Saying “no”: Making Good Choices for Your Health

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Hey all 🙂

My first posts each year tend to focus more on big picture stuff such as things I’m proud of and my feelings on a PhD so far. One of the lessons I’ve really taken from doing this is to know when to say “no” and take a step back and this is what I’m going to discuss in my opening to 2019.

    Those who know me know fully well that I’m trigger happy when it comes to doing things. Outreach, teaching, discussions etc. I want to pick up hobbies, try new things, I outline research ideas I’ll never get to. It leaves me sometimes attempting a lot and achieving little. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone, growth comes from challenge. It’s also good to enrich your life with other interests, hobbies, and activities, as it is very unhealthy to bury down into one thing and make that all which matters to you. I know, for example, that I could have finished my doctorate sooner than I am currently on track to. However, my well-being would have been far poorer were I to not engage with the amount of teaching that I do. Teaching for me is intrinsically rewarding; that is to say that I would do it for free (though am very happy for it to add to my savings). The other small activities I do as well such as outreach and beginning to start writing a novel also help me relax, test my skills in other areas, and be more rested for when I focus on the research.

    But a balance is needed and sometimes you just have to say “no” to be able to stay healthy as well as commit to the things which are important to you. There’s no point trying everything if you get nowhere with anything and mostly importantly: you are the centre of your world, you matter. I expressed this sentiment on Twitter in what turned out to be my most liked, retweeted, and responded to tweet:

My supervisor, rightfully, called me out for my phrasing here as it comes across that I’m suggesting that mentors and the like should be ACTIVELY involved in structuring a student’s life balance. This isn’t what I intended. I more meant that, because academia has such an issue with work-life balance and, in particular, PhD students committing themselves to more work at the expense of their health, a shift in attitudes and increased transparency of expectations needs to be seen at all career stages. This includes increasing awareness of detrimental schedules but also mentors taking the lead with how they make their balance work and, ultimately, when to say “no”.

So I was left this coming Spring intending on doing a multitude of things to do with my research, my job, and my creatives hobbies. But also I planned on doing two things which I’ve decided not to do for the sake of balance across my weeks in order to give myself the time and energy to focus on the more immediately important tasks of finishing my lab work, writing papers, and maintaining my job. The two things were Masters level education modules as well as (potentially) drafting a research grant idea. I will get round to these thoughts but for now they are less important and I will get to them later. Take home from this: explore and do all the things you love but know when to say “no”. That point is when something takes over your life, infringing upon your health, or when something new would give you less time for what is currently important.

So that’s me for the last two months. The next two will be spent starting my last stint of lab work, writing a paper, and continuing to try new things.

Thanks for reading 🙂

BCT

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