So as I mentioned before last week I had my annual progress review and I passed (woop woop!)! One of the comment-questions that I got as part of the review related to my self-care during the project, and although I have got some plans for self-care it’s got me thinking about how effective these plans are, and ultimately how I could make them more meaningful.
I suppose self-care is not often thought about in those terms in research – mostly we frame the researcher’s needs under ‘researcher safety’ which of course is important but is not the be all and end all! On the other hand self-care is quite a big thing in communities I belong to. If I go on social media on a Friday night for example I often see people posting self-care pics (beautiful bath bombs, delicious take-always, brightly coloured face masks), all of which can be self-care, but often could also have ‘self-care’ substituted for ‘treat yourself’ and would still make sense – it can at times feel a little performative (for some real good, although pretty privileged, thoughts on this see here). So to be clear I am looking for some low cost (student over here) self-care that can be built into my research that will enable me to check in on my wellbeing, take time to recuperate from my research, ultimately to allow me to continue to work well on the project I love (and to continue to love it), to be able to be fully engaged with my participants, and allow me a life outside of work whilst keeping my guilt in check!
Entering into this research project I naively hadn’t thought too much about how conducting it might impact on me and waded into the reading with gusto. It wasn’t until February time when I was having coffee with a friend who asked me whether this work constantly made me feel real sad that perhaps I had not been engaging with my feelings It is difficult to spend all your time reading about a subject so close to home without taking some of it in. However on the whole although it is an emotionally heavy topic, perhaps because a lot of it has been quantitative which despite showing the magnitude of an issue, can be very depersonalised and lack a human voice, I have maybe managed because it is easier to think of the stats without thinking of the people behind the stats (of course this isn’t the best way to think of quantitative data but it does make it more cope-able). However this is very likely to change with my actual ‘field work’ (important note: I will definitely not be in a field).
Currently I have planned to have regular debriefs with my supervisors, to keep a secure reflective journal, and to discuss feelings I have about how I handle tricky situations in my reflective practice group. I also intend to schedule in rest time between my interviews both to allow me to recuperate but also to give me time and space to reflect on my practice and improve for next time. I am also very aware of support services which I can access should I find it helpful to talk to a mental health care professional. None of these plans however feel particularly specific, and when plans feel too abstract I find they don’t necessarily work as well for me.
This blog has proved helpful with people messaging me advice on the topics I write about, and so I want to ask what other people’s self-care practices are. I think there perhaps is some standard self-care that goes on in mental health research or in service provisions or peer support organisations – so it would be great to hear what other folks do!