Self-Care: What does that allusive term really mean?

Self-Care (1). Taken from

In the Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling program we talk a lot about self-care.  The concept of self-care is a common and prevalent topic amongst helping professionals such as dance/movement therapists.  In order to help others we must be able to take care of ourselves, or so the idea goes.  But what does this term really mean?  What does this allusive term of “self-care” entail, and how as a graduate student do I apply it to my own life while being in school, having an internship, and working part-time?

Often times when we think of self-care we automatically think of going to a yoga class or getting a massage- maybe even taking a bubble bath.  We think of these special things we can do for ourselves in order to be able to relax and unwind.  After perusing through the internet I found an array of blog posts and websites, all of which suggest ideas for how helping professionals can engage in self-care: go for a walk, read for pleasure, aromatherapy… the list goes on and on.

Self-Care (2). Photo taken from

As a graduate student who may not have enough time do go for a walk every day or enough money to buy a massage, sometimes these ideas of self-care can become overwhelming.  With these stipulations I’ll never be able to engage in self-care.  And not only that, but it takes time to travel to the yoga or dance studio.  Time you could be using to get homework done or relax at home.  Sometimes the “goingness” of these types of self-care can be just as destructive as not partaking in self-care at all.

Being as busy as I was during the past Fall semester with a full class load, internship at Anixter Center, and working part-time, I had to examine what self-care meant to me.  I think what self-care really comes down to is being mindful and aware- to be fully engaged in the present moment.  I know this sounds a lot easier than it may actually be, and I have certainly struggled with this process myself.

What I mean is this: when I am doing the dishes, I am thinking about doing the dishes.  When I am washing my hands, I am thinking about washing my hands. When I am writing a paper, I am thinking about writing my paper.  While I do these daily activities I am not thinking, ruminating almost, about all of the other stuff I have to do that day or even that week.  In this practice, I am taking care of myself at each present moment of the day by being fully mindful of my current activity.

Not only that, but to make sure I take time to wash my hands and do the dishes.  This sounds silly, but trust me, as a busy graduate student you’ll think of anything to skip to make more time to complete work.

Although taking a yoga class and getting a massage do certainly help professionals relax and unwind, I am suggesting that self-care does not necessarily have to be that difficult.  Self-care can be as simple as the process of being mindful and aware.  In whatever we are doing, we are thinking about simply that, and not all the other million things we are expected to do.  We’ll think of those when we get there.