During this past holiday season, I came across an article discussing the psychological or mental health issues that comes along with getting a PhD, especially those going into such a program with these issues; working towards the degree is already stressful enough, going without getting help for things like anxiety, panic, PTSD, depression, etc. can be detrimental to your studies, but your life as well. As someone who can relate to this article in so many ways, I thought that I would share some of my self-care rituals that has helped me get to where I am in my program (currently working on my dissertation research proposal to present to my department next month) and in life.
First and foremost, allow yourself to feel the feelings you are feeling. I wrote a post about this awhile back. A few years ago, between my first Master’s degree program and my second one, I experienced anxiety and panic attacks daily. They scared the hell out of me every time. At the time, I was afraid of what I was feeling, why my mind conjured the thoughts I had (none of them suicidal thank goodness), frightened by the physical manifestations of my anxious mind, isolated by panic, and worried that these thoughts and feelings would never end or getting to a place where I could manage them would ever come. I would try to trick myself into feeling better instead of being present in the moment and allowing it to happen. Consequently, that just made things worse. During this period in my life, I also had days where I felt good mentally and physically, and I was afraid of those feelings, like I was pretending to be happy or feel good. I am in a better place mentally, but I cannot say if I will have another panic attack. I try not to concern myself with that, but I will say that if one does come on, I can allow myself to feel anxious or panicky, and then figure out what’s bringing these thoughts and feelings on. However, you are feeling, know that it is okay. Let those feelings happen. Be present in that moment.
Who says recess is only for kids? Be active. Go outside. I bought a bike a couple of months ago. I cannot believe it has been 15 years since I have been on one. I’m glad that I didn’t bust my ass or else another 15 years would have passed before I got on another one! For real though, it is nice being back on a bike. In addition to that, I run in the park across the street from my house, and go for walks. Besides the obvious physical benefits, going outside, breathing in fresh air, and partaking in physical activities works wonders on the mind.
Have a marathon of shows to catch up on or a season of a show. Sometimes, I purposefully put off watching the shows I enjoy until weekend. I do all the work I need to do during the week so that my weekend is my own. While it is important to remain focused and get through this program, I still need balance. I still need to live my life and enjoy it. I go out with friends. However, I am a homebody. I consider staying home, juicing, and watching television fun. Take this weekend for example, I will have three episodes of Scandal to watch; the history department has scheduled some great talks by historians on Thursday nights this semester, including tomorrow night! So, Saturday is grocery store day (juice, foods, and snacks), and Scandal.
Talk to a therapist. One of the best decisions I have ever made.
Write down your thoughts, good, bad, and ugly, just write them down. This blog is a great outlet. I also keep a worry journal suggested to me by my therapist. Rather than worry about stuff or stress over them all day, when they pop up in my mind, I know that I will have a designated time later to think them through and write them down in my journal. This helps tremendously.
These are just some things I do to take care of myself and listen to my mind and body.