Keep going

Okay, so for the past eight weeks now, I’ve relentlessly worked on my doctoral thesis. For the most part, I have kept my commitment to myself to write every day – some weekends, I’ve taken a day off. There are days that the writing feels good, not easy, but I feel driven and purposeful. Then there are days that are just completely hard. Putting a couple of sentences feels brutal and almost torturous. And to think this is self-inflicted – I applied to be a Ph.D. student.

It’s perplexing really because all other times, it feels like I was born for this – for this researcher life. I absolutely love learning, but the writing can be really challenging at times. I know it is probably just exhaustion and like with all creative activities, one needs a break. One almost needs some space to refresh the mind to be able to soak up new things or analyze old problems from a different perspective.

Having said all that, I’ll have to admit that I’ve encountered many moments where quitting seemed like the easiest option. I know that deep down I will regret it though because this has been a dream of mine. So instead, I spoke to my other Ph.D. and HDR student friends, and as we spoke about the emotions we go through while at the tail end of our candidatures, I have come up with a list of things that I can go to so I can rest and recharge instead of metaphorically “banging my head against a brick wall”. Rest not quit.

  • Overthinking – go write. Instead of letting the thoughts circle through my head, I acknowledge them by writing them down, whether it’s in my journal for anything that’s personal or in my researcher notebook whenever it’s ramblings about my analysis or anything that relates to it. At the very least, I don’t have to keep ruminating on these thoughts and just let them go, somewhere else at least, and move on with the task at hand.
  • Tired – go nap. If you’re able to. Your body might really need it. Sometimes just a 20-minute nap can do wonders for your writing productivity. My doctor told me that any more than 30 minutes will just leave you more groggy as you would have broken your sleep inertia.
  • Stressed – go for a walk. This is one of the top things I’ve heard from my Ph.D. friends that they report as being really effective! I’ve done it myself many times, and going for a walk never fails to leave me feeling clearer and re-energized.
  • Lazy – switch off gadgets and make a meal or cook or bake. It’s not really about being lazy. For me, it’s usually just another manifestation of feeling exhausted from writing and needing a break to clear my head. Usually what breaks this feeling of being blocked or “lazy” is standing up to do something else – for me, it’s mindfully preparing a nutritious meal that would give me the needed energy I need to fuel me for a few more hours of work and writing.
  • Anxious – practice a mindfulness exercise. I love using the Smiling Mind app for this. It’s free and it has so many different sessions, depending on the particular type of exercise you’re needing at that moment.
  • Sad – Exercise. Get a dopamine boost. I just do at least a 30-minute HIIT exercise and
  • Angry – Listen to music. There’s usually a playlist for that – angry, happy, serene, and so on and so forth.
  • Burnt out – read a book. This is just really such a restful activity for me.

I hope some of these have been helpful. Let us know if you have other suggestions for Ph.D. and HDR students by sending us a message on Insta @uofastudentwellbeing!

Tagged in What messes with your head, Productivity, mindfulness, self-care, phd