Graduate school it is really stressful. There are massive papers due, tests on a ton of material, and real life continues right along side it. I want to share all the things I did this semester to take care of myself. These things may not work for you or may be the opposite of what you think self care is, but maybe they will inspire you to add some positive habits into your life. Before I get started, I want to explain that these were not all added in one day. Over many years I have added new habits into my life one at a time. I suggest taking a slow and steady approach to adding a new habit.
I learned that if I don’t plan my self care, it probably won’t happen. So just like meetings and classes and homework, I put self care on my calendar. I use my iPhone calendar, and I make sure to set two reminders for myself- one the day before and one an hour before so I remember and I’m on time.
This semester I upped my massages. Last semester I got one a month, this semester I went about twice a month. A friend suggested I try the National Holistic Institute in Studio City. Because its a massage school, it’s only 20 dollars and they do really good massages.
I also added acupuncture once or twice a month. My classmate Brooke suggested that I try it out. They offer it on the CSUN campus for 20 dollars a session. The acupuncturist is a cool lady and she knows what she is doing. After she puts the needles in (which don’t hurt at all- trust me I’m so so afraid of needles) I get to lay there for 45 minutes listening to meditative music. It is so relaxing and I feel like I am floating afterward.
I did my nails. This semester I didn’t have a lot of time or money but I managed to file my nails and paint them about once a week. This little act of self care made me feel so much better. I also made sure to remove chipped nail polish after a couple of days. One day, my sister even painted all of my nails for me (hands and feet) and it was such a fun, bonding time for us that was relaxing and made me feel good.
I journaled. (apparently “journaled” isn’t a real word). Every day I wrote at least 750 words using 750words.com. I love this website because I can use metadata to track certain topics that I want grouped together. It gives me a rough estimate of how I am feeling and what I am mostly concerned about. Journaling in the morning is like a brain dump for me- I get out all my negativity, complaints and worries on the page before my critic wakes up. If I forget and do them in the evening it’s not as good for me- I have all those thoughts circling and peculating around my brain all day.
I meditated. My new year’s resolution was to meditate every day. I haven’t meditated every day because I’m human and humans aren’t perfect, but I haven’t let the skipped days stop me from continuing this positive habit. Meditation studies have shown that people who meditate are less stressed, more relaxed, have clearer thoughts and sleep better. I love meditating (even if its only for two minutes at the library) because it brings me from tension and fast thinking and shallow breathing to relaxation, slow thoughts and deep breathing. I feel like I can actually do life after I meditate.
I attend AA. I quit drinking four years ago because it was causing a lot of problems – if you want to know more about that, just ask- but part of my sponsor’s suggestions for me is that I attend AA four times a week. The meetings are only an hour to an hour and a half and I would go to 7 meetings a week if I could. I get so much out of sharing and listening to others- its free group therapy! I also get to connect with God in the meetings.
I go to church on Sunday. I go to Mosaic- its a non-denominational Christian church. It is where I get filled listening to a motivating message from the pastor. I also get to connect to my community of friends which feels so nice.
I exercise. I go to bootcamp on Wednesdays and Fridays and I either work out at the gym on Mondays or I go on a hike with my sister on Tuesdays. I stretch and I breathe and I sweat and it is hard work, but I always feel like a release of stress happens- sometimes I want to cry its so good.
I take a day off. Each week I take a “Sabbath” – a day of rest. I do no homework, I relax, I sleep in, I do whatever fills me up. Usually I do something creative and I spend time with friends and family.
I read non-school books – this semester it was: Love, by Buscalia, The Peaceful Warrior, and The Artist’s Way. My therapist happened to love the Artist’s Way too so we read it together and she assigned the homework at the end of the chapters to me. So awesome!
I juice. Juicing this semester has been pivotal in upping my immune system. I work at a rehab and people are ALWAYS getting sick there and combine that with meetings and school- germs are everywhere. I make sure to wash my hands thoroughly before I eat and I honestly think that the juicing helps protect me from getting sick. I love drinking green drinks. Yum.
I gave up eating sugar. This is my latest positive habit that I added into my life. I gave up sugar for lent and when Easter came I realized that I had started a new habit that was good for me and I questioned why I would give that up just because it was Easter. It was hard because I was very addicted to sugar. I don’t check labels- I’m not a crazy fanatic who won’t eat a plum because of the sugar or a protein bar because of a little sugar. I just am staying away from candy and eating sugar free Menchie’s frozen yogurt with fruit on top instead of sprinkles. I made it through my birthday, my husband’s birthday, Easter, and all 20 other birthdays at work. I have noticed that I feel more balanced and I have less cravings to eat my emotions away. I’m sitting with the emotions more.
I talk to people. I have a therapist, a mentor, and a sponsor. These three wise women have really listened to me a lot this year and I am so grateful for them. I just finished with my mentor last week but I plan on keeping in touch with her because she’s awesome. I am finishing up with my therapist next week- she has been such a self-care advocate. And my sponsor has been incredibly healing for me to spend time with. I have no secrets thanks to her. I feel like I can tell her all about the worst parts of me and she knows what to say to get me back on track. Additionally, I have my best friend Stevie who is such a shining example of what a friend looks like- she knows how to have a balanced time of sharing and listening, and she gives the best gifts and the best words of encouragement- so grateful for her friendship.
I had a small group at my house. I used a book called Life’s Healing Choices that brought 8 women through sort of an intro to the 12 steps. Each Tuesday we met and we were deeply vulnerable with each other and I really needed that. It was super healing and meaningful. I am so grateful to have journeyed with those women.
I had fun. I painted a lot this semester, my husband and I kept up our weekly dates, we watched movies, we played at the arcade, we took a little vacation to Catalina, we played games with friends. It was fun!
I got dressed to my shoes. This is something that I learned from Flylady.net. Honestly, when I was 18 I threw a party when my parents were out of town and I needed help cleaning up because I had never cleaned before (I know, I have grown so much since then lol) and I googled how do you clean and flylady popped up. Amazing website- definitely shows you how to break things down into little steps- 15 minutes at a time. I learned from her how to get dressed to my shoes. I feel better when I am fully dressed, make up on, hair brushed, and shoes on my feet. This has taken a lot of practice- I used to be a jeans, sweat shirt, and flip flops kind of gal. Speaking of cleaning.
We reduced our cleaning from every week to every other week. With self care, sometimes taking away some work can be a relief. My husband and I clean our little backhouse every other week together for about an hour. We straighten up, put things away, and each clean different rooms. Cleaning is therapeutic because it gets me out of my head and into the activity at hand. Scrubbing can be a stress reliever, washing the dishes can be meditative, and vacuming can be funny- especially when your dog is terrified of it!
I walked my dog. Taking walks is relaxing, a twenty minute walk can change my whole state of mind. We usually just walk around our big block. I love looking at the flowers, the birds and the butterflies. Also, I feel better knowing my dog is getting some exercise.
I eat three meals a day. I make sure that I have fuel in my stomach to work and play hard. This semester was all about the healthy frozen, vegetarian meals. Amy’s burritos, Kashi meals, etc. They make some really delicious frozen meals now- our favorite were the Indian varieties.
I drink a lot of water. If you know me then you rarely see me with out my Camelbak water bottle. I used to have a plastic one, but the acupuncturist said that the plastic was really bad for me. I ordered a glass one and it is a lot heavier to carry around, but I honestly feel much better inside my body after drinking out of the glass one. She said it doesn’t matter if its BPA free or not, it is still bad for you.
I tried not stressing. This semester I experimented with not stressing. I wanted to see if not stressing lead to lack of effort, lower grades, or procrastinating. Surprise, surprise, it didn’t, and I ended up feeling a lot better. The old me used to unnecessarily stress about school stuff- like having a test and a presentation on the same day. Instead of stressing, I practiced staying present. There is a saying in AA that says- be where your feet are. I tried to be with whoever I was with, in the moment, listening and being there with them. It is so nice to not be distressed over the past or worried about the future. I can’t change the past and the future is unknown. The present is where life is happening so I was able to live more this semester.
I don’t watch a lot of TV. Growing up I watched way too much TV. Now, I watch a little Hulu when my homework is done and I have some time before bed to relax and do nothing. My guilty pleasure shows are New Girl and Glee.
I do my morning ritual. Each morning I eat my cereal while reading my bible and filling my brain with positive, spiritual material. I read my daily reflections book from AA, and maybe some pages from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I then drink my coffee and do my morning pages. I usually say a prayer that goes something like, “God, I give you my life, I want to do your will, show me what your will is and please provide the strength to carry it out.”
I write ten new things that I’m grateful for every night. They can be simple, like the orange sharpie I use to write them or complex- the way my husband lets me be me. Writing down things I’m grateful for helps me to sleep better, feel more content, and wake up with positive things on my brain.
These are the things I did this year to have balance in my busy life. I’m curious to know what you do to take care of yourself, or what you have been thinking that you’d like to add into the mix of your life.
3 thoughts on “Self Care (When getting a master’s degree)”
Glad to hear you came in to National Holistic Institute for a massage! The rest of the list is amazing too 🙂 I know it’s easy to forget about self-care, so the first point is REALLY important. Thanks Amy!
-Matt from the NHI Studio City campus