Going into a graduate program, especially an online one, it is possible to focus just on homework and ignore time for yourself, friends, and family. It might feel necessary to spend all your time concentrating on your academic experience, but a grad student needs to take time for him/herself too.
Social workers often give self-care advice for their clients, when it’s just as important for a social worker to be mentally and physically balanced. Before you can take care of others, you need to focus on taking care of yourself. It is similar to the airplane video that they show before takeoff of putting on your own breathing mask in an emergency before putting it on someone else’s. You might have great intentions to save the world, but you need to make sure your own personal world is taken care of first.
On the first day of an undergrad class, the teacher stopped midway through the lesson. She said, “Ok. I am now going to let you out an hour early from class. I am giving you this one hour for ‘Me Time.’ You can do whatever you want but it has to be focused on yourself, not homework or anything else.” I was surprised that she gave us time to relax. She said it was homework and that part of the assignment was to post on the class discussion board what we did for that hour. Students posted on what they did and each one was unique and sometimes often simple. It was taking a walk at the park, listening to music, going to a mall, getting ice cream, or watching a TV show.
In my master’s experience, I take time to do self-care. It may not be an hour but it’s time that I can relax and have fun. It may be playing basketball early in the morning, watching cartoons (that I like) with my daughters, or watching movies with my wife. Relaxing can happen sporadically or it can be planned, but it needs to be done. You can set a personal goal for yourself for self-care. I remember in another undergrad class, the teacher wanted us to create goals that were daily, weekly, and monthly. This helped us plan what we wanted to do to relax and also be accountable to other students and the teacher since we posted it on the discussion board.
However you do self-care, remember that you need to do it. You might think it’s not beneficial or there are other things that need done, but it helps overcoming life challenges. It’s especially important when you do field placement. I find myself doing more self-care now being in my field than I did in the earlier classes, since dealing with clients’ problems can be quite draining.