Doing a PhD is not only difficult on an academic level, but on a personal one as well. In a previous post, I discussed guides and resources that helped me thrive academically in grad school, and here I’ll discuss resources that have been central to my well-being during that time.
- People. I am incredibly fortunate to have a solid support network, especially supportive parents, loving siblings, and a stalwart spouse. The more you can surround yourself with people who have their act together and respect your PhD work, the better off you’ll be.
- Exercise. Of course, an appreciation of the benefits of exercise is hardly unique, but consistent exercising has helped my physical and mental health. In research, sometimes you’re stuck or you run a whole experiment and realize it was fatally flawed. In exercise, every single time you go for a run or pick up a hand weight, you are making positive progress, and that reliability should not be underestimated. I’ve also found that training for a half marathon in my first year of grad school gave me the opportunity for contemplating my research, but maybe more importantly, it helped me develop goals that were outside my PhD, and to build my self esteem and feeling of accomplishment.
- Related to exercise… an exercise community. For me, this has partly taken the form of going on runs with another friend in my PhD programs — these runs are often as therapeutic as they are physically taxing. I’ve also found a community at my local YMCA, which has incredibly reasonable membership rates and fitness classes that have encouraged me to try new things in a welcoming environment.
- Camp Calm. This 30-day meditation program has helped me reframe anxiety and stress. The program includes short readings and meditation instructions every day for 30 days, and I’ve repeated the program at times when it’s felt necessary. It’s been incredibly useful to practice observing my thoughts without judging them.
- Science communication, especially ComSciCon. I’ve always been interested in communicating, but grad school really ignited my interest in communicating science. I attended ComSciCon, a national workshop that helps grad students build science communication leadership skills, at the end of my second year of grad school. The following year, I was on the program organizing team, and founded a local ComSciCon in San Diego. The next year, I chaired the national conference’s program organizing team. I experienced the SciComm community at ComSciCon and was hooked. It has been especially gratifying to feel that I’m contributing positively to society through science communication work, and SciComm has provided an intellectual outlet that still gives me a break from my own research.
I can’t thrive academically if I’m not thriving personally. These are a few of the resources that have been central to my physical and mental well-being during grad school.