I can do this. Wait, can I? Nope, I can’t do this. 

I can do this. This is the right place for me. I know exactly what I’m doing. I always spend my time in the most productive way.  

Is feeling like this the reality?

Well, it isn’t the case for me that’s for sure. Every second of my time is not spent solely on my research and all things PhD related (shhhh),a lot of my time is spent organising things ‘life’ related. And sometimes, it can all pile up and seem like there is a mountain of things that you cannot see yourself ever getting done, which can lead to an awful feeling of self- doubt, which usually ends up in a downward spiral and that is really really not a good (or productive) feeling.

When I decided to tackle a life as a scientist in research I was told that this journey would be unlike anything I have done or will ever do, and boy – oh – boy has that been right on the nose so far. I remember meeting students that were going through the PhD journey and their general mood being in the ‘tired – what the heck am I doing’ range. Some tried to warn of this path and others gave me tips that involved a WHOLE BUNCH OF CAFFEINE (which naturally I was more than happy to try out). And I remember thinking – naively – that I am prepared. I WAS NOT PREPARED. No No No No NO! 1.5 years later and I still have days where I feel completely lost and am filled with self doubt. When that happens I usually go one of two – ways: 1) I go into overdrive, work crazy hours and take very minimal breaks  or 2) I shut down and basically try to put off doing any ‘real’ work. Neither of which are good options. Whhiiccchhh brings me back to the point I was trying to tackle at the beginning of this post (we went on a bit of a tangent there didn’t we?). How you use your time is important and your mood actually has a large influence on how you decide to spend it. It might not be something we realise however our emotion can dictate a lot of how we move forward so remember to account for downtime or you’ll burn out.

Also, having a good support system does help when things get really bad. This can be your co-workers/team, family or friends. For me, the downward spiral usually comes to a close with a combination of these:

  • My family – I don’t live with them and we’re pretty tight knit so it can get tough. When I’m having a particularly bad case of self doubt, they tend to get around 50 FaceTime calls a day. And I can be pretty grumpy so they’re all good eggs for dealing with me 😛
  • My friends (family part 2) – we usually discuss totally random things to distract each other, a pick me up here and there, joke around, a minute of serious talking, a whole bunch of light heartedness, then the ‘Mother’ of the group does the tough love thing and motivation gets kicked back in.
  • My cousin – again, we don’t live close to each other – but day or night she’s got my back.
  • My supervisor – I have to say, I have been incredibly fortunate with my supervisor and if I really am struggling with something I know I can go to him with it.
  • Praying – my faith is something very important and personal to me. So when things are not going the way I planned, it really helps me to calm down and look at the whole situation with a different perspective.

 

Well, I think we’ve come to the end of this post. I started this with an idea of what I’d like to say but as I started to write it kind of took on a life of itself. I decided to keep with it, because I think that it’s important to show that sometimes good things can come out of something unplanned (I hope!).

So I hope you enjoyed this and remember you’re not alone :).

Keep Reading,

H 🌺

 

 

Long Breaks vs Short & Frequent

Hey Guys :).

For this post I decided to address a question I get asked quite a lot – is it better to have one long break during the year or have multiple short/quick ones throughout it?

Both of these have pros and cons. So let’s start with a Long Break.

Pros

  • There is enough time between the beginning and end to actually relax.
  • You have something big and exciting to look forward to.
  • The time off will allow you to miss and appreciate your work much more.

Cons

  1. You are taking a big chunk of time out of your research/work.
  2. If you decide to have a completely work free time, you will most likely miss out on announcements, events and deadlines.
  3. Regardless of how you left it – your work WILL pile up.

Short & Frequent.

Pros

  • You can have lots of these in the year.
  • You have something to look forward to.
  • They can help plan your work/research by seperating them into shorter managable ‘chunks’.

Cons

  1. Usually only a couple of days.
  2. Can interrupt the work flow.
  3.  You try to pack a lot into a short time so you can come out the other just as tired.

There will inevitably be more to add to these lists but I just wanted to give a quick and simple idea of what to expect.

From personal experience of taking a Long Break, I think I’ll be sticking to the Short & Frequent approach going forward. Though it was good to have an extended time off, the work pile up and time being out of touch with my work was not worth it for me. It wasn’t all bad though, I had sufficient time to unwind, spend time with family and being away reminded me how much I actually enjoy what I do – and being reminded of your passion is never a bad thing :).

My advice would be with whichever approach you decide to take, way up the pros and cons and how they will affect you before making the decision.

Oh, and it’s not a bad thing to need a break. It may be hard to admit that at some point it’s all getting a bit too much but more than likely everyone around is feeling a similar way and it’s okay not to be okay.

 

Keep Reading!

H. 🙂

 

 

 

 

PhD life and Ramadhan

Hello everyone!

Let me start of by saying I know it’s been quite some time since my last post – it has been a MANIC few weeks! Hopefully, at least a small portion of the craziness will pay off!

For this post I decided to do something a little more personal than my others. As I’m sure we’re all aware our personal beliefs, ideals, morals and faith play a part of the person we are and in turn the type of student/employee/teacher we become.

Ramadhan:

This week (06/06/2016) marked the beginning of the 9th Month of the Islamic calendar (Ramadhan). This is the time of the year when Muslims all around the world fast; abstaining from food, water, worldly desires and urges (whatever these may be for the individual) from dawn to sunset for the entire month.

The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar phases the time of Ramadhan changes annually and in 2016 it has fallen during the summer months in the northern hemisphere (June-July).

For most undergraduate students it means that the academic year is over and exams are coming to an end, if not finished and they’ve gone home.

But for some (like me!) the year is not over. We are still running around campus trying to conduct experiments, working full days (and maybe nights?), going to presentations/ conferences or doing a bunch of other things that are just part of the usual day.

During Ramadhan – Muslims try to involve themselves in more prayer. One way is by praying Taraweeh – this is an additional prayer that is performed at night (which can last around an hour).

So with this in mind and in addition to the lovely weather we’ve been having it is no wonder that tiredness creeps in at the oddest times!

This first week (for me) has been a lot of trial and error of which is the best way to plan my day. So here’s what I found:

Start the day a little later than usual (if you have that option) I usually start the day at 8 am, but during Ramadhan I’ve found it much better to start around 10am (maybe 11 :P) and work later into the evening.

Take time out to Pray the 5 Daily Salaah at the recommended time (this will change place to place) it allows you to have breaks in your day. Also try to pray some Qur’an (Islamic Holy Book) after each prayer.

Having Iftar / fatoor (post -sunset meal) on your own IS NOT FUN. Trying going to the local mosque / prayer room (we’re fortunate enough to have one on campus) and breaking your fast with others or invite friends over to join in this time with you.

DRINK LOTS OF WATER *during Suhoor (pre-fasting meal).

If you feel a burst of energy USE IT.

Listen to your body – if you really need a 30 minute power nap, take it. Not only do you need to be alert for your work day but for the night to.

It’s easier than you think to burn yourself out.

Remember: Ramadhan is the time to be the best version of yourself, so don’t use it as an excuse to let your work/effort slip. Instead use it as ‘training’ for the future, as a way to plan and use your time more efficiently.

I hope this was help for you and may this be the best Ramadhan for you yet!

Keep Reading,

H 🙂

New Appreciation.

Hellloooo Everybody ☺️

There are some things that we encounter everyday but don’t really realise how wonderful they are and how much better they can make life.

With that being said, here are 10 things I have a new found appreciation for since starting my journey:

  1. Post – it / sticky notes
  2. Refillable water bottles / coffee mugs
  3. Memory sticks
  4. A GOOD CHAIR
  5. Diary / Calendar /List
  6. Lanyards
  7. Individually wrapped snacky bits / packs
  8. Earphones / headphones
  9. Walks / Jogs in the fresh air
  10. Marker pens

I could keep adding to that list but thought I’d better stop at 10 or we’d be here forever.

Keep Reading!

H ☺️

Is it a Break?

Hey Everyone!

So March is nearly coming to an end and it has gone by so incredibly fast but has been packed with SO MUCH.

At the beginning of the month I had this very real feeling that there was no way I was going to be able to do/finish everything I had set for the next few weeks. This then turned into major panic – you know that feeling when you realise there’s so much to do, so you make lists and lists and then the lists have lists and you’re dotting from one thing to another not knowing when or how you’re ever going to get it done – yeah (not good).

I realised that I had to nip this in the bud. Feeling this way was not helping the situation at all. So I decided to take a step back and attempt to organise all these thoughts and tasks (okay, so it took more than two attempts – at least). I spoke to my family, friends, colleagues and supervisor (who is just the best most encouraging and helpful supervisor I could have asked for!) about the feeling that and they all reassured me that it was normal. They also gave me some very helpful and practical tips to tackling it (some were new and some I had already been trying to do):

  1. Talk to people about your research (within the limits set) – this will help you to understand what you’re doing and why a lot better. It will also raise questions about the practicality and time frame of what you’re doing – this will help to focus yourself. It’s also increased my passion for my research.
  2. Establish a good relationship with your supervisor. This is vital and can completely alter your experience.
  3. Set time limits – not just ‘an hour to write’ but what should you have done in that hour. Be specific.
  4. Exercise everyday – even if it’s just a walk, do something.
  5. Have a good breakfast – this I find hard to do everyday because I think ‘Well, I could have 20 minutes more of sleep’ but on the days that I do it – I can really feel the difference in my energy levels and productivity.
  6. Figure out when you are most productive – everyone is different but figure out if it’s morning, evening or afternoon for you and set that time side for the pieces that require your most effort.
  7. PUT THAT PHONE AWAY – limit the amount of time you spend on Whatsapp, texting or on social media. If you don’t want to turn if off use the Do not disturb/equivalent option or put it on flight mode.
  8. Plan the day the night before – this can mean making sure you have the right books/journals/protocols in your bag, having a schedule/aims for the day, figuring out what to wear or even whats for breakfast. I like to do this toward the end of the night (usually with a warm drink and something on in the background), not only do I prepare myself for the next day but it gives me time to unwind before I sleep.

Though it is still the busiest I have ever been, I feel so much better about going forward. I know it is not going to be easy and those pangs of sheer panic will still be there BUT I know I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

To anyone going through something similar, I hope this helps and remember you are not alone!

Keep Reading,

H 🙂

I’m here! Now what?!

Hello!

Well, after about 7 months of applications, form filling, interviews, crumbling into a little ball in the corner and a whole bunch of tears I’ve FINALLY started my PhD project (microbiology/parasitology) – and it is AMAZING.

Taking time out of the field has really made me realise that I am definitely in the right place. I know that even when everything seems overwhelming (which will occur often and soon) I’ll push through it because at the end of the day I love what I do – and yes that does sound cliche but in this case its the truth.

With that being said- it doesn’t mean the first few weeks were a walk in the park. No no no no no. Most definitely not.

Examples? Sure:

  1. I moved into a DUMP – actually, dumps are probably cleaner and have way less funky smells. It’s been sorted and my current living situation is SO MUCH better so I feel like I can look back and laugh – there was definitely no laughing at the time though, I’m pretty sure I spent the ONE night I stayed there choking back the tears (and reaching 2 am where they all just came pouring out). Thank the Lord I had a friend keeping me company and whose house I could crash at, it would not have went well otherwise.
  2. THERE IS SO MUCH TO READ and I only understand about 20% without having to refer to other journals, textbooks or a dictionary (I’ve been told this is normal when you start but it doesn’t make you feel any less like you’re in over your head).
  3. Security now know me because of the amount of times my card hasn’t worked or I needed access to a new place (I’ve been here 3 weeks).

But seriously, now that I’m starting to settle in and establish a routine that works for me I look forward to what the next few months (well, years) bring for me. I’m sure there’ll be a bunch of disasters but no doubt a ton of great times too.

Keep Reading!

H.