A Librarian’s Approach to Self-Care

Being a graduate student is hard. We’re older and we have lives and families and jobs. Most of us have responsibilities that far exceed those we had when we were in undergrad. And yet, so many of us feel the need to do more. We join clubs and committees; we lead organizations; we complete internships and assistantships. We do all this for a good cause–to get the experience that we know we’ll need when we start applying for jobs. But sometimes, it gets overwhelming. Sometimes, I wake up thinking about school and I walk around all day thinking about school and I go to sleep thinking about school. It’s hard to focus on everything else when there’s always a presentation or project looming in the distance.

But thankfully, winter break is here. For most of us, it means extra time off work, time to spend with family, and most importantly, time away from school. In short, it’s just what the doctor ordered. Considering that so many of us take classes during the summer (there’s that Go Go Go mentality again), winter break is really our only chance to forget about school for a while and cultivate the other areas of our lives. As librarians, we’re often focused on service–our whole profession is based on service-oriented  tasks like education, preservation, and organization. But so often, we forget to carry out those same tasks in our own lives–educating ourselves about ourselves, preserving our sanity and health, and organizing our lives. So here’s a list of ways you can recuperate from the school year during these cold, quiet months. Trust me, it’s the kind of to-do list that makes you feel good while you’re doing it and when it’s done.

  1. Binge-watch Felicity. Or any other show that just lets you zone out and be someone else and somewhere else for a while. For me, nothing’s more relaxing than curling up on the couch with a cup of tea, waiting to see if Felicity will choose Ben or Noel.  Phase 1 of holiday relaxation involves clearing out your mind because nothing else is possible as long as you’ve still got visions of metadata dancing in your head. As my mom says, sometimes it’s nice to just sit around and look ugly.
  2. Do some reflecting. Now is the time to deal with some of those feelings that got pushed aside because you had a paper to write. Sometimes it’s anxiety, sometimes it’s grief, sometimes it’s just a mild case of the blahs, but in any case, it’s good to reflect on your emotional and mental health and try to work through it instead of avoiding it. Amy Steinbauer wrote a lovely post on INALJ after the passing of her father, and she gives some great advice about how to move forward amidst difficulties. For me, journaling is often the answer, but for others it may be counseling or meditation. Do what helps you most.
  3. Marvel at what you’ve learned. There is no way you made it through another year of life without learning something amazing. You may have learned concrete things like how to make a database or create a digital library, or you may have learned more abstract concepts, like being a better teammate or improving your listening skills. In any case, consider making an end-of-the-year list of what you’ve learned. It helps remind you what all that hard work was for.
  4. Be grateful. Thanksgiving doesn’t end when the last piece of pie is gone–make it a year-round practice. Lately, I’ve been keeping a daily gratitude journal to keep track of all I have to be thankful for. Every time I find myself feeling not-so-appreciative, I read a few entries to put myself back on track.

So, this is how I’ll be spending my winter break, working my way through these four tasks, preparing myself for another semester. How will you spend yours?

Categories: Honesty

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12 replies

  1. Amanda, I loved this post. I needed this post. I’m definitely going to work on all four of your points, except, it’s been so long since I’ve watched Netflix/TV, I’m not quite sure what I’ll binge watch. But definitely some much needed self reflection, gratitude time, and an end of semester learning list. Also, READING FOR FUN. I’ve missed it. I’m half way through Americanah and it’s so so so good.

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    • Glad you liked the post! Maybe you can binge read instead of binge watching…I’m also halfway through the audiobook of Americanah, and I must say it’s delightful. But of course, nothing beats late 90s/early 2000s TV!

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  2. Great post! This time of year is a great opportunity to relax, reflect upon the year, recognize our accomplishments, and show thanks. It’s also a time to think about and set goals for the year to come 🙂
    My binge-watch recommendation is Veronica Mars (watch the TV show first, then the movie).

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    • You’re so right, Lindsay–this is the best time of year for all of that. There’s just a stillness that makes it so much easier to reflect, you know? And thanks for the recommendation–I’ll be sure to put Veronica Mars on my to-watch list!

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  3. Great post, Amanda! I got a late start to enjoying winter break from the flu (also a reminder to slow down and take care of myself), but I definitely plan to binge watch lots of TV and the movies I missed this year. I love your suggestion of marveling at what I’ve learned so far, and will definitely take the time for reflection.

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