By: Sydney Boston
Self-care and graduate school may seem antithetical. Can being a grad student and taking care of your well-being coexist? How can/does one handle the responsibilities of personal, professional, and academic life all at once? As a student in the Mental Health Counseling Ed.M. program at TC, I am passionate about incorporating self-care rules and practices into my peers’ and my own daily routine.
PSA: From one person trying to figure it out to another, I’m no expert. However, here are some tips from my experiences thus far (one semester down!) intermixed with wisdom from colleagues and professors.
- Boundaries. Creating healthy boundaries might be the trickiest notion of them all, especially in our technology-filled reality. In a world in which we can theoretically respond to people at all hours of the day, it’s surprisingly difficult to turn off, metaphorically and literally, by a set time. However, clearly defining when you’re working, socializing, and studying can help you invest in each with more presence and commitment.
- Hobbies. What activities do you pursue just because you like doing them? What gives you no “reward” but makes you smile or helps your shoulders relax? Center the tasks whose existence serves to make the moments brighter, lighter, and more alive. While this may seem daunting when you’re already juggling a hundred items on your to-do list, your joy is worthy of your time and energy.
- Community. People need people. Our support networks are foundational to surf the inevitable highs and lows of graduate school (and life, generally). Find communities to be involved in. TC clubs, your academic program, or Columbia’s organizations are all great opportunities to make friends.
- Prioritize. “Doing it all” means different things to different people. We’re all human and can only handle so much. Prioritize what needs to be done now. Take baby steps towards your aims, and recognize that if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a step back. Perhaps doing research, being a full-time student, and having a part-time job all at once is not feasible. Many things are outside of our control. Navigating what autonomy we have to make changes that align with our specific needs is critical.
While many of you may just be starting the process of applying to graduate programs here at TC, implementing positive, meaningful habits before diving into your new phase of life is just as important as finalizing your application materials. You are not the sum of our productivity. Please be gentle with yourself and remember that your best is good enough, always.