There will never be the ‘right time’ to make time for yourself.
“I am going to make time for myself when I finish my PhD”, “I am going to do [that thing i enjoy] after this teaching period ends”, “I am going to have work/life balance when I get a real job”.
I am sure that many of us are guilty of having these thoughts. Of being so busy that we can’t possibly find time for ourselves. Of being tricked into thinking that it is a busy period, not a busy life. I have learnt that in my situation, it is a busy life. My PhD was hectic, but guess what my new teaching role is also hectic, and the next role whenever and whatever that may be will likely be hectic too.
My intention is not to sound whiny, I chose to do a PhD, and I chose to work in academia (and I love it!). However, I have now also realised that I have to actively choose to take care of myself. I can’t just wait until the right time, because it will continue to be busy. Reflecting back on the strain my PhD had on my body, both physically and mentally is scary. I am still making up for the stress and strain now. So I am working hard to not put my body through it again. I am working hard at my version of work life balance. I work hard, but have also started to play (and relax) hard. When I shut my computer, I switch off.
There will be extra busy periods (exam time, marking storm, PhD defence, grant writing) where you have to take from your body, but for this to be viable, for you to stay in this for the long haul, this needs to be minimal (1-2 weeks at a time). Putting yourself last is not sustainable. The quote “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is cliché but pertinent.