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This comes from another topic in which @CulturalCriminal said:

2. Start working out a little bit on a regular basis, if you don’t already (everyone talks about the freshman 15, no one talks about the grad school 30 and the wheezing after going up three flights of stairs)

This is so true! It's so hard to practice self care in graduate school. After spending a long time on campus, it's hard to want to cook, work out, or do anything but drink a glass (or 2) of wine and eat McDonalds. So, questions for you all:

If you're already in grad school, how do you practice self care? If you aren't, how do you plan to practice self care? How will you keep yourself motivated? 

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I'm totally failing on the side of self care, so I'll be waiting for other people's responses. I just... shudder at the idea of moving my body more than is absolutely necessary... 

 

Where I live, the cold and hot seasons are pretty drastic. So wherever I get to go in the states, I hope the weather is more consistent, so that I can start biking or jogging on a regular basis. I think I'll just have to bite the bullet and try to get some exercise. I think, at some point, exercise could become a priority in grad school life, so that I can finish my studies... 

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When I did masters, where I was living made a huge difference. There was a gym in the building and a huge park outside so I had sunlight and could walk through it to get to the library. I also stopped working at night to avoid burn out. That really helped. I got into a routine with friends of meeting for coffee or lunch around noon everyday. That was the most important thing for me I think.

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aside from bath bombs and HelloFresh (they have a 15% student discount), selfcare rarely happens for me. I’m on a pretty good leg of working out regularly right now (been running at least three times a week for the last two months), but I’ve had a lot of false starts like that where I thought I was getting in a groove and next thing I know it’s been weeks later and the most activity I’ve gotten was walking around the English building.

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Yes yes yes, to all of this. Recently, I've been trying to make myself go to the gym, but my irregular schedule really gets in the way, and when I get busy it's always the first thing to go (when it shouldn't, it's really important). I'm also so bad about "treat yo selfs," like this week because of the acceptance I got EVERYTHING has been "treat yo self." I keep telling myself after the super bowl tonight I'll go on a real kick of getting active and eating better. 

I got an Apple Watch, and it's pretty good about motivating me to do something (nothing like a piece of technology you're a lazy POS), but since my thesis has picked up, I'm pretty much boxing everything out.... which isn't great.

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During my MA, I found that working out sometime between my last class and before dinner was the easiest to stick to schedule-wise. If I couldn't dedicate the time to get to the gym, I would take at least one twenty minute walk around campus. I also got one of those giant water bottles and drew my "hydration goals" on the outside, lol.

Being outside/looking at dogs/other people/appreciating the wind helped me decompress mentally, too. If it was raining, I'd walk around other buildings that weren't English - check out their flyers/posters and sitting spaces - probably kind of weird in retrospect but it was fun seeing what the anthropologists were doing.

I was also part of a graduate student living community and I made sure to make those monthly meetings/hang-outs, even if it was for 30 minutes. Our English dept had a grad student group too and I went to the meetings/social stuff - free food, yay!

And I explored the university's student health/psych offerings and learned that - in addition to traditional counseling/psych one-on-one meetings - there was a group run by grad students (from all departments) that functioned as a space in which to talk about writing/advisors/all the stressful things that can build up over time. I went with a friend while we were writing our theses and it was awesome - getting some outside perspectives on my challenges was helpful. 

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My best friend in undergrad was a huge fitness nut, and he more or less yelled at me if I didn't accompany him to the gym at least a few times a week. We also had to fulfill a gym component to graduate, so that helped (it was actually pretty fun to get "college credit" for playing badminton and weight lifting).

Perhaps befriend a gym rat? 

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My undergrad institution was reallyyy small and we didn't have any sort of groups for bible study or anything of the like at all, so I'm hoping that will be different in grad school, or that I get sucked into a good local church with an active young adult group. If there's a graduate student association with meetups and whatnot, I would definitely be down for joining that as well. 

Already, I practice pretty good self care in terms of staying exercise and cooking for myself, so I think the #1 thing when I move away from everyone I know will be to not become lonely and make some friends. 

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Part of this can be choosing the right program for you. Do grad students seem to live out of their offices or does the program encourage getting work done on your schedule and then doing what you want? The second is usually less stressful than the first. A program that doesn't care if you're in the office all day, as long as your work gets done, is one that allows for activities like exercise and game nights. If I go to one program, I've learned at least one grad student teaches a spin class on campus and two in my potential cohort want to teach other exercise classes. I could take these classes as a way to be social with my fellow students, decompress from all the work, and stay fit. It's also important to me to have a walkable campus so, even if I don't get to the gym, I can get in all my steps for the day.

As for cooking, well...I'm definitely more concerned about that. Hoping crockpot meals and meal prep will help me there.

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My partner (who is a hopeful English/Lit. PhD applicant and why I've been lurking on this forum haha) and I have been pursuing our masters at the same time and it definitely takes a while to figure out how to make grad school and a healthy life work together. When we first started we definitely didn't manage our time super well and got fast food/take out entirely too often, which led to me gaining a decent bit of weight which I unfortunately have yet to lose. This past school year we've really been doing a lot better but we haven't been perfect.

Food wise we have found that if we have certain days of the week where we have a bit extra time and we use that to cook relatively healthy but filling recipes that will allow us to have enough leftovers to get at least 2 meals out of it if not more (so kind of meal prepping in a sense). However, for us to make this system work we have had to be proactive enough to go to the grocery regularly and make a point to not put off cooking if we don't feel like it. Sometimes we still put off cooking but we really have been better to say "okay we have this food at home we need to cook" and if we can cook it we can eat off of it (for lunch or dinner) for several days depending on how many servings we make. But for us to succeed in doing this we need to be proactive enough to have the food at home so we can just go home and cook it since we definitely don't have enough time most days to go to the grocery and then prep. Also you have to make recipes you know you wouldn't mind eating the leftovers of. On the days we know we have the time to cook these relatively large meals if it is during the week we try to make a point to get home earlier so we can start cooking before 6 p.m. If we get home any later we just know we won't have the energy and willpower to cook. We have to do this on days where we can leave school earlier though, but this means that we should have food to just reheat when we have to get home late other nights of the week. We haven't followed our plan perfectly but since August we have eaten out so much less than we had previously (and as a result saved so much money!).

As for exercise we haven't been quite as successful haha! But we do know things that do and don't work for us on that front. We have to hold each other accountable for working out because if not neither of us will want to exercise so I definitely think @FreakyFoucault's advice of finding a workout buddy is a great one. Even before grad school if I had someone to help hold me accountable I was so much more likely to work out - but for me it definitely needed to be someone I was super close with and wanted to spend time with exercising. My partner and I also have figured out we are much less likely to work out at the end of the school day than at the beginning. It took us a while to figure this out because I am not a morning person! I eventually got to the point where I was just DONE with being out of shape and sucked it up and started getting up at 5:30 a.m. (ughhhh...)This allowed us to fit in eating a small snack, warming up, going for a run, stretching afterwards/doing core exercises, and getting showered before needing to be into school by 9 - 9:30 a.m.. In this process I had to figure out that I had so much more energy for my run if I had a small snack (like a granola bar) that I let settle in my stomach a bit before getting out for the run. Previously when I had tried to be a morning runner I found that I was just so fatigued when I hadn't yet eaten that it was absolutely grueling to run in the morning. But now I find that having just that little bit of carbs to get me going after a night of no food helps so much! Another thing I found that helped was that while I ate my snack and let it settle we usually watched a 20 minute episode of something on TV and that gave me some motivation to get up so early. I enjoy TV quite a bit so getting to watch an episode when I wake up super early and have to run gave me motivation to get out of bed.

We have had much more trouble sticking to our exercise routine because I had something I had to do on one of our weekdays we usually came into school at 9-9:30 which led to us trying to fit in the run we did on those days at the end of the school day, and so by that change in our routine we started sticking to our exercise routine less and less. We haven't even worked out once yet this year... But we are now back on a schedule where we should be able to return to our routine so we hope to start back up this week (we both just have to find the motivation!). When we were able to keep our routine I mention above we had been doing it for almost 2 months. When we were sticking to this routine I actually started to quite enjoy getting up super early and getting something productive and good for me done early in the day. It really made me super productive the rest of the day! I want to get back to that feeling of productivity and accomplishment so here's to getting started this week!

So I guess in terms of self care around food and exercise what's worked for me and my partner during out masters is making a routine and sticking to it. Also the big thing with us is being proactive enough to go to the grocery regularly - it does take time to plan meals and then go to the grocery so we really have to make it part of our week to get these things done. Also changing little things here and there have helped us - we didn't implement all these changes at once but rather over a 6 month time period or so. Figuring how to balance a healthy life and grad school isn't easy but I'm sure it can be done because we are definitely in a better place of self-care than we once were.

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Obviously exercise is important for maintaining your physical well-being,  but I see it as my easiest/most convenient form of mental health care too! It's a really good way to relieve stress and maintain focus. 

My New Year's resolution this year was to adopt a regular practice of mindful meditation. I haven't kept up with it as much as I'd hoped too, but it's another really good tool for mind-body wellness! My workplace does a guided mindful mediation session every week and I'm hoping I can find something like that at the school/city in which I end up.

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35 minutes ago, GreenEyedTrombonist said:

Part of this can be choosing the right program for you. Do grad students seem to live out of their offices or does the program encourage getting work done on your schedule and then doing what you want? The second is usually less stressful than the first. A program that doesn't care if you're in the office all day, as long as your work gets done, is one that allows for activities like exercise and game nights. If I go to one program, I've learned at least one grad student teaches a spin class on campus and two in my potential cohort want to teach other exercise classes. I could take these classes as a way to be social with my fellow students, decompress from all the work, and stay fit. It's also important to me to have a walkable campus so, even if I don't get to the gym, I can get in all my steps for the day.

This is really important! When you're visiting programs, try to get a sense for how life is beyond academics. Yes, you're choosing a program based on how it fits academically, but in choosing a PhD program, you're also choosing a place to live for 5+ years. Try to find out what sorts of lives the graduate students live, academically and beyond and think about how that fits with the sort of lifestyle you want. (Keeping in mind that a healthy lifestyle may very well go out the window during the last couple weeks of the semester, no matter how diligent you are and that's ok.)

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I spent my first semester eating whatev’s and not moving other that the 7000 steps to go back and forth shool (7000 isn’t bad but not enough to stay in shape if you eat too much like I do). I’ve been starting to get back on track (rip, fit days) by monitoring how many calories I eat and by going to yoga classes. I wanted to resume kickboxing but it made me dizzy at times (the coaches were pretty intense, and I’m not obese and not totally out of shape—I can’t imagine what they do to other less able people) (not implying obese = unable).

I think the priority is not to add stress and tough goals (for people like me, at least) to an already worried mind. Otherwise it just creates more anxiety and feeling of failure. Like I can’t get up at 6 for a yoga class at 6:30, and I’m not going to beat myself up over it anymore. I also find that end of semesters are impossible for me to gather my strength and take the time to twist my limbs around Vinyasa-style. So I think my balance (no pun, and for now) is a yoga class at 9:30 or 10, when I’m awake and done with my (long) morning routine. And I’m taking advantage of the first half of the semester when everything feels more manageable and bigger assignments feel far away. Does that make sense? It’s just an example and I have a hard time sticking to commitments, but those are a few conclusions I made from last semester. But I’m doing a master’s, not a PHD

 

Edited by Yanaka

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The time during and after my MA taught me what self-care looks like for me.

  • Fresh air
    The gym just doesn't do much for me. It's the chore of all chores, and I only feel mildly better after some time on treadmill. Instead, I just want to be outside. I love walking my dogs. I try to walk most places and avoid my car if at all possible. I also love hiking. I really like slow, calming exercise, and so far it's been enough to keep me healthy and at a weight I'm happy with. I'm sure as I age that will change, but one problem at a time.
  • Social time
    I am a very social, extroverted person, and I didn't let myself be social enough during my MA. It can be very difficult to find people who share my interests and are as social as me. After graduating, I took the time to make new friends and find favorite places to hang out. I wasn't purposely limiting myself to friends within my program during my MA, but I never made the extra effort to make a lot of other friends either. This time around, I'll make sure allow myself a healthy amount of social time with people inside and outside of the university.
  • Sleep
    As most have been told a million times by well-intentioned parental figures, you need sleep. It didn't really sink in how much I needed sleep until I started comparing my work from when I was spreading myself too thin and when I wasn't. Sleeping enough is 1/2 self-care and 1/2 a good work practice. I learned that sleep deprivation is not my super power and I have to work sleep into my schedule. 
  • Diet
    First, I'll say that I'm a vegetarian. That excludes midnight burger trips from my diet, BUT it doesn't exclude midnight hushpuppies, fries, potato chips, cheese quesadillas, milkshakes, and anything else I can get my hands on. Restricting what time of the day I eat helps me feel better. It's also easier to practice intermittent fasting if a few extra pounds have snuck up on me. Of course I'll "cheat" if I'm having a fun night out, but as a routine, I feel better when I only eat between certain hours. Not eating meat helps a lot too, but that's a different discussion.
  • Cleanliness
    I hate horoscope crap, but I have this one memory from when I was a kid of an old woman saying "Oh you're a virgo, you must be very neat." I told her I wasn't. She said, "Oh you're close to being a libra, that's why." Ah those mental gymnastics. Still, I think it's funny because throughout my life I've switched from being inherently messy to inherently tidy. When I fall off the self-care wagon, I let everything get messy, and that only makes me feel worse. That being said, I know some people thrive in what I would call messy, so keep it wherever you function best.
  • The little things
    Okay, last one. "Treat yo self" doesn't have to be expensive. Little luxuries matter. Once we're on that saran-wrap-thin grad school budget, treat yo self can be difficult. I have this irrational practice of not using something for fear of never being able to afford replacing it. I've had to train myself to know that it IS okay to burn that candle I was given. It IS okay to use that pretty stationary I bought. A little money can go a long way. I had cashback that I could redeem on amazon and bought a diffuser and a sampler of essential oils. When I burn a scent-free candle and put the diffuser on, daily luxury.

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A lot has been said so far about fitness and eating, and that's obviously super important! A thing I do that I find helpful in that vein is subscribe to an ugly/surplus produce service that drops off a cheap-but-massive box of fruits and vegetables at my apartment every two weeks, which means that even if I don't manage to go to the store or do a stellar job meal planning I have stuff to eat in the house that isn't crap.

Let me also, though, stress a different aspect of self-care: the importance of having other things in your life besides graduate school. Passion is great, and of course you need to be passionate about what you study to survive the rigors and stresses of a PhD program. But the single best thing you can do for your mental and physical health in graduate school is to have things about which you care deeply, things that feed you intellectually and personally and spiritually and, yes, professionally, that aren't your graduate studies. Remember: the vast majority of those on this board admitted to graduate school will not get academic jobs. I'm not using that fact to argue that people shouldn't pursue graduate study in English, but that fact does make it especially important not to wrap your whole life, your whole identity and sense of self, up with your PhD, the acquiring of which will likely be your last experience in academia. When I hear people -- this is usually applicants who are not yet in PhD programs -- say that they can't imagine doing anything else with their lives other than the academic study of literature, I cringe. No one part of anyone's life should be that all-consuming, of course, but it's especially true for something that is as capable as a PhD is of expanding to fill all your available time, of exhausting all your available energy, and of wrapping itself up with your sense of self-worth, accomplishment, and personal identity.

Have a hobby you're passionate about. Have friends who aren't academics. Write things that aren't papers. Read books for pleasure. Take joy in teaching. Play an instrument, work out, cook, garden, ride a bike. Have things that ground you and make you a whole person besides what you do on campus. Have other things in your life you care about, other ways you can measure what it will have meant for these years of your life to have been "successful," that aren't tied to graduate school and academic success themselves.

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I felt that this semester. I was only surrounding myself with people from my program, and when those relationships fell through during the holidays I felt alone. The first time I felt that lonely since I moved to the US last summer! I have roommates, but we don’t share that bond. It’s getting better again, but like everything, if you rely on one thing and that thing fails even just a little, you risk being miserable! 

Edited by Yanaka

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I am not (yet) in grad school but think about self-care a lot. I have an autoimmune disease and trying to maintain mental / physical wellbeing (especially when stressed) can be challenging! Here's what I've found so far:

1. Walking is the BEST. Not to sound like an old person, but walking-as-lowkey-exercise does wonders for mental health. I prefer running, but when that's not going to happen, finding an hour or two to stroll with a podcast / good album on is honestly restorative. 

2. Find a hobby. Last year after I was rejected from all the programs, I became extremely distraught / bored / depressed. I've spent the past four years taking on as many academic projects, and that's cool, but it's also not great. I've spent my gap year finding things I like and am not trying to make a side business out of it. 

3. "Treating yourself" can be free! I'm really stringent about spending money, so I often reward my work with time. Like "oh, I've written this outline, now I'm going to take an hour to walk around downtown and listen to this podcast I've been looking forward to" or "now that I've done xyz, I'm going to take the rest of the night to watch a move with my boyfriend and not work on Google Docs in bed" etc. Force yourselves to take breaks.

3a / 4. ^^ that being said, I love skincare. Not sure if anyone else here masks for stress relief or hoards serums (if so, can we talk about how good and cheap Deciem is???), but if you feel instantly better when your skin feels soft as heck yet are daunted by paying more than a dollar for a sheet mask, I'd recommend this exact set on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/value-Dermal-Collagen-Essence-Facial/dp/B0722LVW3B/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1517777023&sr=8-4&keywords=sheet+masks

(Just because I might be failing to get more than 6 hours of sleep doesn't mean I have to look so tired, you know?)

Edited by la_mod
I remembered my love of skincare

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@la_mod thanks for that link! One of the things I've found after returning from my visit weekend is that my skin really dislikes the cold. I'm looking for extra ways to get moisture in my skin without causing an allergic reaction (stupid sensitive skin) because no matter where I go it'll be colder than what I'm used to for winter. It's been two days and my skin is still hungry for moisture and flaking from dryness. :/ 

 

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18 minutes ago, GreenEyedTrombonist said:

@la_mod thanks for that link! One of the things I've found after returning from my visit weekend is that my skin really dislikes the cold. I'm looking for extra ways to get moisture in my skin without causing an allergic reaction (stupid sensitive skin) because no matter where I go it'll be colder than what I'm used to for winter. It's been two days and my skin is still hungry for moisture and flaking from dryness. :/ 

 

Face Routine:
Twice daily: Wash with Cerave for oily skin, chem exfoliate with Stridex extra strength, and moisturize with Cerave moisturizing creme.
Once weekly/biweekly: Queen Helen Mint Julep Masque.

The Cerave moisturizing creme is a little too heavy and a little TOO moisturizing for my skin. I haven't found a great less moisturizing alternative so I still use it, but it might be perfect for you. It's great for people with sensitive skin, even eczema.

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5 minutes ago, Wabbajack said:

Face Routine:
Twice daily: Wash with Cerave for oily skin, chem exfoliate with Stridex extra strength, and moisturize with Cerave moisturizing creme.
Once weekly/biweekly: Queen Helen Mint Julep Masque.

The Cerave moisturizing creme is a little too heavy and a little TOO moisturizing for my skin. I haven't found a great less moisturizing alternative so I still use it, but it might be perfect for you. It's great for people with sensitive skin, even eczema.

I really, really need to start with a skin care routine. I'm wanting to make an appointment with a dermatologist soon... ugh

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6 minutes ago, Wabbajack said:

Face Routine:

 

Yes! Living for this. I have been equally addicted to GradCafe and the skincareaddiction subreddit this winter.

When I started my MA program, my first meeting with my future thesis chair was a several-mile hike at what felt like Mach 2 speeds. On that hike, they gave me an excellent piece of self-care advice that has been very helpful to me ever since: No matter what else is going on or how busy you are, you should reserve 1 full day each week that is about taking care of your human needs. Don't read, don't research, don't write, don't grade, don't do email, and don't hold any meetings or study groups for just 1 day each week. Use that time to sleep, to play music, to play games, to go hiking or running or swimming or whatever-ing. Take a day for yourself to recharge, to reflect, and to have fun. Do whatever activities or non-activities allow you to recharge and reconnect with your more-than-just-a-student self. 

It can be really difficult to stick to this, and you'll feel enormously guilty about taking time off from your studies, but it makes a huge difference in the long run in terms of avoiding burnout. In moments of weakness, I tell myself "it all gets done" and indeed, it does. 

 

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Love all of the skincare stuff! I’m always looking for new routines and products 😊

About exercise, I joined a coed soccer team and we play once a week and it has worked WONDERS for me. It’s pretty rigorous exercise and definitely got me running again, which I hadn’t done for probably 8 years or so. I’m hoping to find an indoor league wherever I end up for my PhD. 

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14 minutes ago, mk-8 said:

I really, really need to start with a skin care routine. I'm wanting to make an appointment with a dermatologist soon... ugh

I LOVE talking skincare and considered taking an esthetician program at my local CC. Best advice re: skincare is just to start with anything and work from there. Oh, and to wear sunscreen everyday! I don't want to proclaim myself an expert, but if you want to chat about it, feel free to PM me :)

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4 minutes ago, clinamen said:

Love all of the skincare stuff! I’m always looking for new routines and products 😊

About exercise, I joined a coed soccer team and we play once a week and it has worked WONDERS for me. It’s pretty rigorous exercise and definitely got me running again, which I hadn’t done for probably 8 years or so. I’m hoping to find an indoor league wherever I end up for my PhD. 

The soccer thing sounds like a lot of fun!! I like those sports that make you run miles without you noticing haha

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