Have you checked out the rest of The PhD Knowledge Base? It’s home to hundreds more free resources and guides, written especially for PhD students. 


Author: Ashton Scherrer


Today, in the age of Covid-19, self-care is a hot buzzword but it is something that PhD students have been hearing about since the beginning of time. However, like most things, it is something that is talked about at great length but never fully explained. In this post, I hope to make self-care easy to understand and easy to obtain.


Defining Self-Care

Obviously, self-care is the practice of caring for ones’ self. This seems like such a broad definition for it so I’ll slim it down a bit more. I like to think about self-care as taking care of my younger self. I’ll often ask myself “what would Little Ashton enjoy” and then do that! As I will go into later, there is no right or wrong when it comes to self-care.

Hello, Doctor…

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Be able to call yourself Doctor sooner with our five-star rated How to Write A PhD email-course. Learn everything your supervisor should have taught you about planning and completing a PhD.

Now half price. Join hundreds of other students and become a better thesis writer, or your money back. 



When To Practice Self-Care


Self-care is something that often evades people. Because it seems like such a broad topic, it’s hard to really understand when you need to practice self-care the most. Do you notice yourself getting irritated at little things? Are you finding it hard to focus? Does the work you once enjoyed no longer fill you with joy? If you answered yes to any of these, it’s probably high time you practice some self-care!

It is also important to note here that self-care should be practiced even if you aren’t feeling any of the above feelings. I always tell people to practice something when you’re feeling good so that when you’re feeling bad it’s much easier to do.

Now that you know when self-care is needed, it’s time to schedule self-care time! That’s right, SCHEDULE self-care time. Much like The Grinch, you cannot cancel on yourself so making sure that you have a block of time in your planner or Google Calendar every week for self-care is of the upmost importance. I usually give myself a two-hour block on Tuesday evenings and go from there. However, if you don’t have that much time, schedule two minutes. In these two minutes, eat a bite of your favorite food and take a whiff of your favorite smell. Just be present with yourself and the sensations!


What Counts As Self-Care

Self-care is a personal experience for everyone. I really enjoyed reading books and dancing to boy bands when I was little so that is often what my self-care looks like! The most important part about self-care is that you should never judge yourself for what you find comforting. Maybe you enjoy curling up in a blanket with hot tea and not doing work for 12 hours. That’s perfectly fine! Maybe you enjoy watching TikTok videos in the middle of the day. That’s excellent! Self-care also doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be cooking your favorite meal or drawing yourself a nice bath. There is no right or wrong way to practice self-care so try everything! Eventually, you will find what is right for you.

Your PhD thesis.
All on one page.

Use our free PhD structure template to quickly visualise every element of your thesis. 

Parting Words From A Therapist In Training

Earlier I mentioned how important it is to be present with yourself. Being mindful and present is the crux of self-care. Simply put, really focus on what you’re doing. If you’re taking a bath, listen to the water run, feel the temperature of the water, smell the soap you’ve added, look at how the water moves. In noting these things, you’re being present with the moment and not thinking about the millions of things that you need a break from. Figuring out a way to engage all of your senses is usually a fun activity and will likely introduce you to sensations you didn’t even think of!

A self-care analogy I often use with my patients is The Airplane. If you’ve ever been on a plane, you know that the safety video often tells you to put on your oxygen mask before helping someone else put on theirs. Why is that? It’s because you cannot help someone else if you are passed out due to oxygen deprivation. The same is true for self-care! It’s impossible to show up 100% if you only have 80% to give, so take care of yourself!


Ashton is a third year PhD student at Palo Alto University studying clinical psychology with an emphasis in Neuropsychology. Her training sites have included The Gronowski Clinic and Goodwill Wellness Center of Silicon Valley.

Interested in group workshops, cohort-courses and a free PhD learning & support community? 

The team behind The PhD Proofreaders have launched The PhD People, a free learning and community platform for PhD students. Connect, share and learn with other students, and boost your skills with cohort-based workshops and courses.