Countdown to 2018: Self-Care Practices for Graduate School in the New Year

The end of each fall semester is bittersweet. Grading is done, courses are complete, and, more often than not, we are burnt out. The new year is just around the corner and resolution ideas are already brewing as we check the pulse of our progress for the year. Self-help writers and experts publish pieces every year about why writing new year resolutions are necessary or planned failures . Wherever you stand on resolutions, the semester-end is usually a clear reminder (or demand) to get back into the regular practice of self-care, self-love, and healing after 16+ weeks of the emotional, physical, and spiritual tax of academic life. As I write this blog, I think about the 50-11-hunnid think pieces about self-care and my desire to avoid re-hashing the already well-formed critiques and clearly-defined affordances of engaging in self-care practices. Take for example an NPR piece about how millennial obsess over self-care and the capitalistic exploitation of this obsession in the form of “self-care kits”, over-priced deluxe pedicures (which I indulge in sometimes), and other pricey practices. We get it. Self-care is important to us and sometimes it comes with a cost. Still, I want to offer three small self-care practices that I’ve recently heard on podcasts as we transition into the new year:

  • Give yourself the gift of done daily! A few weeks back I was listening to an Art of Charm podcast episode with guest John Acuff who wrote Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. Acuff mentioned that most people believe the hardest part of any task is getting started when in actuality we are quite successful with starting projects, but struggle to finish them. As I reflected on my own starting and finishing rates, I realized that it is certainly within reach to finish something daily…IF I make the tasks smaller. Instead of attempting to finish reading a 300-page book in one day, finish one or two chapters. Instead of aiming to write 60 pages in a day or two, focus on a solid 2-3. Write a list of things that were finished for the week before deciding to start something new. And bask in the good feeling that comes with finishing something daily.

  • Get a pedicure, go see The Last Jedi, or do some other non-academic, guilt-free, leisure activity alone. No pressure. No social expectations. Just pure leisure. Lately, I’ve been incorporating pure leisure into my weekly routine as respite from academic spaces. Even in the 11th hour, or 12th month in this case, building in regular leisure can be helpful. For manis/pedis in Bloomington, I enjoy appointments with Maisunami Nails and Spa – they have levels (express, spa, deluxe), which allows flexibility when funds are high or low. AMC offers student discounts for movies off-campus. Check the Hooked app for food deals and treat yourself to lunch on 4th street.


  • Send handwritten thank you cards to those supporting you on this journey. Practicing gratitude simply feels good. Not only does saying thank you give your supporters their figurative flowers while you still can, but each card is a tangible reminder that people are in your corner and want to see you succeed. It doesn’t take away from the fact that graduate school is challenging and, at times, un-fun, but writing thank you notes can help to re-focus on the circle of support that helps us thrive. If you want to do something more creative than cards, try something meaningful or personalized, such as adding a “thank you tag” to a favorite snack or small token of appreciation (more ideas).

If you haven’t done well with self-care in 2017, go ahead and commit to doing better in 2018 with small practices. Let it snowball into bigger and better self-care and healing in 2018. Congrats on another year of persistence and success in your academic, professional, and personal life!