After a busy few months Aoife and I are finally writing on this again! We had a hectic few months with CIG and Aoife’s amazing news that she’s going to Boston for 6 months after being awarded a Fulbright scholarship. So congratulations to her and I’m so proud!
I’ve been trying to think through a few different things I wanted to write about for a couple of weeks so I’m going to start with one of these. While doing a PhD there are inevitably going to be a lot of stresses or things to worry about. So I think one thing it is always good to be aware of, either before or during your PhD, or any stage of your career, is what strategies you have in place to tackle these. I like to have a go-to list of things I should do when I start to get stressed (I’m not saying I do this all the time, just that I should!). I know Aoife has talked about the gym and what a big impact positive effect this has had on her so I won’t reinvent the wheel with that one but would like to say that I wholeheartedly agree. So other coping strategies I use are:
- Spending time with my family and friends
I think an important part of this is spending time with people outside of academia. This might sound silly but even when people care about what you’re going through, if they’ve never really had any experiences of it then they can’t understand it or focus on it the way you do, and I think being around people who are like this makes you stress less. Like there is only so long you can worry about your literature review chapter or upcoming interview when around people who have no idea what that is like. And then who knows? Maybe taking that headspace away is exactly what you need and you’ll have the lightbulb moment when you’re least expecting it.
- Cinema/ film/ shows/books
This is just a general strategy. Want to de-stress? Imagine being in 1970s Brooklyn as the hip-hip movement is emerging. Imagine living in the Shire. Imagine being a Gilmore Girl. Imagine going to Hogwarts. Do what you gotta do to get out of your own head for an hour or two.
- Go outside
I don’t think the importance of getting some fresh air (and maybe some sun) can be underestimated. We are all guilty of staying in our offices to long and missing the sun. Academics are lucky enough to have some flexibility in terms of time so if you get a chance to take an extra half hour outside do it. Go for walks on the weekend, rollerblade, swim in the sea, anything. Just don’t stay at your desk all day, life is too short.
- Have passions outside of academia
Okay so this is linked to all of the above but I think it’s something else. Have something you really care about which isn’t work. I think the necessity of having something else that you think is really important matters, cause if you’re having a stressful day then you have something to put your attentions on. Most people are in academia because they are passionate and care and want to make a difference, which is amazing. One way to dilute this all being aimed at you research is to care about more than that.
- Hobbies and activities
I actually think this is one of the hardest. Having to read dense theoretical literature means I am not as able to pick up casual fiction at the end of the night. But I find cooking relaxing and that’s something I obviously have to make time for anyway so that’s a new hobby. Other things include binge watching shows, colouring, knitting (yes I’m serious), walking the world’s cutest dog, etc. Often these things fall by the wayside and I think it’s vital to make time for them so I try do that as much as possible.
Of course there is way more strategies than this, this were the first to come to my head which I think is telling of where they sit in my mind. I’m sure I could do a quick survey and get a list of 5o things to do. The real lesson from this is to know what works for you, and to have that on standby so that when you’re stressed you can say okay have I done x today? Maybe that would help, I’ll do that tonight and maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better. And most of the time you will.