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A recent lit review shared by @ph_d_epression on Twitter showed that doctoral students suffer from poor work-life balance. Not big news, I guess. This is a serious problem because grad students are supposed to be the new generation of scientists and academics. Building up the bad habit of poor self-care at an early stage will put you in a mindset of success in academia = struggle.
Why is it so? Mental health is a big issue, many students struggle with finance, if you are a parent, universities don’t provide facilities for child care, students think of quidding grad school multiple times etc. And we live in this environment, we are aware of the unspoken rule: being a good student = giving you up on your personal life and spend 16h/day in the lab.
Poor wellbeing is due to the idea that success in academia means sacrificing your personal life.
How to break this cycle of poor wellbeing and mental health. There are tons of studies which prove that working crazy does not mean productivity. For example, researchers at the University of Florida studied the habit of elite performers (athletes, chess players, musicians) and found that the best performers work in 90 min intervals, then they take a BREAK. The secret of optimal productivity means being in tune with their body and practise short and focused sections with breaks in between.
How to break the cycle of unhealthy habits?
How to optimise performances while doing your PhD? Introduce self-care into your labwork. I usually do mini-meditation of 4/5 min when I feel anxious. I tend to walk to university listening to audiobooks and exploring what’s around me. I go to my fav cafe and take a decaf cappuccino. In fact, I totally ditched caffeine and coffee. And I am far more relaxed now that ever before. Taking a bit of time off during the day isn’t a waste of time.
The best gift you can do to yourself for the next year is taking care of your mental health. Like it or not, there’s no quick fix to your health. It’s a long journey of commitment on permanent changes towards healthy habits. Quality food, exercise are good but take care of your mental health too! Body and mind work as a unit!
As an introduction to better and healthier habits I recommend these books:
The mindful way through depression: This book has totally changed my life, it’s a guide on how to implement mindfulness in your daily life. It comes with a CD with 5 tracks on guided meditation (body scan, mini meditation etc). Best money spent in my life.
Lagoom – The Sweedish style of living: Apparently, the Scandinavian are among the happiest people in the world. Do you want to know why? Read this book!
The joy of doing nothing: A guide on how to create space in your life and learn how to slow down rather than speeding up!