The Mindful Way Through Depression

This article was originally published on the website PhD Depression and can be found here.

Meditation and mindfulness are buzzwords nowadays. Be in the moment, stay in the moment, be present, wasn’t I present enough before? As far as I remember, I have been suffering from depression. It didn’t start with my PhD. Graduate school made it worst. At the end of my second year, summer 2017, I reached one of my lowest points. I failed my annual review exam, I was breaking up from a difficult and toxic relationship, I had to move out of my old house and move to another lab. The situation was really bad and I was seriously thinking of dropping out of the programme. Despite the anxiety, I was wise enough to reach out to the counselling service at the University and took a break to visit my family in Italy.

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PhD check-up: 9 months to go!

I woke up this morning and a to-do list wad my first thought. Since I started this PhD, I have been under the impression that I am always behind everything. This is not the person I used to be. I used to be punctual, finishing tasks well before deadlines etc. As I was getting busier and busier and couldn’t manage things anymore, my time management skills needed to step up. I have been better at making plans now and, honestly, writing down stuff really helps in keeping track.

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All the plastic-free items I bought

Plastic is becoming a global threat. This is not because of the material itself but its inappropriate use. I am not writing this post to demonise plastic. It’s an incredible material, robust, hygienic, resistant and easy to handle. Researchers are struggling to find alternative materials with similar properties. Unfortunately, plastic isn’t biodegradable and will persist in the environment forever. Much worse is that its degradation consists in the formation of tiny pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, which are a far more dangerous threat to the environment. In fact, due to their tiny dimensions, it’s really hard to remove them from water. So marine animals eat them with deadly consequences to their survival. (1, 2)

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The Neuroscience of Depression and Anxiety

Crocheted brain wall decor available to purchase from my Etsy Shop, check here.

Over Christmas, I went back to Italy to see my family. It had the best time ever as I was finally anxious and depression free. Months of therapy, meds and permanent changes towards healthy habits really made the difference. Some negative thoughts are still there but I am doing much better at dealing with it. I took this time to tell my parents, in sciency words, a bit more about the neuroscience of anxiety and depression. I apologise if there is some inconsistency, my background is in chemistry.

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Managing anxiety as a student.

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.
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Waste-free travelling

I love travelling for leisure, business and visit my family. I travel at least twice a year to go to Italy and spend time in my hometown. With the recent policies of low-cost travel companies to bring only one small luggage in the cabin, you might think of bringing the bare minimun and buying the rest at the airport. For me, some stuff are no negotiable, I prefer to pack waste-free items and reduce my impact on the environment rather than packing and extra pair of shoes or a bag.

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Mindfully writing down my New Year’s Resolutions.

The other day, I came across my New Year’s Resolutions 2018. I put together 12 goals, 7 about my personal life and 5 about work. Reading through, I realised that I achieved only 3 goals out of 12. I did get better at controlling my anxiety, I learned a lot about self-care and I have been making an afford to reach out to my friends more frequently. Not an easy task while you have depression and social anxiety, but I managed to do it.

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Heidi Gardner – from PhD to independent business owner.

One of the best skills of a scientist is definitely creativity.

The constant challenge of finding solutions to new and stimulating problems really drives you to get creative. Creativity shouldn’t stop to the lab bench in my opinion. All the skills we learn during grad school should be implemented in our personal and professional life too.

So, what about get creative and make actual money for it? Many grad students don’t have a permanent salary, have to teach or demonstrate to support themselves or ask a loan to the bank. I think there is a better way to make a little extra money while doing a PhD and this comes from monetising your hobbies.
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Daniel DiRocco – from PhD to senior scientist at Merk (MSD).

Did you enrol in a PhD programme to become a senior scientist in a big name company? If the answer is yes, you found the good place to be. I interview Daniel last month to know more about his journey and his transition from academia to industry. Daniel is is Principal Scientist in process chemistry at MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme), it’s his job to figure out the best reactions for making molecules on large scales so enough can be made for clinical trials or even for manufacturing on the metric-ton scale if a candidate compound is approved as a drug. “Everything he did turned to gold. His chemical intuition was impeccable, and he had the unique ability to extract exactly the information he needed out of every reaction that he ran without getting distracted or wasting any time,” says prof. Rovis, his PhD supervisor.
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Soph Cook: scientist – fashion blogger and social media influencer

Today, I decided to interview Soph Cook who is, by far, my fav fashion influencer. I recently bought literally everything that it’s on her Instagram page. I like Soph because she represents me as a woman in science and fashion blogger, much better than any Kim (fake) Kardashian. Soph has got a PhD in biochemistry and currently work as a medical writer. You can also find Soph on Twitter and subscribe to her website.

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