Pursuing your PhD is not a cakewalk and those who thought this in the very beginning will realize the truth quite early. If you are interested what might be the consequences of stress during the PhD and want to have some general ideas to reduce your stress level, you should check “Stressed like a PhD student”. As long as you still want to do your PhD, you have to re-charge your battery when your work was energy consuming, quite often. If you are an incredibly organized and disciplined person, you may do this charging process all by yourself: Doing sports, being a tidy person, who has very good time management to continue their hobbies, cooking healthy and stuff. To maybe become such a person, here are some inspirations you shouldn´t miss from previous blog reports “Farmer, musician, athlete, and more – Stress relieving activities of our lab workers” or “If you can’t work it out, do a workout!”
But sometimes you may have problems to motivate yourself or thinking positive. In this situation other resources could be helpful to re-load your motivation battery.
Family is my safety net
One of my resources is my family. If I would fail entirely (unlikely but still), the very very worst thing that would happen to me is the following: Mom would shake out a soft pillow so I could sleep comfortably on her couch as long as I need to pull myself together. Knowing my family is my safety net makes me breathe easier and my “battery” will never become truly drained.
Additionally, I am lucky to have a partner who is a good lightning arrester and a strong ally. He always has my back and also thinks the particular person who teased me at work, and he has never heard about before I started complaining, is the worst person ever!
Friends boost your confidence
Of course my friends are always perfect to charge my battery. On the one hand, being with them is funny, but on the other hand, because they are absolutely not into my field, everything I say sounds intelligent to them. If I want to hear: “Woah, I could never do what you are doing because it´s too complicated”, I just have to drop words like “transcription factor” or “adaptive immunity”. I would agree if you say it´s a little bit cheesy to boost self-confidence like this but hey, I don´t make the rules about what makes me feel better.
Colleagues can be helpful in many ways
My colleagues are one of the many reasons why I like to do my PhD and I am lucky I can consider some of them as my friends. Birthday cakes are not the only advantagel to work in a bigger group, it´s also nice to be surrounded by people who have different specialties. If I have a question about statistics, I ask colleague A. Problems with my computer? Colleague B can help. Chocolate? Colleague C! And during lunch they are perfect to give good ideas for your project while enthusiastically spilling food particles everywhere.
Retrieving motivation from scientific conferences
Last but not least: Conferences. At some point of my PhD I started to ask myself if my work is really important and if my ideas are really “good”. Participating in a conference gave me a boost every time because I could always find something that was fitting to my hypothesis, which somehow gave me the feeling to be on the right track. Luckily, I have never made the experience that conference members criticized my work but seeing them nodding with the words: “Cool, that could work because of this or that reason”, is incredibly motivating! Therefore, my batteries are fully charged after a conference and I immediately want to combine the things I have learned with my project to take the next successful step in my PhD.
Of course, being motivated during my PhD is my personal responsibility and it´s easy to stay euphoric when your results are exactly like they should be. But honestly… results are sometimes as if I would try to pet my cat’s belly: It may happen that I am caught by surprise– but not always in a positive way. And then I have to think about changing the strategy to reach my goals without being scratched. In that sense, my people kind of equip me with a helmet, gloves and plasters, if needed, so that I am strong enough to try again and again until I achieve my aims.
Author: Caroline Wrangel