
  11. Get you a team who can do both. Your team is the group of people (or 1 other person for us introverted types) who will hear you out and hold you down when your stress levels are peaking, AND celebrate with you when you pass that exam, rock that dissertation defense, hold up that degree, and land that job. Teammates can and should include friends, family members, colleagues, advisors and mentors, partners, therapists and spiritual advisers, and most importantly, you. Self-care may feel selfish at first, but at the end of the day your biggest cheerleader might just be the relaxed, self-cared for boss staring back at you in the mirror. 

For more information on self-care, click here, and here, and here. And when self-care just isn’t enough, contact your local support services for resources and recommendations for qualified counseling professionals.  Everyone can use a healing, helping hand sometimes. 


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