Recently I’ve been struggling. And it’s okay. It’s so prevalent in the PhD life that people are so totally unsurprised to hear this. Even research colleagues and support staff are all feeling the pressure and it’s nice to commiserate.
But it is more than that- I’ve had a lot of problems with my mental health over the years. From depression to severe anxiety, I really thought I’d got it under control. These feelings never truly go away, they’re our bodies natural defence mechanisms and as such only become a problem when they go into overdrive. However, it seems I had never tackled the root cause of the problem, and with personal and general work pressure, the bad stuff started to show its face again.
This is not a sign of weakness- as much as my influenced and conditioned thoughts try to tell me it is! Inspired by young scientist’s diary’s brave post (reblogged in my last post), and my recent mental first aid training, I think it is necessary to share my experiences. There is too much glorification of overworking and not enough wellbeing focus in this sector. This needs to change.
I’ve been finding it hard to think straight, keep my priorities in line and get my work done effectively. The most important component in my project is me! And if I’m not working to my full potential, just like any other component, I need to understand why and fix it.
I’ve been taking time for myself- yoga and meditation, affirmations and positive thinking, and getting out with my friends more. This is working; my old negative patterns of thinking I am weak, knocking myself down every time something isn’t perfect, taking things personally when my project wasn’t going well- I am making changes and turning this around. Now I tell myself:
Done is better than perfect.
My best is good enough.
I really am doing great work.
Other people’s progress does not equate to your own.
My wellbeing is the most important thing.
It still is hard to not think I’m flaking out on my work. I love what I do but I cannot let it define me. I’m lucky in the support I have- but a few bits of advice from my recent experience:
- Talk to others, friends, co-workers, staff support, mental health first aiders, mentors, supervisors. All of them are there to help you, in slightly different ways. You are part of a team and not a burden, people really do want to help.
- Work in wiggle-room and plan in your wellbeing activities. Also plan for the worst- I have researched what support is in place for time off and extensions, just as a safety net. They don’t necessarily have to be used.
- Don’t feel weak. Don’t feel alone. It is no different me going for counselling, as someone attending a course of physiotherapy. I know this- and getting towards fully feeling it- so I’m making myself post this, so others start to feel the same way.
I hope this post helps and anyone who wants to chat about this, I can be there to hear you.