It's research season again! After spending some time this week looking through the project proposals and reflections posted in the Arts and Humanities channel, I was genuinely bowled over by the levels of creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance that the 2021 scholars have. Hats off to you guys for all of your amazing ideas!
However, it also led me to think about how we sometimes fail to look after ourselves as undergraduate researchers. When achieving the next goal is always right in front of you, it can be hard to know when to take a step back before it is far too late. I hope that some of these tips will help you all to look after yourselves and make sure you take a break when you need it.
1 - Spend some time celebrating what you have achieved so far
Remember where you came from! It is so easy to fixate on the future that you will never truly give yourself the time that you need to celebrate and heal from the past. If you can, schedule 15-minutes or so into your day every so often in order to work on reflective practice. While it is great to learn from your past, it can be even better celebrating it. I personally find it quite motivating; I know if I am capable enough to get as far as I have so far, I can achieve great things.
2- It's ok to have off days
Honestly, I struggled with my research. I had a lot of off days. Staring at my computer for hours, though valiantly attempted, was not the answer. I turned to reading and self-care for the answer. I re-arranged my bookshelf, cut my hair, started a new book instead of languishing over the ones I hadn't quite finished yet. It worked. If you feel stuck or down, it is completely ok. Spend some time doing whatever recharges your batteries; it is better to spend one day in rest than 20 in anguish. Your research will thank you for resting and resetting when you need it!
That being said, if you are struggling with mental health instead of just having an off-day, look what resources/helplines are available to you and reach out. I promise that those services are there for you, no matter how small the problem is!
3- Reach out
I know it's cliché, but reaching out to friends and family is an absolute gamechanger. Speak to people who inspire you and inspiration will naturally follow. A great place to start is your subject community! People are always ready to chat in Discords, Whatsapp groups... whatever subject area you are in I guarantee there is nothing more inspiring than speaking to other scholars about research and life. If you are yet to join a subject room, please message me (or your relevant subject lead) and we will get you into a chatroom :)
4- Realise that you are not the exception to the rule
Ok, this subtitle title may be a little misleading, but it's true! Even if you have beaten every odd, fought for everything you ever did, and come out on top, you still need to look after yourself. You are still human! Working those insane around-the-clock hours and refusing to take a break is going to do more harm than good to you in the long-term, no matter your background. Even when you enjoy what you do, practice self-care and take time to prevent burnout. You don't want to hate something because you didn't take the time to love yourself.
Most of all, be proud of yourself. Not only did you get into a top-level university, you also secured a Laidlaw Scholarship! So take a deep breath, remember that you are an awesome scholar and have totally got this. Proud of you.
Banner photo 'Cup of Coffee near MacBook Pro' by Ian Dooley on Unsplash.
Please sign in
If you are a registered user on Laidlaw Scholars Network, please sign in
Really encouraging piece,Cath.
Thanks Shehnaz! Hope it helps you in your research period :)
Thank you for sharing this! As an ecology student, it is common to come across data that have negative results after analysis, are really messy, or have anomalies that aren't intuitive to explain. It can be really frustrating and make you question your efforts. The only way to really go about it healthily is to have the right attitude -- to accept that this happens, move on and check what you did or troubleshoot with a calm head, so you can do good science.
Exactly Nicole, this is an issue that I had too! It just goes to show how tough academia can be, but we've got this :)