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Nue Lee is a PhD student in Higher Education at the University of Michigan. You can find her on Twitter @thesisthreads or on her personal blog.

Many students do not practice self-care because it may seem like a daunting commitment they do not have time for. However, there is a way to incorporate self-care into your daily schedule so seamlessly that before you know it, you will be practicing self-care everyday. It could be as simple as three deep diaphragmatic breaths before diving into a paper or a manuscript. It could also be enjoying your favorite playlist while you mindfully do the dishes, focusing on how the warm water feels as you rinse each dish clean. This works great for laundry as well, zoning in on the soft towel as you fold it, taking in the fresh, clean scent. These little daily practices keep me centered and help me re-energize throughout the day. I don’t have to speak to the importance of self-care. We all know self-care is crucial. Here is how I practice self-care three times per day: every morning, afternoon, and evening.

Rise and Shine

5:30 AM. I am up and at ‘em, bright and early. My self-care starts before I even get out of bed. I take this moment to appreciate just being, and to warm up my body (especially during these chilly Midwestern mornings). I lay in bed and start by rubbing my palms together, just as I will do later on as I am warming them up outside. I rub for about 30 seconds, then cup my warm palms over my eyes. I relax and let the gentle heat from my hands soften my face. I feel the space between my eyebrows releasing, my jaws relaxing, and my whole face softening. I notice that my breath is flowing easily. I slide my warm hands down my face to my neck, rubbing the tight spots. I move to my arms and rub up and down sending warmth throughout. Then I let my hands drop down naturally to a comfortable spot. I close my eyes and just lay quietly, breathing my natural breath. I am enjoying the space between each breath, when nothing is happening. I stay for as long as it feels good. Then, I slowly open my eyes. I keep this sense of relaxation with me as I get up to move into my day.


Rewarding Alternative: Before I start my morning writing session, I enjoy an easy brew as I listen to NPR and play my turn in Words with Friends.


Power Hour

12:15 PM. I like to take a brisk walk across campus, particularly because I enjoy listening to the bells being played in the tower over the lunch hour. One time, I caught the theme song to Star Trek and as a new Trekkie (sucked in by J.J. Abram’s trilogy) it was epic to walk across a beautiful campus with such an iconic tune. I am motivated to continue this habit if only to one day hear the Game of Thrones soundtrack, particularly the Rains of Castamere (the Red Wedding edition).


Winter Alternative: I have to admit I find myself hard-pressed to leave the School of Education building (where thankfully all meetings and classes occur) in the dreary, cold winter months. Thankfully, I don’t have to go very far to accomplish a stimulating, intellectual break. I take full advantage of the series of talks, colloquium, coffee hours in the lounge, student presentations, and other school-wide events happening over the lunch hour right in the building. I encourage you to drop in on one of your school events and get to know other graduate students, faculty, and staff from different programs. A collaboration could potentially come out of mutual interests, but most importantly, you will be expanding your network.


Wind Down the Day

7:00 PM. I turn on my diffuser lamp before I start my studying for the evening. The changing, happy glow of colors and refreshing essential oils heighten two senses, allowing for better focus.


Happy light: One of the many bright colors of my aromatherapy light diffuser.


Active Alternative: I am currently working with a personal trainer (if you’re interested, look into your rec center to see if there is a program for students at a fair price). When I shared that I keep free weights and a yoga mat in my home office, my personal trainer brilliantly designed a 30-minute home office workout for me in addition to our sessions at the gym. I can jump right into the workout from start to finish. What I usually do is complete a series of 25-minute Pomodoro work sessions broken up in between with a 5-minute “break” from the workout.  


So that’s it. Simple right? These self-care practices happen regularly and routinely so that I am not worried about being unaware of burnout slowly creeping up on me. Of course, there will be times when I will reevaluate and adjust. I hope I have not only shown you how self-care can be practiced daily, but just as the word practice suggests, how it has to be intentional. Start today.


How do you intentionally incorporate self-care into your everyday schedule?


[“Happy Light” by Nue Lee at can be reused under the Creative Commons license.]

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