Like a lot of things I am ashamed to admit discovering late in life -Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Deborah Levy, John Berger- the concept of self-care is relatively new to me.

I first came across it in Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird. Rereading it last year the phrase jumped out at me with the force of recognition; previously I had glazed over it unthinkingly. In part this is due to life intervening, for good and ill, in the meantime, in the way that it does for all of us.

The suddenness of my new awareness had also been primed by a stunning article -written in the form of a poem- by Siobhan O’Dwyer, a colleague of mine, with her colleagues Sarah Pinto and Sharon McDonough.

The poem/article is written with an academic audience in mind, but I think it speaks to anyone in the current moment who is experiencing an increase of ’emotional labour’ in their everyday working life.

I first read it a year ago and am still reeling from it.

The quote below is from the publicly available abstract: ‘Self-care for academics: a poetic invitation to reflect and resist’:

In newspapers and blogs, on Twitter, and in academic papers, stories of struggling academics abound. Substance abuse, depression, failed relationships, and chronic illness are the casualties of a neoliberal university sector that values quantity over quality and demands ever more for ever less. Within the academic literature a growing counter-movement has called for resistance, collective action, and slow scholarship. Much of this work, however, has focused on strategies that can be applied within academia. Little has been written about the activities that academics do outside the university; activities that have no purpose other than enjoyment, rest, and renewal; activities that represent the valuing of the self as a human being, rather than a means of production; activities that could best be defined as self-care.

More details here.