4. The ABCs of wellbeing
Do I have balance and connection to myself and others?
- How am I feeling?
- Am I suffering from ‘academic fatigue’ or burn-out?
Due to the enormous pressure during grad school, maintaining a state of well-being is critical to feeling motivated. Tiredness after many months of non-stop work, exams, meetings, etc. is normal and can usually be remedied with more rest and relaxation. Burnout, on the other hand, is more notorious. It steals your internal drive, happiness, energy, and sense of connection.
Consider speaking to a counselor or mentor if you wonder whether you’re experiencing burning out. See this online Help Guide for common symptoms of burn-out.
Beware of the fate of Don Quixote
In short, he so busied himself in his books that he spent the nights reading from twilight till daybreak and the days from dawn till dark; and so from little sleep and much reading his brain dried up and he lost his wits. —Cervantes
A chronic lack of balance in your work and personal life is all too common among graduate students. Many grads (and their supervisors) have a hard-driving, “workaholic” approach to their schedules, which has some benefits in terms of deliverables. However, the downsides are many: loss of connection to friends and family, isolation, low mood, exhaustion, reduced recreation and exercise. Aside from the psychological need to relax and unwind, humans have a social need to connect with others! Taking time to hang out with friends or to go for a coffee is TIME WELL SPENT.
Creative thinking, based on the intense research you may be doing, is most likely to happen when you allow your mind time to wander. A real gift with many positive returns.
So, are you taking good care of yourself? Consider using the “Self-Care Check List” to assess this. If you sense an unhealthy imbalance, set a few goals to invite balance back into your life.
[C] Connection to self and others
a) Positive Self-Talk
“Self-talk” is the private conversation we have within ourselves – which we may or may not be aware of.
A shift in your language can create powerful shifts in your thinking. Negative self-talk contributes to procrastination and lack of motivation while positive self-talk can jumpstart your work, build self-confidence, and keep you moving forward. Neil Fiore, writer of “The NOW Habit”, contrasts the language of Procrastinators and Producers. Producer language moves you forward while Procrastinator language gets you stuck.
See “The Language of the Producer” for more details.
b) Positive Visualization
Even when you are not feeling especially motivated, visualizing yourself as a motivated person can help.
See “Visualizing My Best Self.”
c) The Mind-Body Connection
In order to relax the mind, it’s important to relax the body and vice versa. Some people accomplish this through intense physical activity and others prefer calming activities.
The mindfulness approach has been used for many years in the East to increase mind stability and clarity. Taking a few moments to gently watch your breath, without forcing, can often be enough to naturally slow the breath and heart rate, and release muscle tension. Another approach is to simply watch what is going on in the mind, without judgment or criticism.
See “Mindfulness Practices.”
For a number of relaxation tips and techniques, see our online resources on stress management. You might also consider joining a yoga or meditation group where you can relax with others!
d) Using Your Professional and Personal Networks
Faculty can play a key role in helping you stay motivated.
Set regular meetings with faculty involved in your learning. Have regular, ongoing email communication, even when your supervisor is not physically available.
Also see “Develop Mentor Relationships” for more suggestions on finding support in your networks.