Doing the Work to Restore: Sustaining Self-Care as a Graduate Student | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
MSW Student Jonathan Rieck
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Doing the Work to Restore: Sustaining Self-Care as a Graduate Student

​As I settle back into the routine (or a complete lack thereof, rather) of being a graduate student, there are times when I forsake the things that keep me rooted in the flurry of being human.

Throughout the weeks, I have found myself disconnecting from the things that I find sustaining and harboring, as I often do during high-pressure times. Learning how to balance coursework, work-work, life-work, and fieldwork again has been… well, a great deal of work, for lack of a better word. With all of these things occupying my mind (and more importantly, my time), it's easy to let some of the things that have carried me through before fall to the wayside, and I'm finding that it's important to center myself back into them.

I was reminded of something that I was told by Lorien Carter during New Student Orientation at the Brown School. During a conversation with a faculty panel, someone asked an astute question: how do we take care of ourselves in the midst of being a graduate student? And, to the astonishment of everyone (or, at the very least, me), she stated that we need to schedule in the time to reconnect to the things that help us sustain our passion and energy.

Yes, that's right. A professor told us that we needed to do more work in order to take care of ourselves and the rest of our responsibilities. At first, my entire perspective on taking care of myself was challenged. Shouldn't being kind to yourself be effortless? But, as I found in this stage of my life, being good to us requires just as much – if not more – commitment, intention, and effort.

Sustaining the act of taking care of ourselves is challenging, as social workers and public health professionals often have little to give once the day is through. However, it is crucial for us to understand the importance of this intentional effort. Eleanor Brownn aptly says "we cannot serve from an empty vessel;" we need to leave a spoonful at the bottom for us, too.

This reminder really set something off in me. Remembering the way that I felt when I was engaging in consistent self-care rituals and incorporating them into my life was a glimmer into the way that I could be feeling now, and I want to be there again. Even if it means that my time dedicated for myself is at different points of each day (a hard concept to grasp for a type A), I still must be intentional about my practice of being kind to myself. Hopefully, my struggle to remember this is someone's friendly nudge to check in with themselves and reconnect with their work for themselves.

For some tips on self-care, you can check out my previous post on self-care for the selfless!