Episode: 086. Five Resolutions for Happier, Healthier Scientists (R)
Pub date: 2022-01-01
Turning over the last page of the calendar seems to naturally invite some reflection on the previous 365 days. When you look back at 2021, what went well? And what do you wish you could change in the coming year?
This week, we take the opportunity to reflect back much farther – to our days in graduate and postdoctoral training! With years of hindsight, we offer advice and perspective to the scientists we were, and devise some resolutions you can adopt in your scientific training.
Grad School Resolutions
1. Remember that training is temporary
When you’re ‘on the inside,’ graduate training can seem like an endless tunnel – the light at the end just a distant pin-prick. For many, the daily stress of lab life closes in and we begin to feel trapped and hopeless. This year, pause to consider that your training is just a brief step in your scientific career, and that people do finish! We promise!
2. Be mindful of your unique skills and motivations
Many students wait to think about a suitable career until they have a degree in their hands and a PI’s foot on their backside. We recommend taking stock of your natural motivation and skill patterns early AND often.
It can be as simple as reflecting at the end of the day or on a Friday afternoon. What did you accomplish this week? Which activities left you feeling energized? Which left you drained? When did you lose track of time because you were engrossed in the task? Jot each item in a notebook or on a post-it and save them.
After a few months, you’ll have a detailed list of skills and activities you like to use and those you’d like to avoid. These patterns can persist over a lifetime, so spend some time examining the notes and identifying the common themes. That way, when you’re reading job postings, you’ll know exactly which positions fit your personality.
3. Push beyond your comfort zone
Starting a graduate program often means moving to a new town, meeting hundreds of new people, and dropping the support networks you enjoyed in college. That makes many introverted science-types turn further inward as we try to avoid the stress of new situations.
But remember that many of the people you meet feel exactly the same way. Push yourself to engage, and you’ll be rewarded with new friends and colleagues that will last a lifetime. Graduate training is full of never-to-be-repeated opportunities if you’re willing to step up and take them.
4. Make science fun again #MSFA
Don’t forget that you chose a career in science because science is amazing. Maybe it fascinated you as a child, but we quickly lose that child-like curiosity the moment Figure 4 of our paper is due.
Every once in awhile, it’s okay to let loose and try an experiment because you think it’s fun, or you just can’t predict how it will turn out. This will not only stoke your love of science, it may lead to your next line of inquiry.
5. Find emotional support before you think you need it
Graduate training may be one of the most stressful periods of your life. That’s not unusual. But too many of us try to ‘power through’ on our own. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and worse are the rewards.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your mental health is as vitally important as your physical health. If eating right and going to the gym are admirable,
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