by Johnna Williams | May 1, 2009
As I sit in front of my computer, my mind completely goes blank and I cannot remember for the life of me what profound words I was going to capture. I do this throughout the day, too, as I talk to colleagues, learners, family, and friends. The joke is that it is a normal part of aging, but I know that it goes much deeper than that! It is the direct result of…stress.
You don’t need me to tell you how much stress there is in the average person’s average day. We are dealing with unsure economic times, in an unstable global economy. We have children we are trying to raise to be competent, caring individuals. We are caring for our extended family members who are struggling. We carry full loads at our jobs. We do all of this, because it’s the right thing to do, and we usually don’t stop to take care of ourselves, because in our American culture, this is viewed as being selfish.
So, with all this, what happens when you add another MAJOR stressor?
Most people get by ok, but if they have any added stress, it tips the scales. Sometimes an illness blindsides them, or maybe it is the loss of a job. For doctoral learners, we purposely add extra stress by deciding to become a PhD. (Notice I say “become” instead of “earn”. You don’t earn a PhD: you change who you are and become a PhD).
Most people can manage adding this, if they take precautions in other areas! If you routinely work 50+ hours weekly, you may need to re-evaluate how many work projects you can take on. If you volunteer, you may need to step out for a while.
I find that I often share with learners all of the sound advice I received from my parents. (NOTE – I never wanted to become my mother, but here I am quoting her. When did THAT happen?)
- Take care of yourself!
- Learn how to tell others “no”, AND be ok with it
- Get enough sleep and eat right
- If you are feeling stressed, ask for help – This is a big one for doctoral learners!
- Learn to improve your time-management skills
- Clean your room! (OK – maybe “get organized” works just the same, here, but mom’s voice is in my head!)
- If you make a mistake, don’t hide it – let’s talk about it!
- It’s never too late to try and fix something
In my personal and professional experiences, I find that most individuals at the doctoral level (including faculty, sometimes!) seem to believe they have to continue being Superman or Superwoman, even when things are getting really stressful. We’ve talked about this before, but hopefully this refresher will remind you to take care of yourself, and start weeding out the stress in your life that you can control!