Addicted to our desks?

When I look around me I see that it is becoming more and more acceptable to work long hours, evenings, weekends and for work to ‘take over’ our lives, often to the detriment of our health and well-being.

I see this so frequently in academia, in my fellow PhD students and in the academics I meet. People often joke with each other about being a workaholic and it has become somewhat of a status symbol, but for some of us it is a real addiction, and a very challenging one at that.

Yes, I consider myself a recovering workaholic.

I’m certainly a work (!) in progress, but I feel like I’ve come a long way in the last few years and am able to manage my work addiction. It is something I feel strongly about and I want to share some of what I have learnt. This post is the first in a series that will focus on breaking the habit of working compulsively. I’m going to dismantle the concept of workaholism and share some of the things that have helped me to restore balance.

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Creativity for the sake of creativity

Hello! I am seven days post conference in (very) sunny Seville and am right back into the swing of things. I was once again reminded during my week away of the importance of stepping out of routine and day-to-day life once in a while to get inspiration and creative juices flowing. And talking of creative juices, that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

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When things suck

We all have times in our lives when things just suck. When things aren’t going quite as we would have hoped personally and yet we still have a job to do – we still have to get our PhD’s. The pressure of this can become exceedingly clear when personal issues crop up and it can add to the difficulties we are facing.Sometimes we can do things to overcome the hard times, sometimes it’s just a case of making the ride a little gentler. Rather than burying our heads in the sand, which can be oh so tempting, there are ways we can make life easier for ourselves. There are steps we can take and things we can do that enable us to feel supported, and most importantly, to take the pressure off whilst we find our feet again. It is inevitable that during the course of a three-year PhD personal issues will come along, but they don’t have to mean the end of your doctoral pursuit and in fact, could help you find a new way of doing things that will help you in the future. Here are some of the things that help me when things suck.

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Interviews: PhD positions & funding

It was around this time two years ago that I had (finally!) submitted my PhD research proposal and applied for both a position and ESRC funding here at the University of Bath. The six weeks following the application date were a bit nerve-wracking to say the least, but that period of time confirmed my strong desire to do a PhD. I got the email to confirm an interview that took place on March 23rd, and I found out I had been successful in my application the next day.

Interviews for PhD positions and funding tend to take place around this time of year, but positions can come up at any time. It felt fitting though, whilst I was reflecting on the process two years ago to share some tips regarding the interview.

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Doing things our own way

My UCAS personal statement began:

We are all different, it is the one thing we have in common

*Cringe*. It is so incredibly cliché, but like most clichés, it’s also very true. The last few years in academia I have become aware of a number of differences that at first made me feel a bit like an alien, or at least someone on the sidelines that perhaps didn’t ‘fit in’. And that is exactly true, I didn’t ‘fit in’ to the ‘typical’ and I’ve learnt that is perfectly ok, and I’ve actually come to love it.

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When Anxiety comes knocking…

I know I’m not the only one that struggles with anxiety, in life in general and when it comes to doing a PhD. Though not many of us share the realities of going about daily life feeling worried, concerned or like our hearts might jump out of our chest. Sometimes knowing exactly why, other times not having a clue, just knowing there is this sense of impending doom that you just can’t quite put your finger on.

First of all, the anxiety I am personally talking about here is that feeling of worry, bordering on panic, feeling sped up and like there isn’t enough time to do everything. Shallow breathing, heart pounding just a little quicker and perhaps feeling unusually warm. A brick in your chest, a lump in your throat and your stomach doing somersaults. The anxiety where your mind spirals and decides to show you the low-lights reel. The what if’s and the worst case scenarios. Perhaps you can relate? With practice, these feeling states can be noticed, before you fall too far down the rabbit hole. And the point of noticing, the point of awareness is really the beginning of getting to the bottom of things.

I thought I’d share some of my go-to’s for when I’m feeling anxious.

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Self-care in research

I’ve done a lot of personal work on the self-care front over the last few years and am experiencing the benefits of doing so. In fact, my lack of blogging over the last few weeks are simply down to needing some time to myself. However a recent experience got me thinking about other areas of my life where self-care might be lacking. In particular, the area of conducting research and having contact with participants.

Ethical guidelines and standards aim to ensure that participants are protected during the research process, but can the same be said for the researcher themselves? The researcher is coming into contact with other people, and in some instances, particularly psychology, some really sensitive and emotive topics might be covered.

When I was developing my ethics proposal I thought a lot about reducing any possible distress for my participants and making sure that I did not cause any harm. I did think of myself in amongst this ethical application, but on a very matter of fact physical level. My recent experience has made me consider other factors, mental and emotional, that perhaps need to be taken into account. As a result of all this thinking and considering, I’ve developed myself a bit of a tool kit which will hopefully help me in the future to manage any potentially difficult situations in the moment and afterwards.

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