Joyful Self-Care vs. Self-Preservation Self-Care

I’ve spent the last 6 weeks running our very first offering of Grad Students Against Burnout (G.R.a.B.)!, our online, live self-care course for graduate students (in any discipline). It has been a blast – seeing this project move from being an idea, to an actual plan, to interacting with our very first cohort has been a values-aligned dream come true for me! (If you are interested in joining the waitlist for our next offering, check it out here).

An interesting distinction that has come up in our conversations is the idea of self-care that is joyful versus self-care that is focused on self-preservation.

Jess and I, you might know, use a really broad definition of self-care. To us, self-care is anything you do to replenish your personal and/or professional self (acknowledging that those are intertwined selves). There are two advantages to our broad definition:

  1. It allows anyone to tailor self-care to themselves, focusing on what works for YOU rather than prescribing activities. There is no one size fits all self-care.
  2. It often means that we are engaging in self-care activities already, but we don’t recognize them as self-care. Things like brushing our teeth, paying our bills, or taking our medication.

Self-care is anything you do to replenish your personal and/or professional self

There are lots of times that we recommend focusing on “joyful” self-care: When you’re first starting a self-care journey or reset, when you are dealing with a lot of burnout, when you need soothing, or when life feels kind of bleagh. Joy, meaning, and a sense of accomplishment are all critical to a life worth living. Focusing on self-care activities that we are completely jazzed about and excited to do, that leave us feeling like our cup is “filled up”, are important!

But “self-preservation” self-care is really important too. I love this label coined by our first G.R.a.B. cohort! (Another phrase for this I love, inspired by the Balance365 crew, is “Grown Ass Adult stuff”). These are things we do that look after ourselves, but are not necessarily a wild or fun ride. Things like brushing our teeth, going to the doctor, showing up for class when we don’t want to, putting gas in the car, or paying our bills. They aren’t things we necessarily get jazzed about (but more power to you if you do!) but they also play a critical role in self-care.

Both are important, and like all things self-care needs balance more so than extremes! If we did only joyful self-care, we would fall behind on our Grown-Ass Adult Stuff. If we did only self-preservation self-care, then life wouldn’t be very exciting, would it?

In self-care solidarity,